This week, Jaz was out, so Lulav and guest host Iscah discuss role models who fight altogether too much, being way smarter than your husband, and having your prophesied child take after said husband anyway. They also revisit favorite motifs from Season 1 — like the oath of the nazirite and angels being random messenger dudes who tell you about pregnancy — because they're strangely relevant to this first chapter of Samson's story. Also, the points of reference for Lulav's cohost have shifted from the Talmudic to the Supernatural. You can follow Iscah's work on their public Twitter @JayRBlythe or their personal Twitter @jcatgrl.
I'm Strange (And So Are You) is a webcomic by Moe Espinoza about friends bonding over paranormal investigations, and is currently on hiatus. You can find it on Tapas or its website. Check out Iscah's Jupernatural Week project! Here is the trailer for the dark comedy about a sitcom wife called Kevin Can F**k Himself.
This week's reading is Judges 13:2-25. Next week's reading should have been Zechariah 2:14–4:7, but because we made a mistake and did that in the episode for the haftarah of Vayeishev instead, next week we're reading Amos 2:6-3:8.
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.
Lulav: So...how on fire is your apartment right now?
Iscah: It's not on fire--
Lulav: Oh, good.
Iscah: --and thankfully none of the surrounding apartments are on fire anymore.
Lulav: (laughs) Okay, good! And, to be clear, this was through no fault of your own.
Lulav: You just have neighbors?
Iscah: Yes. I don't know--
Iscah: --what the neighbors did to cause a fire, but (Lulav laughs) next door and one floor up was on fire for a little bit earlier today.
Iscah: Got to see a nice big fire truck right out front and direct the firefighters to (Lulav laughs) the actual inside door that leads to most of the other apartments.
Lulav: I am really glad that you're safe and this is a thing that I am laughing about, instead of big problems, so congrats on that.
Lulav: Hey! Are you Jaz?
Iscah: I'm definitely not Jaz.
Lulav: Whoa! Oh!
Iscah: I'm Iscah.
Lulav: Oh man! (laughs) Iscah is a one-time published poet who is currently studying for their adult bat mitzvah. They are also a fan of making bad television slightly better by turning it Jewish. We met through a comics fan server, right?
Iscah: That's right.
Lulav: We met through Strangechat? Okay.
Lulav: How did you know about “I'm Strange (And So Are You)”?
Iscah: I was on a periodic Animorphs kick--
Lulav: Okay, good.
Iscah: --as happens occasionally, so, you know, just looking through Tumblr tags, and I found Mo's Animorphs posting, and I decided that they looked really cool. So, I followed their blog. I was there for the premiere of I'm Strange and So Are You--
Iscah: So, it must have been while they were still in the planning stages, and--
Iscah: I loved talking to people about the media properties that I like, so when they decided to start a Discord server for the comic, I jumped on that.
Lulav: I am so glad. I'm also really glad that it was specifically Animorphs because that is also how I got to the “I'm Strange (And So Are You” fan server, and--
Lulav: --was friends with Mo on Tumblr. So that's great. Hi, Mo. I don't think you listen to my podcast, but maybe you do. And currently you're doing a lot of work with – I'm sorry to put you on blast like this – Supernatural fandom, right?
Iscah: (laughs) That's correct. (Lulav laughs) It's currently, as of recording, still in the future. I believe when this episode goes up, it will be nearly over, but with the ending of Supernatural, there's been a big revival of the fandom, and my specific POV has shifted a lot since I first watched it as an impressionable high-schooler.
Iscah: I'm Jewish now, (Lulav laughs) for one thing--
Iscah: I'm Jewish now, much like many of the early writers and showrunners for Supernatural--
Iscah: --so, even though the show heavily, heavily uses a lot of Christian iconography--
Iscah: --the way that they do it, I've seen it compared to a Jewish writer playing with Christian dolls. (Lulav laughs) Like, they're using these ideas--
Iscah: --but they're not coming from these ideas, so there still ends up being a lot of still Jewish ideas and viewpoints, kind of.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. So what's the project that you're working on?
Iscah: Right now, I am a moderator for Jupernatural Week -- (Lulav laughs) This is obviously a portmanteau of Jewish and Supernatural.
Lulav: Oh, I had no idea.
Iscah: Yeah. Yeah. (Lulav laughs) There's – there's another project that's a lot more embryonic, so I'm gonna talk about the one that's literally about to come into fruition.
Iscah: But yes. A lot of fandom event weeks, the way it works is: we're putting out a list of prompts for a whole entire week, and hoping, you know, fingers crossed, kinehora, that people will be interested and want to write fic and make art about these prompts that we have.
Lulav: Yeah. That's so great.
Iscah: Yeah. We put it together pretty fast. Very excited. And the fact that it's starting next week, May 16th, means that the first day will overlap with Shavuot, so, you know, that was a (Lulav laughs) fun little coincidence.
Lulav: This episode goes up on the 20th, so it'll be smack dab in the middle of Jupernatural Week?
Lulav: And anybody who is listening and hits the demographics and doesn't already know Iscah is welcome to write some fic for that.
Iscah: Yep. Jupernaturalweek.tumblr.com. (Lulav laughs) Submit some things to us, please.
Lulav: (laughs) Good. So, are you ready to roll on into the episode?
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 Iscah--
Iscah: And she's Lulav--
Lulav: --and we're here to joke about Judaism and talk Tanakh together. Today our chavruta is learning the haftarah of Naso, which is Judges 13:2 to 13:25. Also, it occurs to me that I didn't explain why you're not Jaz, and other than the fact that you are a totally separate human being who has had your own, like, development in life... Jaz is out for the week for personal reasons. So I figured I'd rope Iscah in because--
Iscah: I'm a friend of the podcast!
Lulav: You very much are. (laughs) So, you read for this. Naso, right?
Iscah: That's correct.
Lulav: How long do you want to tell me about it?
Iscah: Let's put 45 seconds on the clock.
Lulav: Ooh! Okay, this should be fun. 3, 2, 1, go.
Iscah: The Lord instructs Moses to take a census of various sub-clans of the Levites, including the Gershonites, and the Merarites, and instructs them on all the things that they each have to do for disassembling and carrying around the tabernacle, instructions for removing people with an eruption or discharge, previously covered in Leviticus, instructions for if a man has, quote, “a fit of jealousy,” end quote, and thinks that his wife is cheating on him, very specific instructions for the vow of the nazirite, and then, big long individual lists that repeat almost exactly 12 different times, all of the things given-- (Lulav laughs) –from various chieftains as offerings. And this is just over and over again, 12 times.
Iscah: That is the end of the parsha.
Lulav: That really brought it back. I think you took, like, twice as much time as you asked for, but that's okay.
Iscah: Oh, goodness. I should have practiced that beforehand.
Lulav: I think I can tell how this connects to the haftarah portion. Do you wanna run it by me anyway?
Iscah: Let me see, it's also about the nazirite vow, because we're talking about Shimshon, who was a nazirite from birth.
Lulav: Yeah. (laughs) In a way that, like, nobody really has been in any of the writings that we were looking at.
Lulav: This is a super-nazirite, apparently. So, do you mind if I give a little bit of context on the haftarah?
Iscah: I would love it if you did.
Lulav: Cool. So, as I told everybody last time, Shoftim, or Judges, is an anthology of folk tales about champions of Yisrael. We call them Judges, but they don't do what we've come to expect from actual judges, you know? Mostly they fight to restore glory briefly to the Israelites, before those dweebs go and do more avodah zarah. Are you with me so far?
Iscah: I am.
Lulav: Good. The Book of Judges – which I'll mostly be calling Sefer Shoftim, but you can feel free to call however you want – is a collection set after Yehoshua, the Wesley Crusher of the Bible, dies, and the Israelites start intermarrying with the people they conquered and worshipping those people's gods. What we're supposed to imagine as we read this haftarah portion is that the greatest generation have done all their conquering long ago, and now the millenials are ruining society because they're all on their phones. Does that seem fair, in content and in tone?
Iscah: I think that's a pretty accurate judgment, yeah.
Lulav: (laughs) Okay, cool. Um, another important bit of context to remember is that there are no sources from other cultures that would corroborate the who, what, when, where, and why of these yarns. The stories in Sefer Shoftim are as mythical as the five books of Torah. Iscah, does it make a difference to your reading if something really happened or not?
Iscah: Um...not really. I mean--
Iscah: Even if a story didn't happen historically, there's a reason that we use it. There's a reason that we talk about and analyze it. The layers of analysis, the pardes, and all that.
Lulav: Oh, that's fun.
Iscah: Okay, pshat, which is surface meaning, remez, which is hints or the deep meaning beyond just the literal sense--
Iscah: Drash, which is like, making midrash about it, and Sod, esoteric and mystical meaning.
Lulav: Thank you for that! I was unfamiliar.
Iscah: Oh, you're welcome.
Lulav: You try to draw from all four of those?
Iscah: Maybe not so much at the mystical one...
Lulav: Yeah... (laughs)
Iscah: (laughs) I wouldn't know where to start with that.
Lulav: That's mostly what I was probing at, 'cause I don't think either of us involve a lot of Sod in our analysis, but...
Iscah: No. Mostly just, you know, there is the story, here's what happened, and then looking at, you know, why is this important to us? Why have we made this a part of the Tanakh? Why do we continue to talk about it today--
Iscah: –and make analysis and midrash and everything. That's the really important bit to me.
Lulav: (laughs) Okay. So, I'm gonna walk through this story about Shimshon.
Lulav: We start off at the top of one of these cycles, where the Israelites, again, did what was offensive to the Lord, and Hashem delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years.
Lulav: And we open on this dude who is from Dan, and his name is Rest, 'cause Minoach is—
Iscah: Oh, wow.
Lulav: —”resting place, state or condition of rest”--
Lulav: It's mostly just “repose.” (laughs) But yeah, there's this dude named Resting Place—
Lulav: —and his wife hasn't borne any children, and as very often happens, a messenger appears and says, “You are barren, and you will nevertheless conceive.”
Iscah: Pretty common theme.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. But, differently here, there is an admonition against drinking alcohol while pregnant, which I think is a generally good idea?
Lulav: I don't remember the messenger saying anything like that to Sarah? (laughs) But I'm glad they decided to mention it here.
Lulav: Don't drink wine or other intoxicant, don't eat anything treyf, and this kid is going to be a nazirite for his entire life, and therefore shall be the first to deliver Yisrael from the Philistines. Do you have any feelings about that?
Iscah: I mean, I guess it's a pretty big destiny, but..lotta people have had pretty big destinies.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. It's a lot to put on a kid.
Lulav: And how are you feeling about the destiny of delivering Yisrael from the Philistines?
Iscah: I dunno, I'm not sure what to think of it.
Lulav: I don't know what kind of situation was supposed to be going on at this time, but I read ahead in Judges, and most of what Shimshon does is just like, beats some dudes up?
Lulav: And, like, revenge-killings and stuff?
Iscah: Yeah, there's like, a lot of murder...
Lulav: Yeah. Luckily, in the bit that we're reading here, he's just a baby and is doing no murder.
Lulav: But like, especially in the context of airstrikes that are going on as we're recording this—
Lulav: —against Palestinians, it's kind of rough to be reading about a story of like, somebody who's supposed to be a champion of Yisrael, and mostly just beats dudes up with animal bones.
Iscah: Yeah. I guess one of the other things that struck me was, like, in the nazirite rules as given, nazirites are never, ever supposed to be near any dead bodies or their vow is instantly nullified. (Lulav laughs) But...
Iscah: Shimshon killing a bunch of dudes, and like, how does that not break his inborn nazirite vow?
Lulav: That's a really good insight--
Iscah: Like, why is it only the hair thing? (Lulav laughs) I would think murder would be the worse of the two.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Jaz talked about nazirites being kind of this performance art--
Lulav: –about really standing out in society and just like, being weird, and making people be like, “Hmm. Maybe I should think about G-d more.”
Lulav: And so, for somebody whose whole life is supposed to be, like, performance art to make people think about their means of devotion, he sure does some weird stuff. (laughs)
Iscah: Like, are you sure this is the guy we're trying to hold up as an example? (Lulav laughs) This guy?
Lulav: This guy.
Iscah: Is it too late to pick another one?
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, so...the lady told her husband, Rest Stop, “A man of G-d came to me. He looked like a messenger and was very frightening. I didn't ask him where he was from, but he said, 'You're gonna have a son, and you definitely can't drink wine or eat treyf, because this kid is gonna be a nazirite, even before he's born.'”
Lulav: And Minoach is like, “Oh, G-d, please let this guy come back, and, uh, I have no idea how to have a nazirite as, like, a baby? Can you have him give us instructions on how to deal with this child?” And instead of sending the messenger to Minoach directly, the messenger comes to the woman again while she's sitting in the field. So, she runs off and is like, “Hey, Minoach, this dude just showed up again.” And he's like, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?” (Iscah laughs) And the messenger's like, “Yeah.” And he says, “Hey! That sounds great. Let's hope that everything comes true. What are we doing to make sure this boy is what he's supposed to be?” What kind of emotions are you reading from Minoach here?
Iscah: Um...it just kinda strikes me that his wife came and told him exactly what this messenger told her the first time-- (Lulav laughs) –and just asks again, “What are the rules?” And then the angel says, “Well...” (Lulav laughs) “Like I said last time...” (Lulav laughs) “No wine, and nothing unclean. Just like I commanded her before.”
Lulav: Yeah, you couldn't just listen to your wife?
Iscah: Like, “I thought I'd only have to make one business trip this week...”
Lulav: It's really interesting that he's, like, “Ah, I hope your words soon come true.” Like, he seems to believe this, even as he didn't just believe his wife.
Lulav: Who did very much tell him everything that had to go on. But yeah, we get the more specific stuff here. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine –
Lulav: We're, like, building that extra fence around the Torah. And she can't eat treyf or drink any intoxicants. So then, Minoach is like, “Ah, the obstetrician has told us good news about our baby, let us detain you and prepare you a little goat for you to feast on.”
Lulav: And the messenger's like, “Listen, I'm not gonna eat your food, but if you wanna give a burnt offering, you can give it to Hashem.” Because this guy, apparently, again, was not listening to his wife at all, and doesn't know that this is an angel.
Lulav: Do you think it was pretty clear that she thought it was an angel?
Iscah: I mean, she literally said, “a man of G-d” and “an angel or a messenger of G-d”... (Lulav laughs) Like, this isn't just some random dude coming over here telling her that she's gonna give birth...
Iscah: She could tell this was a messenger from Hashem. (Lulav laughs) She said so twice!
Lulav: She literally said “messenger.” (laughs)
Lulav: Malach. So, Minoach apparently isn't offended by the fact that this traveler refuses to eat his food, and he asks the dude for his name, and they're like, “You must not ask for my name! It is unknowable.” (Iscah laughs) How do you feel about that?
Iscah: I guess it seems pretty par for the course for angels, you know? That's what the angel who wrestled Jacob said. “Can't ask for my name.”
Iscah: And I don't really know what it is about angels that they don't have knowable names, but--
Lulav: Right! It's strange to me, because there's the whole concept of, like, you say that light and dark are different, you being G-d, I guess-- (laughs)
Lulav: And they are different, like, saying a name says what that thing is. And even though angels are supposed to be, like, very specific messengers, like, they do one thing, the angel still doesn't have a name. It's weird.
Iscah: Right. I guess you would think, if anything, they'd just have whatever very specific name that means, “delivering the message about future hero Shimshon to his parents,” however you would phrase that.
Lulav: Wow. Yeah. It's a really long name. (laughs)
Iscah: (laughs) You make it all flowery and poetic, just one word to symbolize it.
Lulav: Also, I'm reading the original, and it says, “Don't ask after my name. V'hu peli.” So, it might be saying, “My name is Peli,” literally, “wonderful, incomprehensible, extraordinary”?
Lulav: It is very funny to me that one way you could read this is, the angel said their name. (laughs) And it's just like, “Ineffable.”
Iscah: Just an ancient Hebrew “Who's on first” routine.
Lulav: Yeah! (Iscah laughs) Oh, man. Okay, so, Abbot takes the kid in the meal offering and offers them up on the rock to Costello. And a marvelous thing happened, which is that flames leaped up and the messenger just ascended in those flames. What appears to be a normal, if slightly sketchy, dude just jumped in the fire and burned off into the sky. Which is pretty rad. And, accordingly, Minoach and his wife fling themselves on their faces to the ground. They never see this dude again, which makes sense, because they just got spirited away--
Lulav: --but it takes all of that from Minoach to either realize that this is an angel of Hashem, or to have just not heard his wife, and finally he figures it out from context clues. (laughs)
Iscah: This is not a clever man, I don't think.
Lulav: Oh, G-d, no. Especially since the next thing he says is, “Oh, we're gonna die. We've seen a divine being.” And she's like, “Dude. If Hashem had meant to take our lives, that burnt offering and that meal offering we gave wouldn't have been accepted, and we wouldn't have been able to see the messenger just jump straight into the sky through the fire.”
Iscah: Like, what is the point of telling me I'm going to have a son and then immediately killing him? (Lulav laughs) What kind of weird prank from Hashem would that be? What are you on?
Lulav: Right? And if we think about other things where people made offerings to Hashem and were immediately swallowed up, like, Nadav and Avihu just died. It took them like two seconds.
Lulav: So the fact that they survived this...like, clearly, my dude.
Iscah: Not to mention that angel suggested it in the first place. Like, they had specific-- (Lulav laughs) –instructions from a messenger, from G-d, that it would be totally fine to offer up a burnt offering.
Lulav: Yeah. So, she has a son, and she names him Shimshon – “like the sun” is what that means. He grows up, Hashem blesses him, and we get a cliffhanger for the next chapter, which is that the spirit of Hashem first moved him in the encampment of Dan, where he was born.
Lulav: So like, the nazirite connection is pretty obvious. What does this whole haftarah say to you? Like, why do you think that we still tell this story?
Iscah: The whole story of Shimshon, I guess, like we kinda hinted at earlier – just because somebody is supposed to be a hero in one sense, that doesn't necessarily mean they're always going to be a perfect person. You don't have to look up to them in every single way just because they're doing one good thing.
Lulav: Yeah. And also, he's coming from this incredibly storied birth, and he's just an average dude. Well, okay, he's really strong--
Iscah: But other than that, he's just some guy.
Lulav: Right. (laughs) Like, I dunno, Plato was also ripped... Thomas Aquinas was also ripped...
Iscah: I never heard that one.
Lulav: Doesn't mean that they were decent people. (laughs)
Iscah: (laughs) True.
Lulav: That's my secret, I started this podcast with Jaz over a year ago just so I could insult St. Thomas Aquinas.
Iscah: (laughs) For the long con. But it worked.
Lulav: (laughs) So. Don't put these expectations on a child, you know?
Iscah: Mm hmm.
Lulav: What do you think is the significance that we only get this part of the story, that the rest of the story of Shimshon isn't told in the haftarah cycle? Is this the part that you would take out of this story, if you wanted to include it?
Iscah: I dunno. I mean, it's definitely more prologue than anything. I don't think it's the part that anybody would think of first when they’re thinking of the story of Shimshon.
Iscah: But still, just looking at it as a self-contained bit, like we were talking about, if somebody tells you something, like three different times, maybe believe them?
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah!
Iscah: Like, what are you distrusting your wife like that for?
Lulav: Yeah. I'm really interested in the stories that don't get told here, about like, how she's feeling about her husband completely ignoring her, where she goes from here, how their relationship is as they're raising a child together--
Lulav: And like, to what extent she is teaching him to be the man he becomes, and to what extent that's not from her?
Lulav: But we don't get that. (laughs)
Iscah: No, we don't.
Lulav: Because men are the important ones.
Iscah: I'm vaguely reminded of that TV show that's like, Kevin Can F**k Himself-- (Lulav laughs) –and it's the story of a sitcom wife, actually told from her perspective--
Iscah: And switching between the bright cheery sitcom style filming and then like, the actual story shot in a more realistic way-- (Lulav laughs) –with, you know, how the wife actually feels--
Iscah: --about her slobby, lazy husband who expects everything to be perfect and never thinks about her feelings.
Lulav: Yeah. So this is coming out in June, apparently--
Lulav: --and it stars the lady from Schitt's Creek, which I have never watched, but if you like Schitt's Creek, then you would probably like this.
Lulav: But yeah.
Iscah: The story of “Minoach Can Go F**k Himself” would be (Lulav laughs) pretty interesting.
Lulav: Absolutely. Okay, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about before we get to Rating G-d's Writing?
Iscah: I can't think of anything.
Lulav: Okay. What is your understanding of what Rating G-d's Writing is?
Iscah: It's the part of the show where we make up ridiculous scales and inflict them on each other, in the service of rating G-d's writing.
Lulav: (laughs) Yes. Good. So, Iscah?
Iscah: Yes, Lulav?
Lulav: Out of three times that this butthead didn't believe his wife, how many times would you rate this haftarah?
Iscah: On a scale where one would be a better rating than three, because it should really (Lulav laughs) only take one time of being told to believe something--
Lulav: By the person you should probably trust most in your life.
Iscah: Right. Like, you literally married her. C'mon.
Lulav: I get that marriage is different in this cultural context, but it's not that different. (laughs)
Iscah: Seriously. I guess I would give it a one on that scale?
Iscah: 'Cause I do like it as kind of a warning to husbands, (Lulav laughs) like, are you really gonna act like this idiot? Go ahead and believe your wife when she tells you something important.
Lulav: (laughs) Cool. What have you got for me?
Iscah: On a scale from 40 years that the Philistines had the Israelites in their hands, how many years would you rate this parsha?
Lulav: Hmm...I'm gonna rate it 40, because it sounds like these people are having a fine time. (Iscah laughs) They have an extra kid to offer to a stranger, and not only that, but also to like, sacrifice as a burnt offering. And, I don't know. It doesn't seem that bad to be in the hands of the Philistines. (Iscah laughs) Maybe instead of slaughtering a thousand dudes, Shimshon could go on from this to figure out power sharing and how to all live in the land together.
Lulav: That would be great.
Iscah: Much better results.
Lulav: (laughs) And honestly, that's where it looks like this is pointing--
Lulav: --is like, we've got this prophesied nazirite child, everything's gonna be better. And, at this point in the story, we can pretend that that's how it goes.
Iscah: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) He did not make much of anything at all better.
Lulav: (laughs) Oh, no. Okay.
Iscah: Lulav, would you like to take us to the close?
Lulav: Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers. If you like what you've heard, you can support us on Patreon, at patreon.com/kosherqueers. Suck it, Jaz. 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 ko-fi.com/kosherqueers. Find out more information about our podcast, including bios for our team and links to our social media, at kosherqueers.gay. Also, please spread the word about Kosher Queers. It's really nice when you tell your friends things, because then you find friends who you know for several years and then invite on your podcast. 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, and I am expecting Cradle Songs, Grave Songs in the mail any time now. Our sound production this week is done by our excellent audio editor, Ezra Faust. Jaz Twersky makes sure every episode is fully transcribed; you can find a link to those transcriptions in the episode descriptions at kosherqueers.gay, where you can also see if Jaz and our currently absent main transcriber Shachar roped in additional help for the episode. Iscah, who are you, where can we find you?
Iscah: I'm Iscah, also known as Jay R. Blythe. You can find me on Twitter, JayRBlythe, that's my public Twitter. Also jcatgrl, and my Ko-fi is ko-fi/pinejaytreasures.
Iscah: Yeah. Fancy. This audio was recorded on the ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk Nation, in an area also known as Dejope.
Lulav: Cool. 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. Have a lovely queer Jewish day.
Iscah: This week's gender is: girl kool-aid, very diluted.
Lulav: This week's pronouns are: ce, cir, and cim.