Kosher Queers

79 — Emor: Big Transliteration would have you believe it's "zedakah"

April 29, 2021 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
79 — Emor: Big Transliteration would have you believe it's "zedakah"
Show Notes Transcript

This week, we talked hereditary leadership, divorce contracts, and illegal sweat. Plus vows in moderation, righteous people that were maybe actually just power-grabbing, and 5D Chess. 

Full transcript here.

We really enjoyed 5D Chess. Here's a pretty good overview page on Zadok, and here's a good example of a ketubah text with a halachic prenup from Geek Calligraphy. There are a bunch of other options on if you're looking for one. Also, if you're trans and Jewish, check out the Trans Halakhah Project from Rabbi Becky Silverstein and Laynie Solomon and take their survey! Also, here's a dictionary definition for the word Lulav asked Jaz to define.

This week's reading is Ezekiel 44:15-31. Next week's reading is Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Ezra Faust, and our transcript was written by JJ Jensen, who you can follow on Twitter @pantspossum. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show

Lulav: Hi Jaz.
Jaz: Hi Lulav. What is something cool or queer or Jewish that happened to you recently?
Lulav: So you know the concept of keeping things holy, like everything in its right place, and trying to make sure you don't muddle things up too much?
Jaz: Sure…
Lulav: So that's my Jewish thing, which is that I actually went to bed at around midnight last night, and I woke up in the morning today. Like, I'm still a little sleepy, as you may be able to attest, but it felt weird in a good way? And I know that I've brought something like this probably three times before, but listen, I have persistent issues with how my sleep schedule works out. And especially over the last couple days I've been having a rough one. So, because of you, and our need to record a podcast at ten in the G-dforsaken morning, I did very much take melatonin, and fall asleep with you reading to me, and...yeah. I've been having a great time. I am conscious, even though I don't want to be, but it does feel better than normal. Do you have any quibbles with this?
Jaz: Yes. It was difficult to get you up this morning.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: By which I mean, you were like, I will definitely be up at this time I set my alarm for, and also we will definitely be recording at this time, and you were neither up at the time you set your alarm for nor were we recording on time.
Lulav: Okay, we weren't recording on time, but I was roughly ready at that time. Like, I was looking at my phone, it said ten o'clock when I sent you the short summary for this episode, and...listen. If you've got a big boulder, you just gotta work with how it rolls. You definitely helped, but also I got up eventually on my own.
Jaz: Sure.
Lulav: So if anyone has real bad sleep schedule stuff and has somehow found ways to make it better for themselves, feel free to DM me, @palmliker on Twitter. And because that seemed insufficient to Jaz, I guess--
Jaz: I'm not quibbling with your Jewish thing that much--
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: But you are welcome to add on.
Lulav: I will add on a thing which is neither Jewish nor queer nor practical, but… what if cats had glasses?
Jaz: It would suit them very well, probably.
Lulav: Really, oh? Yeah. Huh. Anyway, Jaz, what's something cool and queer or Jewish in your life?
Jaz: Uhhh... Well, I do have to say that one problem here is that the coolest and queerest thing that I've been doing lately is a secret, so...
Lulav: Oh?
Jaz: Listeners, I'm so excited to tell you, in like, I dunno, couple weeks maybe? So instead, we had a date night last night. And as part of that date night, Lulav had bought us both copies of a video game, 5-dimensional chess. Which breaks my brain a little bit.
Lulav: Mine too.
Jaz: And my parents came in at one point, like, to say good night to me, and I showed them it, and they were both like, “Don't show this to me, it gives me a headache.” (Lulav laughs) “Have fun.” I do wanna say, however, that I did trounce you at 5-dimensional chess and I was super proud of it.
Lulav: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I can tell that you're definitely way more talented at normal chess than me, so I feel like you would have stomped me harder were we playing 3-dimensional chess.
Jaz: Maybe? But I actually think 5-dimensional chess was great, it was super fun. (Lulav laughs) I don't play chess very often. Like, people who are actually good at chess would know that I am not good at chess. But I'm like, okay-ish at, you know, amateur chess, against other people who, like, don't really play chess. And I did once knit a chessboard and full set of chess pieces. (Lulav laughs)
Lulav: Uh-huh.
Jaz: And that was super fun. And still very playable.
Lulav: That's wonderful.
Jaz: This 5-dimensional chess thing is a whole different order of magnitude. And I also went into it, like, what is the win condition for this game? How do you win? At all? And I still don't fully understand... (Lulav laughs) But I get it more.
Lulav: Uh-huh.
Jaz: Anyway, it was queer because it was on a date night. It was Jewish because it was finding the intricacies of and patterns in things that you do know fit together but you're not, like, totally sure how they fit together? (Lulav laughs) And it was cool because it was 5-dimensional chess.
Lulav: It was also queer because we were queering the paradigm of moving only in 2 dimensions.
Jaz: Regular chess is 3-dimensional chess. I keep saying this. Um...
Lulav: Right, there's only one movement in the third dimension, which is that if you get a pawn to a specific part of 2 space, it becomes a queen. I'm just saying, that's barely 3 dimensional.
Jaz: It counts.
Lulav: Like, it is. Anyway... Are you ready to castle on into the episode?
Jaz: Please.
[Brivele intro]
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. This week, our chevruta is learning the haftarah of parshat Emor, which is to say, Yechezkiel 44:15 to 31.
Jaz: Yeah. Lulav, are you gonna tell us what was going on in Emor at this time?
Lulav: Absolutely. So, Emor, for reference, is in the book of Vayikra, or Leviticus. And it is chapter 21, like right at the start, until chapter 24, right at the end. So, can I get the same amount of time as I should have chosen for episode 77?
Jaz: 60.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: Yes. 3, 2, 1...go.
Lulav: Oh, you're a priest? Don't touch the dead unless they're literally in your house. Also, don't shave close enough that you might bleed. Only marry a virgin, and then lock up your daughters. You mourn the dead by keeping it together. Also, we can't have any cripples or uggos stinking up the Temple. Don't mismanage congregational funds. Only let family members eat sacred donations if they are ritually pure, and make sure temple offerings look smexy too. Don't sacrifice a whole family of livestock, or any livestock that have spent less than a week ex vivo. Uhh...clear your plate, there are starving children in Amalek. Remember that we have holidays, including Sefirat HaOmer and Sukkot, and...oh, right, one time, a halfsie did a blasphemy and got stoned for it — eye for an eye, and all that.
Jaz: Okay. You still had extra time.
Lulav: Hell yeah. Also, that was a reclamatory c-word.
Jaz: Yes. Sure. Yeah.
Lulav: Uggo, on the other hand, is not a slur.
Jaz: Yeah. Yes.
Lulav: So... yeah. Jaz, is it pretty clear to you how this connects to the haftarah?
Jaz: Uh, you didn't like it.
Lulav: Oh, that's the connection?
Jaz: (laughs) There are actual connections.
Lulav: Not the fact that we talk about, like, not touching the dead unless they're in your house, and how much you should shave, and who you should marry if you're a priest?
Jaz: I—hm. I got really caught up in other parts of what's going on here, but yes. It is thematically pretty clearly connected.
Lulav: (laughs) So yeah, Jaz, can you tell us about the context and then get into the parts that you really drilled down on?
Jaz: Okay, the thing that I got really distracted by is...up at the top, the first line is in English as, “But the Levitical priests descended from Zadok...” And in Hebrew, that's “V'ha kohanim halevim b'nei tzadok.” So they have intentionally narrowed this. So it's not all of the levim, (Lulav laughs) and it's not all of the kohanim, it's just the ones descended from this guy, Tzadok. Now, do you know who that is?
Lulav: Is he a guy who's still trying to do… well, okay, it wouldn't have been in Samaria… was he the guy who murdered everybody in the temple who was doing Baal worship?
Jaz: No. Good guess, though.
Lulav: Who's Zadok, Jaz?
Jaz: This is a great question. So, I didn't know who he was either, so I was looking into him, and there's a good overview page on him that I will link to from the Jewish Virtual Library.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And one, I was like, is his name, like, a pun or whatever? (Lulav laughs) Because it's Tzadok, which is the same letters as tzadik--
Lulav: Oh.
Jaz: So I was like...his name is just the righteous one? You know, like what's up with that?
Lulav: Oh, it's not Zadok, it's Tzadok?
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: Oh, fun.
Jaz: In English, they keep writing it as Zadok, but no, it's like tzadik, or tzedakah, which is helpful, but... So, okay. (Lulav laughs) We've talked about Ezekiel before, and this passage from Ezekiel, just to place us in time, happens between the First and Second Temple periods.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And that's really important for understanding this passage, because this is full of, like, “the priests will do this and the priests will do that,” and there isn't a temple, at this time. We are between temples. (Lulav laughs) But it is notable because it's not just “the priests will do this and the priests will do that,” it's “the priests who are descended from this guy, Tzadok, will do this or that,” which is to say, it's saying that the Tzadokites, when the temple comes back, will be in charge.
Lulav: Hmm.
Jaz: Like, that's part of what's being promised here.
Lulav: So, why should we not translate this as “the Levitical priests who are descended from a righteous man”?
Jaz: Because this is a specific person.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: I mean, you could, it depends how you wanna read it, but we have this guy attested elsewhere. This is not the first time we've heard of Tzadok.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: I mean, it might be the first time you or I have paid attention, heard of him, but-- (Lulav laughs) It's not the first time the text has heard of him.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And he is a priest during the time of David, so he actually predates either temple.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Oh, apparently, he was the first Kohen Gadol ever.
Jaz: Well--
Lulav: Or...the first to serve at the first temple, after Shlomo built it.
Jaz: Great. Way to cut me off.
Lulav: Sorry.
Jaz: Okay. Yes. So, but what's interesting about him is that we had had this whole line of priests before then, including this line of priests who are descended from Eli. Tzadok starts off as this kind of nobody priest. (Lulav laughs) His lineage is debated, we don't know exactly where he comes from, but he sides with David, when David's son, Adoniyah, who we have talked about before--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: --rises up in rebellion. Tzadok stays on the side of David, and it seems like, is basically rewarded with this position as like, now the official priest. And his descendants are the head priests for generations. So he is still around when Solomon builds the temple--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And he becomes, like, the head of the temple.
Lulav: (laughs) That's so cool.
Jaz: Yeah. And his descendants are then in charge of the temple for a while. This is sort of at an apocryphal moment, because we are supposed to believe it's, like, 12 generations from the first descendant of Tzadok... We don't know exactly when Tzadok died, but these Tzadokites actually did continue to be important--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Later, when the second temple was built, but this idea that they were gonna be the only ones who would perform these different functions is kinda what's being emphasized here. And that does not appear to be historically accurate. That's not what happened.
Lulav: (laughs) Okay. Because you used Levites generally rather than just Tzadokites.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: Okay. That's really interesting.
Jaz: Yeah. They're not, as far as I know, a category that still exists – you know, like Levites generally are categories that still exist--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: But not like, this smaller unit of Tzadokites.
Lulav: Oh, and that's where Sadducee comes from, apparently.
Jaz: That's cool.
Lulav: 'Cause it's “tzadoki.”
Jaz: That's cool.
Lulav: Yeah. So. Thank you for sharing that context. I just kind of skimmed over, assuming that we knew who Tzadok was and I had just forgotten? But that does seem fairly important to understanding how this differs from the parsha.
Jaz: Right, is that, it's not just saying, “here are the functions.” It is, in fact, emphasizing that here are all of the ones that the Tzadokites specifically will do.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Which does, I think, change the implication of this text, because the more they're like, “Hey, haven't we heard this before?” It's like, “Wow, you're giving all of those just to the Tzadokites?”
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Oh, because it's they alone shall do this, and then it goes on to say they shall and shall not.
Jaz: Right.
Lulav: Oh. That's cool.
Jaz: Right?
Lulav: Actually, I don't know whether that's cool or not, but like--
Jaz: I just meant it in the sense of that's interesting--
Lulav: That's interesting.
Jaz: Yeah. And also the fact that it went under your radar, you know?
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Listen, I don't know what's going on with the descendants of Levi.
Jaz: No?
Lulav: Some stuff… is happening. I think, because of all the strictures on behavior for that house generally, I am less likely to care about what's going on there.
Jaz: Hmm.
Lulav: 'Cause I wouldn't wanna live like that. Which is not to say that I don't care, like, it is very interesting, and these are the people who are like, the priesthood. It's just that my brain rolls off of it a little bit. you have any commentary on the specific things that only Tzadokites are supposed to do?
Jaz: Well, you know, you read the parshat to summarize, and I didn't read it--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: –closely this time, so you would be able to tell me more how this lines up with what it says in the parsha that all the levim are supposed to do. But I was looking at this thing in particular about how “they shall wear linen vestments, and they shall have nothing woolen upon them.”
Lulav: Yeah, that seems kind of new.
Jaz: Right.
Lulav: Because I didn't include it in my summary, and I'm pretty sure I hit the high points of everything that they said.
Jaz: And I didn't remember it being an instruction that they had.
Lulav: Yeah. Does it make sense to you?
Jaz: It's interesting. It depends what the rationale is for it.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Because the stated rationale here is, “they shall not gird themselves with anything that causes sweat.” And wool is warm, famously so. (Lulav laughs) It gets hot, and it shrinks, and it smells. You know, like there is things about wool that are just not as present with linen. And, like, it comes from an animal, and you could imagine a set of conditions where they would say, “Nothing that comes from an animal.”
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: Either in like a vegan, protect-the-animals type of way--
Lulav: (laughs) I'm guessing that's not why. (laughs)
Jaz: Or a thing about like, you would need them to be totally pure, or it's easier to have animal products that are susceptible to impurity--
Lulav: Right. Like, wool is a lot more opaque or translucent—not in terms of being able to see through it, but in terms of being able to see what's affecting it. Like, linen, you can just look at that and be like, oh, it's stained over here. We gotta make new linen garments, or something. But wool is a mystery. Like you were saying, it expands and contracts, and soaks up sweat and stuff.
Jaz: And also, like, you are in the desert, it's hot-- (Lulav laughs) When I was living in that kind of environment, I made my mom a wool vest--
Lulav: Oh?
Jaz: That was what she asked for.
Lulav: (laughing) Uh-huh.
Jaz: But even when I made it, we knew that she wouldn't be able to wear it until we were elsewhere.
Lulav: (laughing) We're just gonna store this.
Jaz: Yeah. The yarn stores didn't even really sell that much pure wool because people don't use it.
Lulav: That's really interesting.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: But yeah, this definitely makes sense to me as connected to the parsha where it says, “If you have any defects, you're not allowed to be a priest.” Like, they're saying the quiet part a little louder here, which is that, oh, you can't be sweating in front of the plebes, you have to look perfectly put together.
Jaz: Oh, I didn't really read it like that.
Lulav: Why did you read… how was sweat involved in your reading?
Jaz: You're not supposed to get the sacred garments sweaty. It has nothing to do with who looks at them.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: That was my interpretation. Because the other people aren't even supposed to see them in these sacred clothes.
Lulav: Mm.
Jaz: They're supposed to take them off before they see the other people and dress in regular clothes again.
Lulav: Okay. Yeah, okay, that makes sense.
Jaz: It's like investing the clothes themselves with holiness, and then treating them in such a way.
Lulav: Yeah. Like, you need a certain degree of pomp and circumstance to show to people who are outside the ceremony, but also, if you are somebody who is running the ceremonies, it should probably also feel sacred to you, even after you've done it thousands of times.
Jaz: Hmm.
Lulav: So, you gotta have the special clothes that don't make you sweat.
Jaz: Yeah, I wonder – like, yeah, okay. So, athletes sometimes wear special sweat-wicking things.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And, like, you could make the argument that that's for the sake of the audience, but I think mostly (Lulav laughs) it's for the sake of the player?
Lulav: That's fair.
Jaz: And that was kinda my interpretation here. Like, yes, you get special gear when you're specialized in a thing--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Just because you want it, it makes the experience better.
Lulav: Yeah. Thank you. So these are the football jerseys.
Jaz: Yes.
Lulav: As opposed to the linen ephod that David was wearing two haftarot ago, which is the post-workout shirt.
Jaz: Sure. You know what, sure. How do you feel about their haircut instructions?
Lulav: Makes sense. Like, you don't shave very close, which in the original parsha, is associated with the fact that you do not make gashes in your skin?
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: And so I interpret that more than as a no-self-harm thing, which it probably still is… As like, “Hey, if you're actively bleeding during ceremonial stuff, that's not very holy, so don't ever put yourself in a position where you would be bleeding from your face, and only shave in the middle ground.”
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: Does that make sense?
Jaz: Mm-hmm. There is a fair bit of commentary on it.
Lulav: Mm. Do tell.
Jaz: Just, on like, what are the ways in which they can cut their hair.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: It's like, maybe they can grow somewhat long hair, but not very long. (Lulav laughs) And how does this overlap with the idea of a Nazarite, who grows long hair?
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And so, there's just, like, different arguments.
Lulav: Yeah. It feels like to me – cuz, okay. I have long hair. I have been pretty consistently growing it since, like, 2017 or something. It's really gnarly. I haven't had a haircut since, like, January of last year. And it just gets gnarly. And so, I think part of it is, if you are keeping your hair a middlin' length, neither completely shorn nor completely unshorn, that means you're taking care of it on a regular basis.
Jaz: Mmm. Okay. There's something to be said for this. I think that what they were teasing out, and what it evokes for me--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: --is, priests are different than Nazarites, who have taken specific vows, but they are treating themselves a little bit like Nazarites, with stuff about specific restrictions around hair--
Lulav: Hm.
Jaz: --and specific restrictions around drinking, which are two of the ways that you can tell that a Nazarite has made a vow.
Lulav: Mmm. Yeah.
Jaz: So, I think it's, they aren't Nazarites all the time-- (Lulav laughs) –but when they go into the temple, they're acting like Nazarites. Like how there's people who go into services, and they don't wear a kippah most of the time, but now they're in services, so they'll put one on to be respectful.
Lulav: Mmm.
Jaz: Because it's an atmosphere where there's a greater norm of doing so, of the spiritual aspect being the thing that you focus on--
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: And so, you're like, I don't have to do this in every part of my life-- (Lulav laughs) –to feel that it might have value to step into that role for a minute now.
Lulav: Yeah. It's not that you never cut your hair, it's that you don't set up a barber shop inside the mishkan.
Jaz: (laughs) It's a moderation type of deal.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Any other thoughts about this haftarah?
Jaz: Uh, yeah, I do. There's so much else going on. (Lulav laughs) Do you not have any comments about the people they marry, and how the Tzadokites can declare what's pure and impure, and how they're now judges – any of those things?
Lulav: Let's see… Okay, I'm gonna count backwards from the end. Priests shall not eat anything that died or was torn, we have that. First fruits and all gifts go to the priests. Just the first stuff, generally speaking. They eat meal offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings... Priests aren't landlords. That's normal. The idea that, if a priest is ritually impure due to touching bodies, they gotta chill out for a while before they can do temple stuff again...
Jaz: Mm-hmm.
Lulav: Okay, you're right. Line 24, which I just kinda skimmed over while I was that not part of what kohanim are supposed to do?
Jaz: Well, we know that Moses appointed judges and was supposed to, but my understanding was the judge wasn't a hereditary position.
Lulav: (laughs) Right. Which this certainly is.
Jaz: Right. Now, they might have converted some judge stuff into hereditary positions--
Lulav: Ughhh.
Jaz: But I was under the assumption that they were, like, appointed positions by the leader.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Also, the translation says, “in lawsuits too, it is they who shall act as judges,” which implies that there aren't other judges for lawsuits?
Jaz: Right.
Lulav: But I don't know how much of that is, like, inexact constraints in the original language, versus translating something more exact in English than was in the original, so...
Jaz: I wonder also – like, they're in exile right now...
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And that's different, right? It's different because probably the people doing lawsuits are neither inherited Levites or appointed by Jewish leader? They're probably appointed by somebody else, who isn't Jewish.
Lulav: Hmm. Okay.
Jaz: Right? In the same way that you're in a Jewish community now, if you're like, “I'm gonna do a lawsuit,” you don't mean, “I'm gonna take it to a Jewish court,” you mean, you're gonna take it to, like--
Lulav: I mean, you could, right?
Jaz: I mean, it depends what you're talking about, but for the most part, we don't super have courts in the same way that we used to.
Lulav: Right. But there is a place for community arbitration, which is--
Jaz: Yes...
Lulav: --kind of how I would think of judges in diaspora.
Jaz: And to some extent, they're still involved with things like divorces--
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Which is more liturgical.
Jaz: Uhh...
Lulav: And it makes sense that priests would be involved in, for instance, divorces.
Jaz: Well, I don't know that I would argue that divorces are liturgical, but...
Lulav: That's fair. Especially in the extent to which they are a covenant. (laughs)
Jaz: Like, the problem with Jewish divorces has been around the idea of a get, right, which is a document that a husband gives a wife to make the divorce legal, basically?
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And I was like, pretty deliberate about husband and wife, because traditionally only men can give them. (Lulav laughs) And so you do have this phenomenon of women who are stuck in--
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: --marriages because their husband won't give them a get.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Which means that they can't get Jewishly remarried.
Lulav: That seems like a bad way to organize a society, IMO.
Jaz: Yeah, so, the Conservative world that still uses the traditional text of a ketubah--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: --the marriage document that you sign, has also included, basically, a additional clause called the Lieberman Clause, that's basically like a halachic prenup, so that someone can't engage in get refusal in the same way.
Lulav: Wait, so are you saying that it is severable by both parties?
Jaz: I believe so. Yeah.
Lulav: Okay. 'Cause it would be wild to have a clause that's like, “Also, this isn't severable, even by get.” (laughs)
Jaz: No, no. I think it's--
Lulav: Mmkay.
Jaz: --both people. I don't remember all of the negotiations of it, partially because the traditional-traditional ketubah just doesn't apply to me--
Lulav: Mm-hmm. (laughs)
Jaz: Like, I – I've looked at it. It's just that, because it's so in this binary, straight, husband-wife framework--
Lulav: Uh-huh.
Jaz: I couldn't use it even if I wanted to.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. You would have to be making a significantly different ketubah.
Jaz: Right. Those exist, but at that point, when you're writing your own, or working on a slightly different framework, you can do other things making sure a get isn't a problem.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: And there are interesting things that come up, and hard ones. I knew of a couple that got married as, like a, quote-unquote, straight couple-- (Lulav laughs) And then one member came out as trans, and then, when they were divorcing, the trans woman involved was like, “How are we supposed to handle the get here?” You know?
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Like, “both of us should be free to remarry, does this mean I need to, like, use my old name? You know, what's the deal here?”
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: How do we make this work?
Lulav: In my experience, you need to let them photocopy a court-certified copy of the name change order that they just keep on file along with the document.
Jaz: Cute. Anyway... It's just, once you start treating halacha as like, a system of Jewish law comparable to American law, you run into the same bureaucratic--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: --problems.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. Which...listen. I am down with bureaucracy. Love bureaucracy, except when it serves the purpose of gatekeeping.
Jaz: Yes. Speaking of which...
Lulav: More and more likely, the more gendered a system is.
Jaz: I wanna put in a plug here, that one, halacha doesn't, of necessity, have to be like that?
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And two, Svara just launched a new project called the Trans Halacha Project--
Lulav: Hmm.
Jaz: --which I encourage checking out. And also, because I love surveys, they have put together this survey that's like, what's your relationship with halacha? What are your various identities, of like, age, gender, race, sexuality, and current relationship to Judaism, and like, what are some ways that you have different Jewish practices, how are they related to halacha... A cool project, I think that's spearheaded by Rabbi Becky...
Lulav: Silverstein?
Jaz: Silverstein? I don't actually know if it's Silverstein [like steen] or Silverstein [like stine]. So, he's part of it, and then also, Laynie Solomon, and they were leading a session about trans halacha at the Trans Jews Are Here Convening relatively recently, and I think it's a really cool project to think about how halacha can be trans, and how we can use it as a framework--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And so, I think that's a cool jumping off point, and I will link the survey and encourage you to take it.
Lulav: Yay! I did. It was fun.
Jaz: Great! (Lulav laughs)
Lulav: Okay, so the one last thing I wanted to say about the text, which you hinted at, is that there is the specification here that the Tzadokites may marry widows who are widows of priests, which is not specifically in the original text of the parsha.
Jaz: But we did discuss, I feel like, as an option.
Lulav: Yes. We have, historically, on this podcast, been like, “Yeah, that's definitely a thing that you can do.” (Jaz laughs) Even though... Well, okay, so, the original text says, you may not marry a woman who has, like, subjected herself to harlotry, or whatever that means, or a divorced woman.
Jaz: Mm-hmm.
Lulav: So that means that widows are okay, probably? Maybe. But then it goes on to say, only marry virgins of the house of Yisrael--
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: --which kind of restricts divorced women from there, so I am pretty sure, unless I super missed something in parshat Emor, that this is the result of talking back and forth about edge cases that probably came up several dozen or hundred times.
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: makes sense in the whole, if your brother's wife dies without issue or something, you're supposed to marry your brother's wife, because that's your duty to take care of her?
Jaz: Mm-hmm.
Lulav: So, it kind of makes sense that if another priest's wife dies, that's somebody's duty to take care of her.
Jaz: Mm. Yeah. That makes sense.
Lulav: Especially since she probably doesn't have the same social connections that somebody outside of the Tzadokite stock would.
Jaz: Hmm. How come? You think they're just more isolated?  
Lulav: Yeah. The priestly family, the house of Levi, most of your interactions are with other Levites. Like, you are eating from the offerings to the temple.
Jaz: Mm. That makes sense.
Lulav: And... I mean, as a woman you're not allowed to own property, but also, as a Levite. So it makes sense that you would stipulate, “Hey, if you are the widow of a priest, you should definitely have the option to remarry into the priesthood.”
Jaz: Mmm. That does make sense.
Lulav: Did it feel to you like, “They shall declare to my people what is sacred and what is profane” was a new thing?
Jaz: I couldn't tell, honestly. (Lulav laughs) Because, like, I can't tell how broad or narrow that's supposed to be.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And the narrow meaning of, like, you bring a sheep to the temple and they tell you whether it's kosher--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Seems about right. A broader meaning seems to be that that's moving them almost into the role of paskening, like rabbis.
Lulav: Whoa. Say that word again, and then spell it, if you can.
Jaz: Paskening is p-a-s-k-e-n-i-n-g.
Lulav: Whoa. What does it mean?
Jaz: It means giving a ruling of what you should do, given a certain set of circumstances.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: Taking text and halacha and tradition into account. You go and you say, “I am in this particular difficulty, Rabbi, what should I do?” And the rabbi paskens for you.
Lulav: That's cool. Thank you for that new word.
Jaz: (laughs) I can't tell if that's what the priests are doing, or if they're doing something a little more narrow.
Lulav: I mean, who's responsible for paskening, if not the priests?
Jaz: I have no idea.
Lulav: (laughs) 'Cause this is pre-rabbinical, right?
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: And, in fact, the, like, Tzadoki are posed in some ways to the proto-rabbinical people?
Jaz: Right. Again, there's not rabbis yet, because we don't get rabbis until after the destruction of the second temple, but it is between temples, so they also don't have, like, regular temple practice? (Lulav laughs) So people are trying to figure out what stuff to do.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: So you do probably get some of the ancestors of what later become rabbinic Judaism. Lil bit.
Lulav: Yeah. Also, not to be like, super heretical to the general rabbinical tradition, but I think it makes sense for people to make their own decisions that are more or less informed by tradition, and obviously more is better for a more solid answer, but like, I don't think that only the priests should have the moral responsibility to pasken, to decide if something is halachically valid, given tradition.
Jaz: Right! Also, the priests are an inherited system, so it is, in my opinion, a good move for Judaism to have moved away from making that (Lulav laughs) an inherited position.
Lulav: Uh-huh. Okay. So, does that bring us to our final segment?
Jaz: It does. It's time for Rating G-d's Writing--
Lulav: Whoa, no way!
Jaz: –the segment in which we look at this haftarah and say, “hey, G-d, we're gonna tell you whether we like it.” (Lulav laughs) So, Lulav--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Hmm... On a spectrum where one end of the spectrum is totally sacred, and the other end of the spectrum is totally profane, (Lulav laughs) where would you place this haftarah?
Lulav: Okay. Um...
Jaz: Please ignore the fact that it is already in our holy text and therefore-- (Lulav laughs) –it's not categorized already.
Lulav: I would categorize it as more sacred than I would prefer.
Jaz: Oooh!
Lulav: I like a certain amount of profanity in figuring out what is or isn't holy, and this seems very interested in establishing and maintaining hierarchies, which is not my scene. So I think it is more sacred than I would prefer from a piece of holy text.
Jaz: That's fascinating. Okay, great.
Lulav: Jaz, what's the closest that you've ever shaved your hair?
Jaz: Probably like a centimeter.
Lulav: Okay. So, between 5 millimeters and 25.4 millimeters, how long is the hair of this haftarah?
Jaz: 25.4?
Lulav: Which is to say, an inch. 25.4 millimeters is an inch.
Jaz: Huh. That's still reasonably short hair. Okay. (Lulav laughs) Sure, I would say it is about 20 millimeters.
Lulav: Okay. (laughs)
Jaz: Which means it's perfectly short, but if you keep your hair really short, it's time for it to be trimmed.
Lulav: Okay. That's cool.
Jaz: Now, I don't keep my hair that short, so that's like, perfectly reasonable length for my hair to be, but it's not at the point where I would yet need a haircut.
Lulav: Yeah. That's something where I think your hair would still feel mostly bristly if I ran my hand over it.
Jaz: Yeah, as opposed to mostly curly.
Lulav: But like, it's starting to get some length to it. (laughs)
Jaz: I do need a haircut. (Lulav laughs) 'Cause I think that that leaves some room for personal variation, and some room to say, “Yeah, I could use a haircut. We could use to trim some of this back. We could use to reform some of it.” Or, to go the opposite direction, to say, “Hey, actually, we could stand to just grow this out.” (Lulav laughs) “Make it way longer, like, add much more to it.”
Lulav: 'Cause then you can dye it.
Jaz: Hell yeah you can. So that's where I'm gonna leave it. You have some room to cut it, you have some room to add way more to it.
Lulav: Yay.
Jaz: And either of those things could potentially improve it.
Lulav: Jaz, can you take us to the close?
Jaz: 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 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 find on Bandcamp. Go buy their albums! They're great. Our sound production this week is done by my lovely co-host, Lulav Arnow.
Lulav: I woke up today. Jaz Twersky and Reuben Schachar Rose, who are much more morning people than I am, 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 Schahar roped in additional help for the episode.
Jaz: I'm not really a morning person. But I suppose by comparison...
Lulav: By comparison to your cave goblin girlfriend, you are a morning person. (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. I'm Jaz Twerksy, and you can find me @wordnerdknitter on Twitter. I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Creek and Maskowgi people.
Lulav: I'm Lulav Arnow, and you can find me @spacetrucksix on Twitter, or yell at me @palmliker. I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute Dakota.
Jaz: Have a lovely queer Jewish day.
[Brivele outro]
Jaz: This week's gender is: elderly literature.
Lulav: This week's pronouns are: thon, then, and thor.