Kosher Queers

69 — Terumah: Nice.

February 18, 2021 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow Episode 69
Kosher Queers
69 — Terumah: Nice.
Kosher Queers
69 — Terumah: Nice.
Feb 18, 2021 Episode 69
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow

This week, Lulav laughs about the episode number, but then we have to get down to the very serious business of distinguishing between fun gifts and war profiteering. Plus, very sweet eight-year-olds and very unsweet terrible kings. Also, there's lots of music excerpts edited in, so enjoy that.

Full transcript here.

Lulav was listening to "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With G-d)” off of Kate Bush's 1985 album Hounds of Love, and has that song on a playlist shipping the characters Edelgard and Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses (which, it is important to note, is a semi-ironic playlist). Lulav was also listening to Brivele's new song "Zumertsayt" from their forthcoming album Cradle Songs, Grave Songs, which is a cover of "Summertime and the Living is Easy" from Porgy & Bess. Jaz was reading The Art of the Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. Also, Lulav has now read up more on the situation with the whole "teaching people how to transition" deal, and concurs that it's bad.

This episode includes non-graphic discussion of war and genocide.

This  week's reading is I Samuel 15:2-34. Next week's reading is Isaiah 55:6–56:8.

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 Lulav Arnow, 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, Lulav laughs about the episode number, but then we have to get down to the very serious business of distinguishing between fun gifts and war profiteering. Plus, very sweet eight-year-olds and very unsweet terrible kings. Also, there's lots of music excerpts edited in, so enjoy that.

Full transcript here.

Lulav was listening to "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With G-d)” off of Kate Bush's 1985 album Hounds of Love, and has that song on a playlist shipping the characters Edelgard and Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses (which, it is important to note, is a semi-ironic playlist). Lulav was also listening to Brivele's new song "Zumertsayt" from their forthcoming album Cradle Songs, Grave Songs, which is a cover of "Summertime and the Living is Easy" from Porgy & Bess. Jaz was reading The Art of the Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. Also, Lulav has now read up more on the situation with the whole "teaching people how to transition" deal, and concurs that it's bad.

This episode includes non-graphic discussion of war and genocide.

This  week's reading is I Samuel 15:2-34. Next week's reading is Isaiah 55:6–56:8.

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 Lulav Arnow, 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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Lulav: (laughs) Nice. 

Jaz: No! Are you going to be a child about this episode?

Lulav: No! I am 29 years old, going on 30, going on 85 and I am very much an adult about this episode. Listeners, for those who are not in the know, (Jaz sighs) this is episode 69, AKA -- and I don't want to encourage any illicit activity -- the weed number. 

Jaz: No! (laughs) Why are you like this?

Lulav: I’m cute.

Jaz: True, but largely unrelated. (Lulav giggles) Anyway. 

Lulav: So yeah, this is Terumah. Oh wait, we have like a whole introduction for that, don't we?

Jaz: We sure do. Lulav, what’s something cool or queer or Jewish thats happened to you this week?

Lulav: Well, [Running Up That Hill (A Deal With G-d) by Kate Bush starts playing] The other cold open that I had ready to go was… doo, doo, doo. Doo, doo, doo. Doo, doo, doo. Because I have been listening to “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With G-d)” off of Kate Bush's seminal 1985 album [music stops] Hounds of Love. 

Jaz: (chuckles) Okay. 

Lulav: I was just listening to that to get me out of bed in the morning and make sure that everything was going swimmingly and it just reminded me of, I don't know, something like 61 episodes ago when I did a very similar thing but significantly earlier in the day and it was just nice. 

Jaz: Is this the song that you put on every playlist, especially gay ones?

Lulav: Is it? Okay, it's the one that I put on the Edeleth playlist, but that's specifically because there's a desire to change places and it's also ironic because Edelgard would never make a deal with a god. Anyway— 

Jaz: Okay, so I only vaguely understand what's happening here. (Lulav laughs) Please tell us about this song and what makes it cool or queer or Jewish. 

Lulav: Oh, none of that. It was just a thing that was happening in my life, though Kate Bush is an icon to lesbians, like, if you talk to three lesbians, probably one of them will be like, "Oh yeah, Kate Bush'', and a second will will be like, "Kate Bush is my mom". Yeah, I don’t know. Anyway, point is, the actual cool and queer or Jewish thing which does involve music also is that Brivele has put up an album for preorder and I am hype about that. 

Jaz: Cool! This is the band that does our theme music. 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: I haven't listened to their new song yet. 

Lulav: So our theme music is "Hungry Yid" which is a klezmer cov-- there's some stuff going on. It's a cover of “Hungry Hearts” by Bruce Springstein and the one song that is currently available from “Cradle Songs, Grave Songs” is “Zumertsayt” which is a cover of “Summertime (Zumertsayt starts playing, with the word “Zumertsayt”) and Living is Easy.” (Brivele sings “und das leben iz poshet”) And it's in Yiddish which is great. 

Jaz: Fun. 

Lulav: I don't know, I am just excited about the other 12 songs on this upcoming album. 

Jaz: That’s cool! Listeners, we’ll link you to it. 

Lulav: Yeah! And also it comes out properly on the 1st of May so you have plenty of time to preorder the digital album or compact disk or a compact disk and a sticker. Also I don't know why I'm saying compact disk, it's just CD but I was looking directly at a tesk- te- text on Bandcamp which says compact disk. I can talk. Jaz, whats something cool and queer or Jewish which has happened to you this week?

Jaz: Well, it was snowing a lot in New York in a way that it doesn't usually snow in New York. 

Lulav: Hm! 

Jaz: And after work one day, I went out with my roommates and a couple friends who don't live with us and we went sledding in the park and also threw snowballs at each other and that was great and throwing snowballs and sledding is a great pandemic activity because you're far away from other people but also having lots of fun. 

Lulav: I'm glad. So the snowballs held together better than we were walking across Bde Maka Ska with Khesed?

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Amazing. 

Jaz: It was great and I climbed a snowy mountain, (Lulav giggles) by which I mean a hill of snow that was all packed together, but shockingly tall, like twice as tall as me of just all snow, like there was nothing under it, it was just packed together snow that was that tall. 

Lulav: (laughs) Question for you: did you upon doing so turn around? [Landslide by Fleetwood Mac starts playing] Did you see your reflection in this snow covered hill? [music stops]

Jaz: Ahhh. 

Lulav: Did a landslide bring you down?

Jaz: No. 

Lulav: (laughs) Can the child within your heart [Landslide by Fleetwood Mac starts playing] rise above? [music stops]

Jaz: I would like to again point out, it was not a snow covered hill, it was just a mountain of snow. (Lulav laughs) There was nothing under the snow [In The Mouth A Desert by pavement starts playing] except pavement. [music stops]

Lulav: Listen, it's a snow covered hill in that the hill was made of snow and then covered with further snow. 

Jaz: Okay, anyway I had a great time. It was a mostly queer and mostly Jewish gathering because thats who my friends are. It was great and we had a lot of fun. 

Lulav: Cool. 

Jaz: Another thing that's been fun on the Jewish radar is that my third grade students have a big celebration coming up where they show off some of the things they've learned and get to do mock Jewish life cycles, so I've been busy helping them made little movies—

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Acting as people who are having a baby naming or B’nei Mitzvah— 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: It's really lovely and they get to customize it in different ways and they in different ways really lept into it. 

Lulav: This is a project that you were doing last year too, right? With different kids?

Jaz: Yes but last year I was doing it with different students and also they only had options to do ones about naming cuz we hadn't learned about B'nei Mitzvah yet— 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: And this year I have changed up the curriculum so they have learned about two lifecycle events already and they can make scripts about either of them. 

Lulav: That's great. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: I love hearing about eight year olds and their creative efforts. 

Jaz: It is very lovely. They're great. They also gave them some templates to write with some places that they could fill in the blanks and customize it and they all did that and customized them in different ways and some students also went a little further and added additional things which was also really great and really lovely. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: Shoutout in particular to the student, when practicing, stumbled over a line and then was like, "sorry, I meant to say" and then said the rest of the line, and then said, "but even rabbis make mistakes you know".

Lulav: That's so cUUUUTE! (laughs)

Jaz: And then was like, "oh, I like that, can we edit into the final version so in the final version it has the rabbi messing up that line and then correcting themselves and saying, 'even rabbis make mistakes you know'?'"

Lulav: I'm so glad. 

Jaz: It's great. 

Lulav: Jaz do you want to roll on into the haftarah?

Jaz: I do. 

[Brivele intro plays]

Lulav: 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— 

Jaz: And she's Lulav — 

Lulav: And we're here to joke about Judaism and talk Tanakh together. Today our chevruta is learning the haftarah of Terumah, which is | Shmuel- or, sorry, Shmuel Aleph (Jaz laughs) chapter 15 lines 2-34. 

Jaz: Yes. Terumah is the one that we did last year about holy crafting, right?

Lulav: Yeah! It was an episode that you were really hype for and I was in turn really hype for this episode a year later, only to find out that the uh, parsha and the haftarah have a more tangential relationship than I was hoping. 

Jaz: They're not very related. (Lulav chuckles) This one is specifically more connected to next week than it is to this week's parsha. 

Lulav: Hm. Interesting. 

Jaz: Which is to say this shabbat has a special name and it's called Shabbat Zachor, or like Shabbat of Remembrance. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: And its because its the week before Purim so the connection here with Amalek is not so much with the parsha as it is with the fact that were going to me discussing Amalek—

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: A lot next week, just because the villain of Purim, right, as Talmud exegesis says connected to Amalek— 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: Like descended from them, and so they were like what if we just gave you a preview of Amalek before we got there. 

Lulav: (laughs) Okay, jeez. 

Jaz: But tell us about the parsha. 

Lulav: I would like 35 seconds in which to do so. 

Jaz: Oookay. 

Lulav: What, you think that's too short?

Jaz: No, I’m… set and ready, set, go. 

Lulav: Hashem does the millennial thing and gives all of its friends a very explicit list of acceptable gifts. This is a good idea, because it's trying to make a big project with a pretty complex ingredient list, and it is also a weird idea, given that two parshot ago Hashem said the only acceptable altar was dirt or a small boulder the size of a large boulder. (Jaz laughs) The gifts, in contrast, are wrought in gold and silver and acacia and bespoke weaves and mythical hides - a bookchest and some lighting; vast tents and layered holinesses; an altar in wood with implements of worked metal.

[timer goes off]

Lulav: That's it. 

Jaz: Nice! 

Lulav: That's the show. (laughs) 

Jaz: Okay, so your description of, “Hashem does the millennial thing”, and gives specific guidelines for what to get and what not to get?

Lulav: Mm hmm?

Jaz: Reminds me very much of this book that I'm reading right now. This is a book I was in the middle of right before the pandemic started and then I stopped reading it for a while because it's called The Art of the Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. 

Lulav: Oops. (laughs)

Jaz: By Priya Parker, and it's about how to like have meaningful gatherings and how to structure them and what to do— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And I was like, this is too depressing, so I didn't read it but given that I'm now organizing some gatherings over Zoom and in particular started a book club I figured it might still be useful. 

Lulav: Cool! 

Jaz: So I’m reading it again and I'm reading a section where she’s talking about how there are people who have gatherings and instead of having like, vague etiquette things (Lulav scoffs) they give you the specific rules for the gathering like, you're not on your phone or you don't introduce yourself with your last name until such and such a point in the evening. 

Lulav: Interesting. 

Jaz: You know, like they give you specific rules for a specific places and she was advocating for this because she said if you don't do that then it defaults to etiquette and that just tends to privilege— 

Lulav: Allistic people?

Jaz: Well, yes also, but her point was actually more like old white people with money. 

Lulav: Yes. 

Jaz: And it takes her a while to get around to this point and I’ve sort of found some of the way of approaching it a little frustrating but I was enjoying reading that section and also like having things spelled out very explicitly. You know, dress codes are great because I'm happy to come to things in a T-shirt and jeans and I'm happy to come to things in fancy clothes but I would like to know which one. (Lulav giggles) Anyway, so I was just thinking about that like, hey it's nice that the Torah gives you specific— 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Guidelines for things to do too. 

Lulav: I like that. As a professional autist, (Jaz chuckles) having explicit guidelines about what the rules are for the thing sounds like a great idea. I'm not actually professionally autistic but I have a—

Jaz: You're not— 

Lulav: Podcast and am autistic, so— 

Jaz: Not— 

Lulav: I'm not not. (both laugh) 

Jaz: I think you'd have to start a new podcast about autism to be professionally autistic. Currently youre professionally queer and professionally Jewish. 

Lulav: That’s fair. What if, speaking of being professionally Jewish and professionally queer and also autistic— 

Jaz: Uh—

Lulav: I went on the podcast— 

Jaz: Before you suggest fighting another podcast on our podcast…  

Lulav: (laughs) I only fight people I like. (laughs) 

Jaz: Can we go into our podcast and talk about this week's reading?

Lulav: Yes, that sounds great. Welcome to Kosher Queers, a podcast— 

Jaz: Whoa. 

Lulav: With at least two Jews— 

Jaz: Nope. 

Lulav: (laughs) Good. Um... oh right! I was supposed to tell you what the connection of the parsha to the haftarah is. 

Jaz: Yes please. 

Lulav: So we got that whole connection of this involves Amalek and were setting up next week, which is not so much a connection of the parsha to the haftarah as the haftarah to the next weeks haftarah, but importantly, Terumah is a parsha about gifts. Literally it is titled "Gifts''. 

Jaz: Yeah, like it's an offering I guess is what it would mean in biblical Hebrew. Anyway— 

Lulav: Anyway, the point is Terumah literally means "gifts”, and parshat Terumah is very much about gifts, but haftarah Terumah is about somebody withholding gifts, like withholding things from destruction so that they may be regifted I guess. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: So the best connection that I can figure for these two is its about gifts that are asked for and gifts that are asked against. 

Jaz: Say more about "gifts that are asked against". 

Lulav: Okay, the gifts that are asked for is like, the parsha is very explicit about what is acceptable and what should be brought and in this haftarah there is an explicit commandment to proscribe Amalek, like completely eradicate everything. Do thorough genocide. But included in that command is to not profit from it, right? 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: And Shaul leads his dudes to profit from it, they capture all of the finest second born livestock so that they may at a later time sacrifice it, or that's ostensibly what it's for, like the best interpretation here is that they just didn't want to let a bunch of food go to waste and so they are gonna donate it to the temple-- or I guess the mishkan because Shlomo built the temple, right?

Jaz: Mm hmm, there isn't quite a temple yet but soon. 

Lulav: Yeah, so retaining the livestock so that they can be sacrificed to the mishkan. But that was explicitly asked against. Hashem didn't want those gifts; Hashem wanted them destroyed, according to the text here. Does that make sense?

Jaz: Yeah, it does. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: You had another theory. 

Lulav: Yes. Okay. Both gifts are inappropriate. Both the idea of retaining some things that were slated for destruction so that they can be regifted and the fact that we were building altars out of anything other than dirt or unhewn stones. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: So both gifts are inappropriate, and the fact that we get this explicit thing in the haftarah of, no I don't care about the fancy stuff, I care more about the very explicit commandments. The haftarah therefore recontextualizes temple worship, or mishkan worship where we have these very gaudy things as always already bad. 

Jaz: Ayyy. 

Lulav: I'm not sure how that works because in Terumah it says that G-d is asking for these things and in haftarah Terumah it says that G-d is asking for these things so like… what is the truth? But (chuckles) that's why that's not my best interpretation but it is my most fun. 

Jaz: G-d said no blood diamonds. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. One of the reasons that that isn’t my best interpretation is that kind of the conclusion we came to in last year’s episode for Terumah (Jaz chuckles) was that art is good actually. 

Jaz: Art is good actually. (Lulav laughs) Hey, I can hold both things as true. 

Lulav: Right?

Jaz: It is entirely possible for me to be logically consistent and hold “art is good actually” with “blood diamonds are bad actually.”

Lulav: (laughs) Great. 

Jaz: That feels internally consistent to me. 

Lulav: So Jaz, can you give us a bit of surrounding context about where Shmuel Alef comes from, like where we are in the narrative?

Jaz: Yeah, so we talked about this piece of text a little bit, not these verses but this book— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: It was the very first one that we started with. 

Lulav: Oh. 

Jaz: This is the same book as the story of David and Jonathan and I Samuel— 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: And this is actually only a few chapters earlier, (Lulav chuckles) and part of what's useful to understand here is would just a little bit before the sort of mythical time of David HaMelech, of King David and then King Solomon and the book of Samuel, both of them take place just a little bit before then in the time of King Saul. This is a story that David isn’t in and partly what you can learn from here actually though is that Saul- we talked about Saul being really incredibly vicious and violent towards David and in a way that was maybe related to increased paranoia as he got older that revealed more of what was always truly in his heart. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And this takes place earlier when Saul is a little bit younger, but he still has a son Jonathan and he still is extraordinarily cruel. 

Lulav: Hm. Wait, where do you see cruelty in his behavior here?

Jaz: Earlier. 

Lulav: Oh, okay.

Jaz: So a few verses earlier (Lulav chuckles) outside of our haftarah, he's even incredibly cruel to his own people— 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: And to his own son. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: So right before this, there is a story about how they are fighting I think the Philistines and Saul has a thing where he says, "nobody in my army can eat anything until we win ''. 

Lulav: (snorts) Yeah, great plan dude. 

Jaz: And Jonathan doesn't hear him saying this cuz he's like, hidden to do a different thing and he doesn't hear them saying that so he eats some honey and the troops are like, "no, no, no, your dad said don't eat anything!", and Jonathan is like, "well, that was ridiculous of him. You-- we should all be eating things. Didn't you see how good it was? You'll fight better on a full stomach", (Lulav laughs) and they said, '' Well, we can't though", and anyway, they win the battle but not as much as Saul would have wanted I guess. 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: So he's like, "who’s fault is this'', and then they do a whole thing of drawing lots and the lots reveal that Jonathan was the one who was at fault because he ate honey and Saul is like, "well, guess you have to die", and the troops are like, "he led us to victory. He was great. (Lulav laughs) He was a great fighter, you can't kill him".

Lulav: What are you doing, my dude?

Jaz: So then Saul does not kill his son. Instead he continues fighting the Philistines who he had been fighting. 

Lulav: (snorts) Okay. 

Jaz: So that was what was going on in 14 right before we got here to 15. 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: So in case you're tempted to be like, "Saul was a good and peaceful dude", he was not. 

Lulav: (snorts then laughs) Thank you for that context because it did seem fairly reasonable to like, (sighs) I see various perspectives on this but it did seem fairly reasonable in light of the whole thing in Devarim about not destroying olive trees to like, maintain livestock. 

Jaz: Yeah. Uh- look, you can make arguments on lots of different things, I just want to be clear that to increase your argument was, "well it's because Saul really cared about peace or mercy, that he did one of those things", he did not. 

Lulav: (snorts) Okay. 

Jaz: That is just not a possible option. 

Lulav: In the context of the previous stuff which is pretty clearly like, this dude is just doing ridiculous things on principal. Okay. Thank you. Before we start, can I just do a run down of all the "S" names that we have here?

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Okay, so in chronological order we have Samuel who is Shmuel in Hebrew. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Saul who is Shaul

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Solomon who is Shlomo. 

Jaz: Who's not in this one. 

Lulav: Who's not in this one, to be clear. Oh, there's also Shemot (Jaz sighs and groans) which is the book of the Torah that the parsha comes from here. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: So that's fun. (laughs) 

Jaz: Uhm, I don't think anybody else starts with an "S" name. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Like king Agog of Amalek (Lulav laughs) is different. 

Lulav: Cool. Yeah, so Samuel or Shmuel is a prophet who is very intimately involved in Shaul’s whole deal. 

Jaz: Y- yeah, and by intimately involved you mean yells at him a lot. 

Lulav: Yes, the true intimacy: fighting. (laughs) 

Jaz: It sounds like you. (Lulav laughs) Anyway, yes, so— 

Lulav: So I just wanted to make sure that anybody who hasn't been studying Torah and Tanakh generally on a weekly basis understands the two languages we're working in and who all these characters are. 

Jaz: Great! 

Lulav: So what is this haftarah about?

Jaz: What is this haftarah about? So this one starts out with Samuel talking to Saul. Samuel the prophet talking to Saul the king and saying, "you gotta go fight Amalek. The people of Amalek. The group Amalek, and kill everybody. There's this very explicit list. Spare no one but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses''.

Lulav: Mm hmm. And this is in contrast with other times when it has been said, you know, kill everyone but leave alive women and children, right?

Jaz: Mm hmm. I don't remember a time when they specifically said you can leave them alive but like, it is not usually this explicit of you gotta kill everybody. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. How do we feel about that? (chuckles) 

Jaz: So- so, okay. There's a couple different things I feel like that come up for me here. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: The first one is you look at the pshat and you're like,well that's horrifying— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Which I feel like, has gotta be any reasonable person's response to it. My understanding is that according to the Talmud, there is some level that attempts to justify this on the basis that Amalek was attacking. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: So there is that going into it and also stuff about like, they attacked us when we were vulnerable out in the desert as well. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I obviously think on the level of like, just kill everybody here whether or not they ever did anything to you, it's absolutely horrifying. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: I mean I feel like, however, there has got to be other ways of reading this because we haven't always read it like this. 

Lulav: Mm. Say more about other readings?

Jaz: Okay so part of the reason we're reading this is because Purim is coming up. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: On Purim, there is a tradition, right? That the evil villain who tries to kill us is from Amalek. There is no real reason to like, historically believe this to be the case. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: We have just kind of put Amalek as the thing to mean evil people who are trying to kill us. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Right? Like, sometimes you get people using figurative language to talk about Hitler as part of Amalek. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And the idea that we have a mythical group of people trying to kill us, especially when there are also real people trying to kill us, feels kind of... like it's easier to put a name to a thing and name it as evil that way sometimes. 

Lulav: Hm. 

Jaz: You know, like one of the things that I've always appreciated about Judaism and about Purim is that we don't have a tradition where you have to move on without seeking justice. 

Lulav: Mm! Mm hmm. 

Jaz: You know? And the idea that evil doesn’t have a gender, you know?

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Has some, like obviously that falls apart when you get to children, animals, stuff like that. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And also when it gets to like, just murder everybody, you know?

Lulav: Yeah. Also like, the alternative to kill everybody that spares children is, okay now they’re adopted by your ethnic group or in like, residential schools or whatever so its still genocide. 

Jaz: Yeah, I’m not suggesting that genocide is fine if you only kill adults. 

Lulav: (snorts) Nor did I think you were. 

Jaz: I'm just saying it is possible to read things and think that they are both horrific literally— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And also provide things that are of value if you do not read them literally. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: It is overly simplistic to think that everything in our tradition has to be read literally. That has never been the case. We have never read everything literally. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: So I think there's gotta be also a way of thinking, what were we supposed to be primed for going into Purim as we're about to be thinking about a different part of history. Like what was this reminder of Amalek supposed to do for us as we go into a different story?

Lulav: I think an important lesson to draw here is that if someone antagonizes you and then you like, draw back your fist to strike them and they're like, "ayyyy, I'm just a little guy! It's my birthday! I'm a little birthday boy! You wouldn't hurt a little birthday boy, would you?", like that doesn’t fix the fact that they were just, I don't know, calling you slurs or whatever. You don't leave Marjorie Taylor Green on committees just because she's suddenly like, "oh I’m being silenced" or whatever. 

Jaz: (chuckles) Yeah. Yeah, that sounds right. 

Lulav: Oh that reminds me of a tweet I wanted to make. 

Jaz: After the episode. 

Lulav: No, right now. So yeah, where do you wanna go from there?

Jaz: So, that's where we start off is get rid of everything, so then Saul brings up some troops and advances to come near the city and then notices that there's some people nearby who are the Kenites and he doesnt wanna hurt them. They haven't done anything. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: And so he gives them a warning to withdraw and then it says, "Saul destroyed Amalek from Hevila all the way to Shur", which is close to Egypt and kills a bunch of people and then captures the king alive. 

Lulav: Which, was he supposed to do that?

Jaz: What?

Lulav: Was he supposed to capture Agag?

Jaz: I don't think so. (Lulav chuckles) I do not think that was in his instructions. He got— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Destruction instructions, but not like, capture instructions. 

Lulav: Instructions unclear, got king stuck in ceiling fan. 

Jaz: But what's also interesting a little bit to me is the words that happen here.

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: So they have this word in Hebrew that they translated as proscribe. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And I had to look up what proscribe meant in English, but I know this word in Hebrew. It's "cherem" or "checherim". 

Lulav: I swear we had this conversation before. 

Jaz: Okay, do you remember what it is?

Lulav: "Cherem" you said? No, tell me more. 

Jaz: Hmm. Okay, so the way they have it here is "checherim", but same thing. You may also recognize it slightly more from "haram" which I believe is similar in Arabic. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: And when we get to later Rabbinic Hebrew, putting somebody in cherem is like, excommunicating them. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Exiling them, making them an outcast, but it's here as like, total destruction and that's how it's functioning here and in case there was any confusion, they get more explicit with it, like, using a sword. 

Lulav: The banhammer, as it were. 

Jaz: But it is interesting that they have this word because if they didn't have this clarification about the sword—

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: It could just imply that they drove them out. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Which is a different order of magnitude versus slaughtering all of them. 

Lulav: I see. So it is implicit that this is killing everybody but it is not explicit. 

Jaz: I don't know. I am thoughtful about what's happening here. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: I think it kind of depends on how you choose to think about what the function of this story is. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Because there is sort of a “and then we decimated them,” meaning like and then we literally got rid of 10% of the population— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Reading versus a “and then we decimated them,” which is like the cartoon and then we sent them all running. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And used a big word about it, (Lulav chuckles) and either seems kind of plausible for this story depending on how you want to read it. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: So then— 

Lulav: Yes. Oh then we get to the outcome of this as Shmuel does his typical yelling. 

Jaz: But the king is left alive and the good animals that are useful and they only got rid of the useless animals. They don't say anything about the people except the king, and Samuel says, speaking in like G-d’s voice, "I regret that I made Saul king for he has turned away from me and has not carried out my commands”. Samuel is upset about this. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And is arguing with G-d about it all night, a big fight, (Lulav chuckles) and in the morning, Samuel drags his exhausted prophet body down to meet Saul and Saul had in the meantime set up a big statue of himself (Lulav chuckles) and Saul is so happy to see him and is like, "hey! Isn't it great? I did everything G-d wanted. I'm the chosen one", (Lulav chuckles) and Samuel is like, "you are useless and worthless, and these words that youre saying, oh is there like, a sheep talking somewhere around? The sounds of oxen in the distance, is that what I'm hearing?", (Lulav chuckles) and Sauls like, "wh- yeah, we got sheep and stuff from them cuz some of them were for you all cuz we're gonna use the sheep and oxen and like, we killed the rest of them".

Lulav: I will note, not just some of them are for you all, all of the ones that we saved are for you all which sounds like he's covering his tokhes, but... (laughs) 

Jaz: Right, and as he's launching into this explanatory pleading thing— 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: Samuel cuts him off and is like, "no. Stop. Let me tell you what G-d said”, and Sauls like, "okay, speak", (Lulav giggles) and Samuel’s like, "you may look small to yourself, but you were ahead of the tribes of Israel! You were king! You were sent on a mission and you didn't do it!". Saul’s like, "but I did do it! Dad!", (Lulav laughs) and Samuel’s like, "no. G-d doesn’t want these silly presents. You should have just done what we said at the beginning".

Lulav: Ooh, interestingly when he's defending himself to Shmuel, Shaul says, "the troops took some sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord, your G-d", at Gilgal.

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: So like, distancing himself from the utility of the sacrifice, I guess?

Jaz: Hm. What do you make of that?

Lulav: Like, I would expect to see eloheinu, right? Or- what is it? Elohei- like, "my G-d"—

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: "Our" or "my" but instead its "elochecha", "your G-d"—

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And that just... it indicates that this was less of a like, oh yes I am bringing them for sacrifice to our G-d, and more like, ugh, fine, now that you found out the grift I guess we can sacrifice them to your G-d, (Jaz laughs) like I think that a big lesson here is against war profiteering— 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Because if you are going to do something in the relm of genocide, it definitely shouldn’t be for fancy cows. 

Jaz: Wh- I feel like this is redundant to me. Theres no motive that makes genocide good. 

Lulav: Right, but even the you know, kicking out literally everybody who lives there, even in that interpretation—

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: That’s still, I consider that to be on the level of genocide. 

Jaz: Uh, yes. I'm thinking, because a thing just crossed my Twitter timeline this morning—

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: About some person who is setting up this program for hundreds of dollars that you can buy into that will teach you how to transition. I came across it and every trans person who I have seen talking about it is like, this is appalling. This is profiting off of really vulnerable people who don't have a lot of resources and a lot of access and giving you some of those things, like, hormones and community groups and resources, you know— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: By making people pay inordinate amounts of money for things you should be able to get for basically free, and it's a grift that only exists because people are in rough situations and want ready access to all of these things and so—

Lulav: Okay, it— 

Jaz: It is sort of like, there is a bad situation and there is also taking advantage of a bad situation for your own profit. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. I will just say that it seems to me like the sort of hustle that only people who already have money are gonna be paying for, like, “oh, you are relatively wealthy and don't have a community of trans people? Let me teach you how to transition” rather than like, “ah, you are vulnerable and will give me the last 50 dollars that you have and I will teach you the one true way.” It doesn't seem like that, it just seems like, I don't know, workshop stuff. I respect the hustle. 

Jaz: I do not. 

Lulav: Okay. I have that response mostly because every take that I have seen on this was like, this is incredibly immoral and this is the worst possible thing you could do and it's all fake and it's like, I don't know, this is the kind of stuff that people sometimes do for free except for this person is doing a Patreon for it. 

Jaz: Okay but there's reasons that people do it on different types of models—

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Right? Like— 

Lulav: The thing I would be most worried about with that is a cult of personality. 

Jaz: I dont know, (Lulav chuckles) also there is sometimes these people and they’re like, trans professionally or whatever and they come in to teach other people and its like more often that they come in to teach cis people about trans people, (Lulav laughs) you know?

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Than trans people about trans people so like, this is a new twist but like, I have been to trainings where they brought in a trans person to like, do a training and I was like, who is this person and why are they here and why are they competent (Lulav giggles) aside from the fact that they came out as trans last year?

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. 

Jaz: Like, does this person know any, like— 

Lulav: Other trans people?

Jaz: History or other kinds of trans people who aren't like them?

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Or know stuff about how it intersects with other types of identities? Also I disagree with some of the things they're saying, so I wish they were not presenting it as the absolute truth. 

Lulav: Right. I'm just saying that if we're talking hustles, one in which you are offering punch up workshops for how to transition, whatever money you're gonna get off of that feels a lot more ethical than writing an op ed in the New York Times about how your vagina is a wound. 

Jaz: Okay, but—

Lulav: Andrea Long Chu, fight me irl. 

Jaz: Counterpoint, (Lulav laughs) Jewish example, having ridiculously expensive intro to Judaism classes or ridiculously expensive processes to convert or have a bat mitzvah or whatever just means that you're creating exclusionary processes for the members of your community, and sure, you'll have plenty of members of your community who can pay it and then you're just creating a service for them, but then you are also creating a system where people can't be members of your community because they just can't afford it. 

Lulav: Right, but this feels less like a particular synagogue has a mandatory $500 fee for each class and you have to do a bunch of classes and it seems more like somebody was like, “hey, let's get a beit din together and affirm the Judaism of certain people who want to sign up for our workshops.” 

Jaz: And pay us $600 for it and— 

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: We put together a special beit din but it's only for wealthy people. 

Lulav: (laughs) Right! Not great. (Jaz laughs) A thing that only exists under capitalism, but you know, again, I respect the hustle. I haven’t had to ever do that in my life, so. 

Jaz: I will note that it does not seem like this person has to do that either — they are just choosing too. 

Lulav: Right, I just feel like there is a difference between saying “this is the only way to transition” or “this is the only real way to be a Jew,” and like, “hey, here is a service that I and a couple other people can provide for you in exchange for money.” 

Jaz: Yeaaah. 

Lulav: Like, that seems hokey to me. I would never do it but I trust people to have the critical thinking skills that aren't like, “oh, this person has the one true way to transition and therefor I need to pay them money to get these services,” and more just like, “oh, that is a thing that sounds interesting in which I have the discretionary income to pay for.” I don't- yeah. 

Jaz: Anyway. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yes, after that long digression, war profiteering is bad. 

Jaz: Uhhh. 

Lulav: Can we agree on that point?

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Cool. 

Jaz: We agreed on that point at the beginning. 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: So, next they're talking about this other idea which, not to get into another whole thing, (Lulav laughs) but after Samuel says this thing about like, well, you didn't do what you were supposed to do, there's this sideline of, surely obedience is better than sacrifice, compliance better than the fat of rams which… hm. What would you say about the value of obedience, Lulav?

Lulav: Depends. Why are we being obedient? Like, there is-- in the place that I just moved out of, there was a dude that lived catacorter to me on the hallway and he was just walking in the hallway at the same time as me- this is an indoor hallway with no ventilation, and he just didn't have a mask on and I was like, "dude, wear a mask inside", and he was like, "but I'm not sick", and I was like, "you don't know that. Wear a mask when you are inside".

Jaz: I remember this dude. 

Lulav: Yes. And in that case, obedience to the concept of "wear a mask inside" has actual backing to it because other people don't know that you're not sick and also, unless you were literally testing yourself every day, you do not know whether or not you have a disease that doesn't show up as obviously being sick all the time. So in that case, obedience is great. In the case of, I don't know, like, everybody has to sit pretzel legs around this carpet and they have to be exactly in order and not make a peep and like, the autistic kids are like, peep, like, that's fine. It's whatever. Just move on. Does that make sense?

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Like the different scales of like, what obedience entails?

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: I don't think that, for instance, having a cool indoor BBQ where everybody is just eating within three feet of everybody else, in that case obedience would be better than that, right? Like, not potentially spreading a disease to each other and everybody else you're in contact with. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Is better than having one fun time. 

Jaz: Right. One of their later comparisons is defiance is like the iniquity of teraphim, and teraphim are certain kinds of like, little household idols. 

Lulav: Hm! 

Jaz: So there is maybe a certain amount here of that's the idolatry of something in your household that you're being defiant for the sake of where you are focused on something that is personal to you but also does not change things materially for you.

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: But your devotion to it could change things materially for other people, then it's bad that you are materially— 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: Devoted to it. Does that make sense?

Lulav: Yeah.  

Jaz: The comparison being like, wearing a mask or not is not gonna materially change things for you but it could for other people— 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Versus like, something that doesn't have ramifications for other people. 

Lulav: Right. Okay. So the value or not of obedience. Any other topics that we wanna hit. 

Jaz: We can wrap this one up—

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Unless you have a specific thing but then Sauls like, "okay, I was wrong. I was afraid of my people, I was afraid of my troops so please forgive me", and Samuel says, "no, G-d says you can't be king anymore". (Lulav giggles) Samuel turns to walk out dramatically and Saul grabs it- his clothes, and they rip (Lulav giggles) and Samuel says to Saul who just tore his shirt or whatever, "well, G-d has now torn kingship away from you and given it to somebody else, and G-d won't change their mind because G-d doesn't do that", and Saul is begging and pleading and so Samuel follows Saul back and Samuel makes a proclamation and cuts down with a sword this king of the Amalekites. So Saul does not kill this king but Samuel does. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Also, Shmuel never sees Shaul again. That's like the last l- oh wait. 

Jaz: Is that true?

Lulav: Ohhh. 

Jaz: I don't think that’s true. 

Lulav: That's the line after the last line. 

Jaz: I guess that is does say that line, I just-- (Lulav giggles) that's just so confusing to me because there's so much more story that happens in (Lulav chuckles) the book of Samuel that Saul is around for— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: That I forget that they don't directly interact because so much more does happen and both Samuel and Saul are, I think, still around in the narrative, like Saul definitely is and it's still the book of Samuel. 

Lulav: Friendship ended with Shaul, now the son of Yeshai is my best friend. 

Jaz: Y- yeah. 

Lulav: If somebody makes that I will retweet it (Jaz chuckles) on the Kosher Queers account. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: (laughs) Anyway, do you wanna go to Rating G-d’s Writing, a segment in which we— 

Jaz: Before— 

Lulav: Offer— 

Jaz: Sorry— 

Lulav: Hm?

Jaz: Before we do that, can we talk for one sec about the weird gender stuff going on at the end of this haftarah? 

Lulav: Oh, go ahead, I- "as your sword has bereaved women, so shall your mother be bereaved among women", is that what you're talking about?

Jaz: Yeah. Yeah. 

Lulav: Oh okay. I mean, that didn't register to me other than like, ha, too bad you don't get to say goodbye to your mommy. 

Jaz: His mother is dead. 

Lulav: Wait, the mother of king Agag of Amalek? 

Jaz: Yeah! We are led to believe that Saul killed all of the other people except Agag— 

Lulav: Hm,. 

Jaz: I think. 

Lulav: Hey yeah! 

Jaz: I mean, maybe not, right, cuz we continue to have bits in our story that are like, "and then this person was descended from Amalek", and that's why they’re brought up again— 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: So it's about how you can’t really destroy houses, so there's this sort of implication, it's implied here that this is the last person of Amalek but given that we have stories where Amalek comes back, there's also the implication that some of them escaped. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But I don't know if Samuel has ever killed people before but Saul just killed a lot of men and women, they were very explicit about it. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And this would lead us to believe that Agag doesn't kill women, right?

Lulav: Why?

Jaz: Because it says, "as your sword has bereaved women, so shall your mother be bereaved", which implies that you've left a lot of widows and mothers in your wake. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: Because the mom is not here, just the child. 

Lulav: Ohhh. Oh yeah, okay. 

Jaz: Which means that Agag does not kill women. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. That is a weird gender thing. 

Jaz: But Saul does (Lulav laughs) and murders all of them. 

Lulav: Critically, at Shmuel's command. 

Jaz: Yeah. So what is up with that?

Lulav: Benevolent sexism in war is just such a long standing trope that it doesn't even register as different to me. 

Jaz: I hear you but it clearly is a little bit different because they were very explicit about killing the men and women and here theyre being explicit about you killing men and not women. 

Lulav: Hm. So I think it is less about the gender thing and more about like, hey, this is punishment for you making people sad. That's what he's saying there is you have hurt people and made them sad so say hi to your mom for me, ha ha. It sounds like he's just setting up an epic one liner or something. 

Jaz: I know that he is doing that (Lulav chuckles) it's just like a weird one—

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: To throw out there because it's almost like a, were more equitable because we kill men and women. (Lulav laughs) Trans people should be allowed in the military and also the military should exist. Anyway, thats my vibe. 

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: Please wrap us up. 

Lulav: Yes please, okay so welcome to Rating G-d’s Writing, a segment where we proffer a variety of ratings at each other and make them. We- we do the ratings. So Jaz, what amount of bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen is acceptable in exchange for this haftarah. 

Jaz: Hmmm. Is this one where bleating of sheep and oxen is a good thing?

Lulav: I'm going to say yes just for simplicity's sake. 

Jaz: 'Kay, uh, it's an open ended scale. 

Lulav: Yeah, sorry. 

Jaz: 'Kay. One evening full of the bleating of sheep and oxen. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: I don't know, like there is a story here and I appreciate that and I appreciate that it's like, think about big questions related to the nature of evil the night before a celebration where we also discuss evil, like get yourself ready. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And uh, it's got confusing theological roots here (Lulav giggles) and you know, if things were going well, you would have an indefinite amount of time, not just an evening. 

Lulav: Yeah, so yeah do you have a scale for me?

Jaz: Yeah, out of 200,000 swords, (Lulav chuckles) how many swords would you give this haftarah?

Lulav: That's so many swords. 

Jaz: Yeah, 200,000. 

Lulav: Why do you have that many swords? We should beat at least some of them into plowshares and maybe from there don't even stop feeding like, turn them from plowshares into drums. Anyway, 200,000 you said?

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: I'm going to give this 170,000 swords because that is an inordinate number of swords. Like, why do you even have that many? There should never be 170,000 swords and also 30,000 of them were taken and resold in the black market for war profiteering. 

Jaz: Okay, okay. 

Lulav: (laughs) Hi. 

Jaz: Hi. Alright listeners, thanks for bearing with us and 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 Ko-fi, which is at 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 new album—

Lulav: At

Jaz: Great. Our sound production this week is done by my lovely co-host, Lulav Arnow

Lulav: 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. 

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

Lulav: I'm Lulav Arnow, and you can find me @spacetrucksix on Twitter or standing outside your house at 3 in the morning saying "nice". I recorded this audio on traditional lands of the Wahpékute Dakota. Have a lovely queer, Jewish day.

(Brivele outro music playing)

Jaz: This week's gender is: lightly edited together with free software

Lulav: This week's pronouns are: (lightly edited together) they, them, theirs.