Kosher Queers

66 — Beshalach: Oh My Darling, Devorah

January 28, 2021 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
66 — Beshalach: Oh My Darling, Devorah
Kosher Queers
66 — Beshalach: Oh My Darling, Devorah
Jan 28, 2021
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow

This week, there are so many women in the story! By which we mean, a full three women, two of whom even get names. This we also get some sung folktales, a female friend who is too cool for you who you know  is silently or not-so-silently judging you, and intermarried rabbis (meaning, of course, rabbis who marry other rabbis).

Full transcript here.

Lulav recommends Harry Potter and the Lack of Lamb Sauce by imagitory. She also mentions the podcast The Shrieking Shack, which is a Harry Potter podcast for lapsed fans, with extremely long episodes. Also, Jaz's friend who had a bat mitzvah recommended this article about swarming in their d'var Torah. You can check out our episode last year on the parsha Shoftim here. You can see the comment from Midrash Tehillim alongside the quote it's pulling from here. You can listen to the groups Jaz mentioned who are doing cool collective queer Jewish music on Soundcloud at the Queer Nigun Project and Let My People Sing and learn more about Let My People sing on their website. This is by no means a comprehensive list; there are many more cool queer Jewish singers.

This week's reading is Judges 4:4–5:31.  Next week's reading is Isaiah 6:1–7:6 and 9:5-6.

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Send us questions or comments at [email protected], follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers, and like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers. Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Ezra Faust, and our transcript was written by Reuben Shachar Rose. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

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Show Notes Transcript

This week, there are so many women in the story! By which we mean, a full three women, two of whom even get names. This we also get some sung folktales, a female friend who is too cool for you who you know  is silently or not-so-silently judging you, and intermarried rabbis (meaning, of course, rabbis who marry other rabbis).

Full transcript here.

Lulav recommends Harry Potter and the Lack of Lamb Sauce by imagitory. She also mentions the podcast The Shrieking Shack, which is a Harry Potter podcast for lapsed fans, with extremely long episodes. Also, Jaz's friend who had a bat mitzvah recommended this article about swarming in their d'var Torah. You can check out our episode last year on the parsha Shoftim here. You can see the comment from Midrash Tehillim alongside the quote it's pulling from here. You can listen to the groups Jaz mentioned who are doing cool collective queer Jewish music on Soundcloud at the Queer Nigun Project and Let My People Sing and learn more about Let My People sing on their website. This is by no means a comprehensive list; there are many more cool queer Jewish singers.

This week's reading is Judges 4:4–5:31.  Next week's reading is Isaiah 6:1–7:6 and 9:5-6.

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Send us questions or comments at [email protected], follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers, and like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers. Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Ezra Faust, and our transcript was written by Reuben Shachar Rose. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show (

L: Hey Jaz. 

J: Hi Lulav. What is something cool or queer or Jewish you did this week?

L: Well, you know my penchant for reading Harry Potter longfic, right?

J: (giggles) I do. 

L: In case I have not shared this with the listeners, or you like don't remember the one or two times I have referenced that in 66 episodes, I enjoy reading fanfiction, but it is very rare that I actually find a fandom where reading the fanfiction for it works for my brain. 

J: Mm. 

L: And one of those, unfortunately, but also kind of fortunately because the quality of the original author’s work means that the quality of all fanworks tends to be much elevated above it — um, this is a very long run-on sentence, like a Jane Austen book. What am I saying?

J: Anyway, one of those is Harry Potter. 

L: Yes. Unfortunately one of those is Harry Potter. Thank you for reminding me how the sentence started. And so probably the longest thing I've ever written was a 3,000,000 word fanfic that was a total rewrite of all seven years, and involved a lot of like, communication? It was basically like therapy, but as a Harry Potter fanfiction. 

J: I'm sorry, you wrote that?

L: No, I read that. I have never written Harry Potter fanfiction. 

J: That makes substantially more sense. Okay, yes. 

L: Right, so the thing that I was talking about was Harry Potter and the Lack of Lamb Sauce, which is a 99-chapter, 375,000-word fanfiction in which the major change from canon is that instead of hiring Horace Slughorn as the potions professor in the sixth year, Dumbledore hires Gordon Ramsay. (Jaz laughs) Yes, Gordon Ramsay, of MasterChef fame. Not, notably, the real person Gordon Ramsay, but as an author’s note right up at the front says, the TV persona of Gordon Ramsay as amalgamated from both him yelling at adults and being really kind to children. 

J: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) I really wanna say though, that this fic which Lulav was describing very lovingly and so I also read, sounds like it has a very silly premise, and it starts off feeling like a very lighthearted thing, and then you get a third of the way through it (Lulav wheezes) and it's like, did you forget that there's a war happening also? Now it's dark and gritty, but also significantly more feeling like it's a war than the original books do. 

L: And also significantly more joyous and loving than the original books are. 

J: With a much more diverse cast and a much more fleshed-out world. 

L: Oh G-d, yes. So yeah, there are like, some caveats in that in order to really enjoy the entire fic, you need to both like a kind of by-the-numbers “what if MasterChef Junior were in the Harry Potter universe in 1996”, but also you have to like really deep dives in actual Harry Potter lore as written by J.K Rowling, but also fiction about espionage and fighting wars. 

J: And also about friendship. 

L: Also friendship. Yes. Also gay people. Don’t forget the gay people. So this is queer because you have a lesbian fairly-main character and a bunch of not-necessarily-straight people and also a nonbinary person and a trans man who does get repeatedly misgendered but not by the narrative.

J: Yeah. Also the people misgendering him are pretty canonically terrible and-- 

L: Nazis. 

J: Yeah. 

L: Literally they're Nazis, but wizards. 

J: Yes. 

L: Point is, it’s queer, it’s Jewish because the Greengrass sisters are apparently just Jewish in this AU and also it's cool because I read it twice and I liked it both times. 

J: And that doesn't happen all that often. 

L: No, it does not. I also did like Truth and Measure both times that I read it, but, yeah. (laughs) Anyway, that's my thing, also I was like, 50 chapters in and I started like, telling Jaz about some plot points and they were like, "Whoa wait! Don't tell me," and I found out that they were like, 25 chapters in on their own phone and just hadn't told me that they had started reading. (both laugh) Um, so that was really cute and they ended up finishing before me. 

J: I am a fast reader. 

L: Yes. Faster than me when you actually have concentrated time to read things, which is impressive. 

J: Yes. I don't have concentrated time/attention to read things very often— 

L: Mm hmm. 

J: Though I want to, but I did read all of this fic, so. 

L: Yeah. Are there any particular thoughts you had about this that you want to share on air instead of after?

J: I had lots of thoughts about it, and also you told me that it got more serious but (Lulav laughs) really it was like, very like, lighthearted cooking reality TV but in a magic school setting for the first chunk of it and people making friends and bonding and I was like, oh, this is so sweet! And then they were like, (dramatic voice) what if some of them died (Lulav laughs) in a deadly war that they were all stuck in and also teenagers, and um-- 

L: What if people were just like, flinging ordinances around and it had repercussions for the people who get caught up in the blasts and like, I don't know. 

J: Anyway, I just did think that it was like a really nice redo of certain things that, you know, that book series was a fairly large part of my, like, childhood and adolescence and ended up in a way that was very… like, the author is bad and also (Lulav laughs) much of like, reflecting back on the books makes me see flaws that I didn't see at the time and I really appreciated this fanfic writer taking some of the things that I never got to see play out and making them play out and that was nice. 

L: Yeah. So, I read this before I was listening to the Shrieking Shack, I think. Or--

J: Mm hmm?

L: While I was listening to earlier stuff, but coming back to a sixth and seventh year fanfic as the like, irony-poisoned Harry Potter reread podcast is getting right up to the Battle of Hogwarts is a really interesting contrast-- 

J: Mm hmm. 

L: Because I was reading through this thinking of all of the elements that they highlighted as like, maybe not the best storytelling, and I was like, oh, this was a slight improvement that still for some reason maintained some of these events. 

J: Right, and you’re like, why did they do some of the things? Why are some of those things still there? I don't get it. 

L: But also it like, holds up in a way that I did not expect it to after I was similarly irony-poisoned by thinking way too much about Harry Potter lore. 

J: Yeah. The only other thing about it for me is that it assumes you have read the books and like, basically know what happens and it does not retell you-- 

L: Mmm! Mm hmm. 

J: Any of the things that are basically the same and it just skips that which means it’s a Harry Potter story that's very much not from his point of view — like, occasionally it is but mostly it isn't, and that was fun. 

L: For instance: there is a lack of lamb sauce, there is Harry Potter, but there isn't both of those at the same time. 

J: Yeah. Alright, are you ready to hear about my queer and Jewish things?

L: Yes, I would love to hear about your cool and queer or Jewish thing. 

J: Okay, well yesterday I went to my friend's bat mitzvah. (Lulav gasps) It was really nice to be at that Zoom ceremony and my friend had been studying for 15 months and in the ceremony did some reading from the Torah and giving a beautiful and thought-provoking dvar and it was really lovely and the service was at a Reconstructionist synagogue in Seattle and they linked to their prayer book which they had put together themselves as a congregation maybe a decade ago-- 

L: Hm. 

J: And it was really interesting because some of the prayers are different and I was thinking about the ways that they’re different and the ways that they're not and if there's any parts of that I'd want to adapt for my own life or for the options I'm giving my students as I teach them. 

L: Are you talking about differences in translation or differences in Hebrew?

J: Hebrew. 

L: Oooh. 

J: Like, okay, there is a blessing that I do with my students at the beginning of all of our classes and that blessing is over studying Torah, so it ends "la'asok b'divrei Torah", and it does that in both versions--

L: Mm hmm. 

J: But the one that I do with my students has had a very traditional… um…  

L: Oh does it change the BaAEMhO?

J: What?

L: Sorry, that's the acronym that I use for "baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech haolam". (laughs)

J: Yes! 

L: I just pretend that it was a really oddly spelled Portugese word. 

J: Wild. Uh, okay. (Lulav laughs) So, the one that I have thought my students goes "baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech haolam, asher kidshanu bmitzvotav, vetzivanu la'asok b'divrei Torah", and this one that they do it "nevarech et mekor chayeinu, ruach haolam" and then the rest is the same, "asher kidshanu bmitzvotav, la'asok b'divrei Torah", and the "nevarech" instead of "baruch" is the same root--

L: Ohhh. 

J: But it's a different form of the words, so instead of "baruch atah" which is "blessed are you", "nevarech" is like, "we bless the source of life"

J: But it's a different form of the words, so instead of "baruch atah" which is "blessed are You", "nevarech" is like, "we bless--

L: Mm. 

J: The source of life, mekor chayeinu" is I think what's happening there. 

L: Hmmm!

J: "Mekor chayeinu" is the source of our lives, so it is not addressing yourself to a deity, it is instead revamping the focus to be on what we as a community are doing, which is we're blessing our learning. 

L: Yeah, aww that's great. 

J: And it also changes the focus so that when you say "baruch atah", you are using the second person masculine form for G-d, and this way you're not gendering G-d at all. The flipside of that is that you do have to use a thing that I think is plural but-- 

L: Masculine by default?

J: Yeah, for the "we". 

L: Okay. (giggles) Alas. Do you know how you would conjugate that so that it's feminine plural?

J: I don't know for sure. 

L: Okay. 

J: It's possible, it's just "nevarecha" but I—  I’m not sure. 

L: Okay. So, is there anything else you wanted to share about their bat mitzvah, or... 

J: Yeah! It was really lovely. There were four people doing a b mitzvah ceremony, and all of them read Torah and all of them offered these like, beautiful and radical and thought-provoking d’vars, and my friend in particular did one about the idea of swarming, and-- 

L: Hm. 

J: Of like gathering in a way that was like water and like fish and talking about what that would have been like as you were crossing the sea. 

L: Okay. 

J: It was really cool and I really appreciated it, and it was really nice to get to see my friend achieve it and to have their community and family and friends and partner — like, a whole bunch of people there. 

L: Yeah. 

J: And this is a friend who I met through queer Talmud study and who I’ve been connected to for a couple years now and i- it’s just really lovely. 

L: That's so great. 

J: Yeah. 

L: I’m happy for them. 

J: Yeah. 

L: So, to lead us into the episode, can you give me the la'asok b'divrei Torah, a couple words at a time?

J: Nevarech et. 

L: Nevarech et. 

J: Mekor chayeinu. 

L: Mekor hareinu. 

J: Ruach haolam. 

L: Ruach haolam. 

J: Asher kidshanu. 

L: Asher kidshanu. 

J: B’mitzvotav v’tzivanu. 

L: B’mitzvotav v’tzivanu. 

J: La'asok b'divrei Torah. 

L: La'asok b'divrei Torah. V’imru-- 

J: Amen! 

[Brivele intro]

L: Welcome to Kosher Queers, a podcast with at least two Jews and generally more than three opinions. Each week we bring you queer takes on Torah. They're Jaz— 

J: And she's Lulav—  

L: And we're here to joke about Judaism and talk Tanakh together. Today, our chevruta is learning the haftarah of Beshalach, which is Shoftim 4:4 to 5:31. For the English-speaking, including me like, half an hour ago, (Jaz laughs) uh, this is Judges. 

J: Yeah. We did I think talk about that briefly at some point last year because there's a parsha called Shoftim—  

L: Right?

J: In addition to the whole book of Judges, which is super interesting because the parsha titles aren't usually translated but in particular when you ask people what “Shoftim” is for the parsha they're like, "it's like magistrates?" even though—  

L: Mm hmm. 

J: It's also just the name for the book of Judges. 

L: (laughs) So if you want to check out that completely unrelated episode, head to episode 44, I think. I just looked it up. I might be wrong. 

J: Great. 

L: So Jaz, can you give us a summary of last year's parsha which, not to confuse us, is Beshalach?

J: I can. 

L: How much time?

J: I want one minute. 

L: Three, two, one, go. 

J: So everybody’s leaving Mitzrayim. Moses is hurrying them out so they'll be too busy to be scared and Pharoah decides, "you know what? No. They can't leave, I never said they could leave, you have no proof I said that, not even the video of me saying that", and he takes after them with the national guard. They can't escape because there's a whole sea in front of them so the crowd snarks at Moses, "What? There wasn't enough space in the cemetery back there? You had to bring us here to get killed?"-- 

L: (muffled laughter) Woof. 

J: And he's like, "guys, guys, no leftist infighting, please," and holds up his arms and they could walk through the sea like its land and their pursuers can't, then Moses sings a long song. Miriam sings a short song. People complain about the lack of basic necessities like clean water and food. Moses complains back at them that they're not being (snobby voice) appropriately civil, but then G-d gives them water and food in quantities enough for everyone to fully eat no matter how much they found or how much they worked. There was always extra on Fridays so they could take a day off on Saturday, but this took some getting used to and at first they were suspicious. It tasted like coriander, which was fine but they did have to eat it for 40 years straight. Then G-d told Moses to hit a rock for some water (timer goes off) and Moses did that and that time it was fine! Finally, they fought with Amalek and were told to blot out the memory of them. 

L: Hi. 

J: Hi. 

L: I feel fairly vindicated in going way over on mine recently, because I'm not the only one. 

J: Hey! 

L: Though you only went over by like, I don't know, five seconds or whatever. 

J: Oh no. I got it exactly on time when I practiced earlier. 

L: Nooo! Me too, with the long one that I did recently. Anyway, point is it was a good summary. I love coriander, which is cilantro in English? Or in American? 

J: (chuckles) Okay. 

L: Right? Is coriander and cilantro the same thing? They both come from the coriandrum sativum plant. “Cilantro in the US is the name for the leaves and stem while coriander is the name for its seeds. Internationally the leaves and stems are called coriander while the dried seeds are called coriander seeds.” Okay. Interesting. So, I think for some people it tasted like soap and other people it tasted really good. 

J: Okay. (Lulav laughs) I think even if you thought it tasted really good, if you had to eat only that for 40 years straight you would either be like, "ah yes, this is how all food is supposed to taste all of the time," or you would be like, "I never want to eat this ever again." 

L: I am really considering doing a challenge where for the next week I eat nothing but pizza that has way too much cilantro on it. 

J: That sounds like a bad idea for your health. 

L: It sounds like a really bad idea for my health, especially considering that episode several months back when I was like, "I've got the pizza sweats." 

J: That's not a real thing! Anyway. (Lulav laughs) However if you did want to take a week and just put copious amounts of coriander on all of your food, whatever it may be, and then report back and let us know next week how it went, more power to you I guess. 

L: Yes. This is a thing that will not not happen. So, how does this parsha connect to the haftarah?

J: In two main ways, I would say. 

L: Mm hmm. 

J: The first way is that there are just songs in both of them. (Lulav giggles) There are songs sung by the main characters. There is a main character who is a man singing and a main character who is a woman singing and both of those are important in both places-- 

L: Hm. 

J: And there is also an army that is fighting with them and the Isrealites win in both cases and Amalek is related to both instances. 

L: Good. So wait, this was the parsha with the Mi Chamocha. 

J: Yeah! 

L: Excellent. I love that. 

J: So Lulav, do you want to take us more through this haftarah or tell us maybe the context in which it happens?

L: Yeah! So, a bunch of context. "Shoftim" or "Judges" is an anthology of folk tales about champions of Israel, or in the terms the text uses, judges. We're used to thinking of judges as the people who mediate disputes between Israelite parties, but in this book they're less that and more like, inspiring military figures, some of who did crafty acts of espionage. So I guess think of how liberals were hoping Robert Mueller would act in 2017 and you've got the picture for what we mean when we say “judges” here. 

J: Oof. 

L: I will also note that the book of Shoftim, not to be confused with parshat Shoftim, shares the legendary and synecdochal nature of all prior books of Tanakh in that there are no sources from other cultures around which corroborate the who/what/when/where/why of these accounts. 

J: Mmm. 

L: But the reason we have them is they are more focused on telling the story of how avodah zarah is rewarded then on precisely relating how and when those actual events happened. 

J: Okay. 

L: Does that make sense?

J: Yeah, so unlike some of the other parts of Tanakh, it's not so much-- 

L: Specifically like, later Nevi’im, right?

J: Right. Or like Kings, even, maybe? 

L: Yeah. 

J: We don't have like, other political histories that attest it (Lulav chuckles) or archeological evidence that attest it, we just have this text which is maybe meant to do other things other than-- 

L: Yeah. 

J: Like, be a literal history. Is that what you're saying?

L: Exactly. And the thing that its supposed to do is kind of like, set up where in the mythical history of Israel this is happening and then be like, "hey, don't do idol worship, Like, I'll save you if you call out to be but when you do idol worship again you'll get conquered again", and this happens like six times I think?

J: So when it says things like, “This is in the time when Deborah was a judge—” 

L: Mm hmm. 

J: Does that imply that Deborah was a mythical judge that never existed, or this is just a heavily fictionalized version of a real judge who existed?

L: I… I will make no assertions to the truth value of it beyond like, this is vaguely serious? Probably there was some lady named Devorah who did wisdoms under a palm tree. 

J: Mmm. Okay. 

L: Is that fair?

J: Sure. 

L: I'm not going to say “Yes, there was a lady named Devorah who did wisdoms under a palm tree and like, helped overthrow a dude who had a bunch of chariots,” but I'm also not going to say that didn't happen. 

J: Mm hmm. 

L: Did I say “not” both times?

J: I—  

L: This is too many nots. Let’s cut through the knot, like (Jaz laughs) Alexander of Macedon, and instead I will tell you what happens in the text. 

J: Wonderful. 

L: So Judges starts off with the people trying to figure out what to do after the death of Yehoshua. They of course decide to continue their territorial expansion because not everybody is settled down yet. They do a bunch of — frankly — war crimes, but make sure to leave all the Canaanites alive and enslaved. This small mercy seems to violate the covenant regarding the destruction of idols for other gods, and at any rate, it's said that many of the houses forsook Hashem and worshipped the Baalim. (Jaz groans) Right? As such instead of the numerically unlikely victories that characterise settling in these lands, the Israelites fight real bad for generations. Furthermore, they intermarry and make mixed faith families with the locals, which you may remember is explicitly warned against. There are then several accounts, the cycles that I was talking about, of how champions do clevernesses to the benefit of Israel and in the name of The Name, and then as soon as they die and people resume their idol worship, the land is immediately conquered again. One of these cycles is where we start today's reading — with Israel as the client of Yavin, King Canaan and occupied by Sisera his general. This is the guy with the 900 iron chariots that I was talking about. 

J: Okay. 

L: Any questions about how we got to this point in the text?

J: Okay. 

L: Any questions about how we got to this point in the text?

J: So that's what's happening in Shoftim which is not following one figure prophesying like our previous readings have done for the last bit when we've been in Nevi’im, right?

L: Yeah, we're like three deep in a list of people who are considered prophets but none of these are the ones like telling the story, this is all just folktales that got amalgamated into one overarching narrative.

J: Yeah. This is not directly related to context, but it's just a question for you, prompted by your story.

L: Oooh.

J: Which is that you were talking about how there is stuff going on about intermarriage and people and communities figuring out what to do about intermarried people in their midst.

L: Yeah.

J: And right before our recording, I was on the phone with a friend, a not-Jewish friend, who I was explaining some of the politics of rabbinical schools to him… 

L: (laughing)

J: And how different rabbinical schools have rules about intermarried rabbis, how there's like, one school where you can have a partner who's actively not Jewish, and then there's other schools that say, "if you have a partner, they have to be Jewish" but that could mean a lot of different things, and then there's some schools that say, "you can have a partner, but they have to be Jewish and they have to be matrilineal or a convert by this particular standard.

L: (grumpy voice) Right

J: And wanted to put a question out to you...

L: Mm-hmm.

J: What are your feelings about intermarriage among Jewish leaders?

L: Sorry, among Jewish leaders? Or intermarriage that is done by Jewish leaders?

J: That one, the latter one.

L: Okay! So we're not talking about, how do I feel about rabbis marrying rabbis? Because I probably would've mentioned that before, if I had problems with it. (laughing)

J: That seems like a boring question.

L: Also I feel like that's a pretty modern thing because weren't women not ordained as rabbis until very recently?

J: Yeah, I mean, there's a more complicated story about it… 

L: Oooh.

J: But I think for all intents and purposes, yeah.

L: Okay. So my feeling about rabbinical intermarriage is I think it matters what your household looks like, faith-wise, 'cause like, if you have small children and you are not bringing them up explicitly Jewish, that is maybe bad.

J: Mmmm.

L: Or, rather, if you have small children and like, you and your partner are bringing them up as like, Christian or whatever...

J: Mmmm.

L: ...That seems like a bad idea? However, I don't think that partners of faith leaders in Judaism need to be also Jewish and I think, as I often do, that the more conservative position here of saying that you have to have a matrilineal partner without necessarily saying that they have to be devout? I think that falls short of whatever standard that was intended to build to.

J: Mmmm.

L: Like, if you're gonna go as far as saying your partner has to be Jewish, make it be like, religiously Jewish.

J: Mmmm.

L: I don't know. But this is kind of the same way that I have feelings about infant baptism in Christianity.

J: Okay.

J: In that, I wouldn't actually want a child to be baptised in Christianity but I do have opinions about whether or not it is internally consistent to do so to an infant.

J: Okay!

L: So like, again, my personal view is that you can be partnered with whoever you want and it's not really up to the rabbinate to judge that relationship.

J: Mmmm.

L: I just think that that does extend into like didactic authority territory where like, you are explicitly transgressing a commandment if you bring up your children to, for example, believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah.

J: Mmmm. Yeah. Alright, thank you.

L: Sorry for that long-winded stuff!

J: No, that was great! Can you take us through the haftarah?

L: Yeah. Shoftim 3:6, they took the daughters of the various local people to wife and gave their own daughters to their sons and the crucial thing, I think here, is, they worshiped their gods. So that's the part that I take issue with. Like, if you're gonna be Jewish, you can't worship other gods. But otherwise, I have no problem with taking the locals to wife, or taking them to husband, or otherwise taking them to spouse.

J: (laughing) Cute. Alright, let's go back to 4:4.

L: Yes. Shoftim 4:4. Devorah was a prophetess. This is fun — let me look — Neviah, right? So literally just a female prophet.

J: (singing) Devorah haNeviah — Anyway, yes. 

L: Okay! (laughing) Um, and she used to sit under the Palm of Devorah or the bee tree, as I will call it, because Devorah means “bee” and palms are trees. 

J: Great. 

L: Yeah. And notably, the Israelites would come to her for decisions. Like she does serve kind of the role of magistrates, that we have seen among the Israelites, which is that, like, people have disputes and they come to a wise person to adjudicate those. 

J: Mm hmm.

L: She summoned a dude to bring a bunch of soldiers like ten thousand men of Naftali and Zebulon.

J: What was the dude's name?

L: This is Barak. This is where knowing Barack Obama's parents' names would be great for a joke, but… 

J: (laughing) I do not know Barack Obama's parents' names but also the transliteration spells it differently.

L: Oh!

J: Because Barack Obama has a "C" in his name and there isn't one in the transliteration from Hebrew. 

L: Yeah, also I'm looking at it and it looks like it's “Varak” in the Hebrew, instead of like, Ba-rack.

J: (sounding it out) Yeah, it does, you're right. 

L: Interesting! All of that is to say, there's a very common Semitic root. Wait, no, this is "lightning", my bad. I thought it was, "blessing".

J: No, no, no. This one is a different root. Blessing ends with a chaf and this is a koof.

L: Okay! So this is explicitly not on any level Barack Obama. Anyway. He's supposed to march up to a mountain and take with him a bunch of men and Devorah is gonna draw Sisera, that commander we were talking about before, with all of his 900 iron chariots up through the river valley and there'll be a real nasty fight. 

J: A small note here: it's not super relevant to the analysis, but they're going up Mount Tabor, which we mentioned last week, because Jeremiah was talking about it as like, "And as sure as it is in the mountains of Tabor"

L: (laughing)

J: ... like that's as sure as his prophecy will come true. 

L: Mm-hmm. Did we also at some point mention Wadi Kishon, or am I making that up? I swear there was a wadi. 

J: I don't think that was last week. 

L: Okay. My bad. So right, she's basically saying, "I'll give you this commander so you can fight him really easy" and Varak says,  "Hey! I'll do it if you come with me. If not, I'm not about to do that!" Probably because he doesn't trust a woman to give him accurate military information? I don't know. 

J: We don't know that. 

L: That's fair. 

J: There's lot of room for midrash here. That is one interpretation.

L: Right. 

J: Another interpretation could be any number of things. Maybe they're siblings or best friends and he's like, "No, you gotta come with me, so that we will both be safe."

L: Okay! Which is interesting because previously in Torah, we've seen patriarchs sending family members elsewhere to hide.

J: Or maybe he's scared and knows she's the better commander and is like, "Please come with me, I'm scared." 

L: That is one-hundo percent true, because she responds, "Okay! I'll go with you. Just wanna note, there will be no glory for you because the delivery of Sisera into Israelite hands will be into the hands of a woman, A.K.A. me."

J: No! It's not her. I thought it was her too when I got here. I thought that's what she... 

L: Really?

J: … was implying! But it's not her!

L: Oh! Oh, she's making a prophecy!

J: Yeah! I thought she was telling him, like, "I'm gonna get it instead of you" but I actually think the hands of a woman thing is like a — it’s playing on your sexism to make you think or make him think that's what's happening but when you get further in the narrative, it's not her! It's a different woman. 

L: Okay! So he's like, "Okay, fine, you're a great commander, and I respect you a whole bunch, so I guess Hashem will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman". And they all go up to kiddush. So we get a sidenote that one of Moshe’s fathers-in-law had descendants who had pitched their tents locally.

J: Mm-hmm.

L: (Mickey Mouse voice) This is an important tool that will help us later! (Jaz laughs) So Sisera is informed that Varak went up so he gets all of his chariots and he drives up and Devorah  is like, "Hey Varak! Come on! Let's go!" and he charges down the mountain which you may remember from trying to bike up mountains or even slight inclines at any point in your life, it is a little bit harder to go up them and it is to go down them. (Jaz chuckles) And so with this military advantage all of these chariots are in a panic and Sisera just dives out of his and runs away. 

J: He sure does. 

L: All 900 of the charioteers are slain by the 10,000 men charging down a mountain. 

J: Mm hmm. 

L: Meanwhile! Sisera is running away and he finds these non-Israelites, these Kenites and there's a friendship between his king Yavin and this family. So he's thinking, "Oh, I'm gonna be fine here, I'm gonna just camp out." And the wife of this family comes out to greet ??? and says, "Oh, come in! Come in here. Don't be afraid." 

J: Her name is Yael.

L: Oh! Everybody who is named Yael is named after this one. Oh, that's great.

J: Uh huh!

L: Anyway, so she kind of pulls a reverse-Yehudit where (laughing) she says, "Come into my tent and I'll cover you with a blanket and I'll give you some milk because you're so thirsty and then you'll get the milk sleeps," which is a very real thing that I did not just make up.

J: Mmm!

L: (laughing) And he's like, "Oh, Yael, just stand guard, I expect because you are a lowly peon that you will just do this for me, and if anybody asks if I'm here, just say no." And technically, she does follow these instructions. She stands at the entrance of the tent long enough to grab a tent pin and she would have told anybody that he's not there but instead she sneaks up on him and pins him in the head. 

J: When you say, "pins him in the head," really be clear what you're talking about here. 

L: So you know tent stakes? They're pretty big? She hammers it through him. I don’t want to go into more detail because a lot of people have like, head trauma issues, but...`

J: It's gory, he dies. 

L: Yeah. He super dies. To be clear. (laughing) Okay, I guess she does actually break the promise that she didn't technically agree to. 

J: He never asks her to say yes.

L: That's true. 

J: He just says, "do this!" and textually she does not reply. 

L: It's like sometimes I am a very sleepy girl and I will have a conversation and think it is resolved but instead I fell asleep halfway through. (Jaz laughs and Lulav chuckles) So she shows the corpse to Varak and that's how they won. 

J: At the hands of a woman who was not Devorah.

L: Yeah. 

J: Yeah. 

L: What a wonderful prophecy. So on that day, we transition into some poetry! There's some stuff about how you bless the lord when there are Nazarites, I guess?

J: Yeah. I think that's the implication. 

L: Yeah. A nice call-back. We'll get another call-back with the sixth of the judges, Samson.

J: I mean, Samson just is a Nazarite. 

L: Yeah.

J: Yeah. 

L: So they're singing, they're singing, they're talking about how like caravans ceased and everybody had to go out of their way but then Devorah came and she was so cool and you know, declare how great this is louder than the sound of archers, let them chant the gracious acts, take your captives, oh son of Abinoam. Are there any particular things that you want to point out here?

J: Yeah so I was looking at what different commentary had been written about this and there's a bit in Midrash Tehillim, in Midrash Tehillim 18...

L: What does “tehillim” mean?

J: Psalms. 

L: Ooh! Okay. 

J: So it's in the section that's doing a midrash about the psalms and they also bring in references to other things. 

L: To other biblical poetry.

J: Yeah. And they're arguing about the relationship between singing and miracles. 

L: Mm hmm. OK.

J: And basically part of what they're trying to figure out is if there's a miracle and you sing about it, is that the correct order, or do you sing and that's part of why there's a miracle to begin with? Like, does the song partially cause the miracle? And they bring up Devorah and Barak where a miracle was done for them of this military victory and they recited a song and then there's the thing that says, "And from where do we learn their sins were forgiven? Right after her song, it says, then the Israelites did what was offensive to the Lord, and then so what happened to their actions? It must be that the Holy One forgave them at the moment they recited a song."
L: Okay. 

J: So the force of their song was such that it...

L: It kind of double-Moebius wrap-around-ed into the past to give them the miracle? 

J: Kind of, maybe? There's like an implication that they won the victory and they were appropriately grateful for it, and then things went well for them going forward. 

L: Going forward or retroactively?

J: Unclear, to be honest. 

L: (laughing) Yeah there's a lot of stuff in Shoftim where it'll say what happens once then it'll just start saying what happens in greater detail without actually indicating that it's going back in time to tell the thing so it is very unclear as to whether this is a song they did like, before, during or after.

J: Uh huh. I also was thinking about who's doing interesting work with singing now in modern days and what would it mean to have a miracle out of it. Like, I was thinking about people who do the Queer Nigun Project, right? Which is like queer voices singing Jewish melodies or the Let My People Sing. They have stuff that is specifically like, "Here's Jewish songs sung by trans people, and here's Jewish songs sung by people of colour, and here's Jewish songs about sorrow or rebellion" and things like that... 

L: Mm hmm.

J: And think about like, what is the role of Jewish singing in our social movements? Do you have thoughts about that?

L: So the song is not the thing of it...

J: Okay.

L: But the song helps draw people together in common purpose around the thing of it.

J: Mmm.

L: Does that make sense? It's kind of like how satirists talk about being subversive — if all they're doing is satire like the jokes that they are making themselves are not the rebellious stuff, it's what people do with that inspiration — 

J: Mmm.

L: That is the actual work. 

J: Beautiful. 

L: And which, retroactively, gives that satire the sort of historical incarnation as a cause...

J: Mmm.

L: Where it could just have not been, otherwise. 

J: Hmm. Yeah. 

L: So yeah we sing together because it keeps our spirits up, not because the singing itself is like the end of all things but because it is a beginning. 

J: Mm hmm. Also like I was thinking about this as a song. I can't do the Hebrew of it but I was trying to imagine what it would look like to put these actual words to music and you were like, "These are folktales," right? So I just got kind of like an actual folk song from the U.S. stuck in my head. (Lulav laughs) So it goes like, (singing to the tune of "Oh, my darling Clementine") And the stars they fought from heaven, from their courses they fought, they fought against Sisera (Lulav laughs) and the torrent Kishon swept them away. (both laugh)

L: Good. 

J: (singing) Raging torrent, raging torrent, the torrent Kishon. March my soul with cooouuurage. 

L: Okay so you're going to have to refresh my memory because the kind of dark nature of "Oh my darling Clementine" (Jaz laughs) underlies at least one piece of media that I have experienced but I can't remember what it was. 

J: Okay. 

L: What's going on in that song?

J: I know this song because I grew up at least a little bit in California… 

L: Mm-hmm.

J: And it takes place during the California gold rush...

L: Mm-hmm.

J: And it is structured as the story of, (singing) “In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine, dwelt a miner 49er, and his daughter, Clementine. Yes, I loved her, how I loved her... (not singing) Oh my God, I forgot about this, (singing) though her shoes were number 9...

L: Is this a country death song?

J: It sure is. 

L: Oh no!

J: (singing) Ruby lips above water, blowing bubbles soft and fine. But alas, I was no swimmer, so I lost my Clementine. (both laugh)

L: Okay! Yeah that seems like a very appropriate melody to use for this hafarah.

J: Yeah.  The chorus of "Oh my darling Clementine" is: (singing) Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine, you are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry Clementine. 

L: Woof.

J: Also, I remember this as like appropriate for this one because it's both sorrowful and also there's like, dark humour in it and depending on which version of the lyrics you're looking at, they will either include or not include the last verse which like really drives home that like dark humour of it, which goes, (singing) How I missed her, how I missed her, how I missed my Clementine, til I kissed her little sister and forgot my Clementine. 

L: Oh no! (Jaz laughs)

L: There is also some dark humour at the end of this haftarah. I'm not going to attempt to do this do the tune because I don't think the translation was made for that, but, "Through the window peered Sisera's mother. Behind the lattice, she whined..." Okay, maybe this would work. 

J: I believe in you!

L: (singing to the tune of Oh my Darling, Clementine) "Through the window, peered Sisera's mother. Behind the lattice, she whined, ‘Why is this chariot so long in coming? Why so late the clatter of his wheels.’" (Jaz laughs) Yeah it doesn't quite work.

J: That was pretty good! You could've made it work. 

L: (laughing) His wheels clatter. It doesn't rhyme though?

J: It doesn't rhyme but still! It doesn't always have to rhyme.

L: (laughing) So the mother of Sisera who expects him to come home is convinced that like, "Oh! He's got so many spoils, he defeated all of these people and took all of their goods and daughters" and it turns out that she is a fool and actually he's dead. 

J: It's sort of left in this like she's just looking out the window, like, "I'm sure he's gonna do great  and come home and be so happy" and meanwhile he's dead and it ends with, (singing) "So may all your enemies perish (laughing) and the land was tranquil 40 years." (both laugh)

L: Yep, so that brings us to Rating G-d's Writing, in which we think up two scales and get ratings about the writing on the scales. 

J: We sure do. 

L: Jaz. 

J: Yeah!

L: Out of approximately 20 clementines in a five pound bag of clementines, how many clementines would you rate this haftarah?

J: I'll...

L: You can also give it to me in pounds. (both giggling)

J: No, I will, I'll give it like 14 clementines because this haftarh has three significant women characters, which is more than usual, two of them are named and plot important.

L: Oh, I'm going to have a field day in the bonus episode. 

J: (laughing) Right? Women! For a change! 

L: (laughing) Leans in really close to the mic. (voice close and amplified) Wamen. 

J: (laughing) And also it's got story, it's funny, it's… I love the idea of Jewish folktales that we just preserve and just have and that the message of them is both like, singing is good, (Jaz laughs) Singing is important for community and everybody should sing about the things they're happy about and also about things that are like, maybe not always beautiful you know? But you sing about the things you're happy about and you sing together with people and you get to laugh about stories and you get to imagine worlds in which you have defeated evil-doers who are more powerful than you, even if that didn't really happen and I'd give it some points off for being like, "The world I have imagined involves slaying some hundreds of people."

L: Okay. 

J: But since that doesn't happen and also since they have done the deliberately like, "We're inventing a villain" thing of, "There are people coming to attack us and we defeated them!"

L: I will also note that the lens through which we are supposed to view these charioteers is that for the last 20 years they have been roaming around the countryside and harassing people because it's their job to do so.

J: Yeah.

L: So I feel like the conclusion to this is basically, "900 cops get killed" and I don't have moral problems with that.

J: And the end of it is "then they were peaceful for 40 years" because of the actions.

L: Right. 

J: — of like —  

L: Because there were no more cops. So... 

J: No more cops.

L: You know. 

J: No more cops, instead, listen to wise women in your communities. And also there's a nice "ask for help" thing going on with Barak being like, "You have to come with me" and she's like, "You won't get sole credit for the victory" and he's like, "That's cool. Come with me." 

L: Yeah! Good communication in this haftarah.

J: Yeah. 

L: Appropriate boundaries. 

J: Yeah! Anyway, solid 14. 

L: (laughing) Okay.

J: Maybe it's higher. Maybe it's 18.

L: Okay. They can also just be really big clementines because the bag is by weight rather than by quantity.

J: Mm hmm. 

L: Man, now I'm thinking about produce sections and I really want to eat those dates that we got. 

J: You should eat them. They're very good. I wish I could cook them for you. Also, listeners, there's a fun trick if you have fresh dates. You can, like, cook them a little bit in some olive oil on the stove to get them nice and crispy and warm on the outside and then sprinkle them with salt — delicious. Recommend.

L: Yeah. It's a little bit of caramelizing I guess, probably.

J: I dunno. Yeah. 

L: (snorts) Neither of us know cooking science. 

J: I think there's about five-ish verses of the song “Clementine,” though it varies.

L: Okay.

J: So out of five verses, how many verses would you give this ??? ?

L: I would give this haftarh four and a half because I think it does a fair match of the spirit for the first four verses and even though there is very much a spiritual match in these last verses, it doesn't involve somebody marrying their ex-girlfriend or wives’ little sister. 

J: (laughing) Uh-huh.

L: So it's not like an exact match. In this case though I feel like four point five verses of Clementine is a good rating. (Jaz laughs) So.

J: Okay. 

L: Turns out that when you use basic military tactics, and do that thing where you like lure men into a feeling of safety and then do things do their heads, it works out. (laughing)

J: Okay! And on that note... 

L: We had a continuity corner that we wanted to talk about. 

J: Welcome to our Continuity Corner in which we come back to ideas that were previously discussed and give you updated information about them after doing some research off-air. (Lulav chuckles) So recently, we were talking about, do chapter and verse numbers first show up in Latin or Greek versions of the Bible? We knew that they didn't first show up in Hebrew. 

L: Is the answer to this question "Yes"?

J: Well, the thing is… (Lulav laughs) We've been trying to divide up the Bible into manageable sections for as long as we've had one, starting with Hebrew, starting with the parashot. And we actually do have a lot of verse distinctions in the Torah and Tanakh itself, so the verse distinctions, not the numbers but the like, this is the end of a verse... 

L: Mmm.

J: Do mostly show up and you can tell in the cantillation system because there's different cantillation when you get to the end of a pasuk, of a verse. And it's marked with a thing called the sof pasuk. Cantillation is the chanting intonation basically, so when somebody gets to the very end of their reading, you can tell because it sounds different. 

L: Good.

J: So chapters are definitely a thing that Christians come up with.

L: So they don't divide paragraphs the same way, right? The pasuk?

J: Well I think pasuk is like basically verses — I'm not one hundred percent sure, but also like, we have divisions of aliyot for the Torah so we get a chapter and those are decided by Christians, and then there's a guy named the Archbishop Stephen Langton who lived in the 1200s.

L: Oh! That is a remarkably modern name. 

J: Yeah. And he came up with the chapters. So then there's different people who took those chapter systems and then also made those work with verses. And those have worked differently in Christian and Jewish traditions, partly because like, the Christians were also preoccupied with doing it for the New Testament which we didn't care about. 

L: (laughing) It's not our New Testament!

J: Right, so there's a guy who did a lot of work at bringing verses into, it looks like Latin, who also knew some Hebrew, who did verse numbers, but those aren't the same ones that we use today. And there's a Parisian guy who used the system that is widely adopted today but I think he did just the New Testament.

L: Mmm.

J: And not ours, and there's instead a guy named Rabbi Isaac Nathan Ben Kalonymus who looks like he did a lot of the reconciling chapter and verse stuff into Hebrew in the 1400s.

L: Okay!

J: So we get it around the time of the printing press is really also a thing to keep in mind.

L: Just to make it easier instead of having the big long scroll of the Torah, to have a book.

J: Right. We don't have chapter and verse numbers written in the actual Torah scroll, you just have it once we get the codex form.

L: Cool!

J: Yeah! It was super interesting. 

L: Thank you for your wisdoms.

J: I think there's like, more to find out there, and more interesting history. It took me down a way deeper path of learning than I expected, and listeners, if you have any additional knowledge about that, I'd love to hear it. I think it was cool. 

L: Okay! (yawning) So, Jaz, could you take us to the close?

J: I can. Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers. If you like what you've heard, you can support us on Patreon at, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. Also, if you can't commit to ongoing support but would still like to contribute, you can give to our kofi, which is at It does genuinely really help us do the work we're doing.

L: Mm hmm.

J: Find out more information about our podcast, including bios for our team and links to our social media, at Also, please spread the word about Kosher Queers! Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross, our music is courtesy of the fabulous band Brivele, whose work you can buy on Bandcamp. Go buy their album, they're great. Our sound production this week is done by our excellent audio editor, Ezra Faust. 

L: Jaz Twersky and Reuben Shachar Rose make sure that every episode is fully transcribed. You can find a link to those in the episode descriptions at, where you can also see if Jaz and Shachar roped in additional help for the episode. 

J: I'm Jaz Twersky and you can find me @wordnerdknitter on Twitter. I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Lenape people.

L: I'm Lulav Arnow, and you can find me @spacetrucksix on Twitter or yell at me @palmliker. I recorded this audio on traditional lands of the Wahpékute and Anishinaabe.  

J: Have a lovely queer, Jewish day.

(Brivel outro music playing)

L: This week's gender is: trying to joke but cackling instead. 

J: This week's pronouns are: HE/he/HR