Kosher Queers

83 — Behaalotecha: He’s Not Being A Yankee

May 27, 2021 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
83 — Behaalotecha: He’s Not Being A Yankee
Show Notes Transcript

This week, Jaz is back, with some sad personal news but (with the benefit of Lulav's editing prowess) decent podcasting energy! We're talking about mistakes and new connections, condescending to unpleasant people who are nevertheless your people, and $2000 fancy dresses. Plus, elaborate wagon metaphors and the connection between personal breakdown and societal breakdown.

Transcript here.

Jaz mentioned some book recommendations about death. For talking to Jewish children, there's Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin illustrated by Kristi­na Swamer. There's also Tear Soup, which is not Jewish, but applicable cross-religiously and for all ages eight and up. Some other books Jaz read about grief in the last year and a half, which were helpful in different ways, include:

  • Saying Kaddish: How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead, and Mourn as a Jew by Anita Diamant, 
  • Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief by Cindy Milstein,  
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
  • Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying by Sallie Tisdale 

You can also listen to the episode "Unconscionable Ex," from what was at the time the Dear Prudence podcast. That's since been converted into a new podcast, also hosted by Danny Lavery, called Big Mood, Little Mood.

This week's reading was Amos 2:6-3:8, even though it should have been Zechariah 2:14–4:7. Next week's reading is Joshua 2:1-24.

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Lulav Arnow, 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.

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Lulav: So, how on-fire is your apartment right now?
Jaz: Excuse me?
Lulav: Oh, it's Jaz! Jaz, you're back! Hello, my love.
Jaz: Hi. Thank you for welcoming me back, but why was it in such an alarming way?
Lulav: (laughs) Last episode, I had Iscah on to cohost, and that morning their upstairs across-the-way neighbor had a big fire, so I figured the most alarming possible way to check if you were, in fact, Jaz was to start off with that.
Jaz: (laughs) Well, much appreciation for Iscah for coming to help us out and cohost last week while I couldn't be here. That was great.
Lulav: Yeah. So, what's something cool and queer or Jewish that has happened in your life, including maybe special duties that you've had recently?
Jaz: So… okay, well… hmm. I hesitate to call it cool, exactly?
Lulav: That's fair.
Jaz: But… okay, I was gone last week because my grandmother died, and I went to her funeral and spent time with family and went all over the places that my mom grew up — 
Lulav: Hmm.
Jaz: And so I was very busy with family things.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And also, my mother asked me to officiate at the funeral, because my grandmother had been living in Israel for the past 13 years, and before that, had still not been living in the place where she was buried for at least the last 20 years — 
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: But she was flown back there to be buried next to my grandfather, in this, like, family plot, and we thought that it would be better to have the person officiating the ceremony be somebody who knew her.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: And since I'm preparing to go to rabbinical school in the fall, my mother asked me to.
Lulav: Yeah. I'm just thinking about, like, if I died and the only people around were people who knew me when I was 10, that wouldn't be very good, so having a relative take the lead on that sounds like a great idea.
Jaz: Yeah. So we wanted somebody who knew her, and as I was family, you know, I wanted to step in. So, some of the things were things I knew how to do, but I definitely never officiated a funeral before--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: — so there were some things I had to learn how to do. You helped me on some of them.
Lulav: Aw, thank you.
Jaz: As I was practicing and learning some of the prayers, as did my chavruta, DiCo — 
Lulav: Hmm.
Jaz: — and I had conversations with my mother and my aunt and my uncle about what they wanted — 
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: You know, we had a ceremony for her that I think went really well and everybody in the family was really satisfied with the result of.
Lulav: Yeah. May her memory be a blessing.
Jaz: Thank you. You know, my grandmother was quite elderly, she was 91, so it wasn't unexpected, but it's still a whole thing when somebody dies.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: It also was interesting timing because last year, my grandfather on the other side of the family died at a similar time, and last year I took the whole last week of the school year off work to sit shiva for him.
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: And this year, it was the second-to-last week of the school year, and I didn't take off a whole week, but I took off a couple days of work — 
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: — and it happened to be while I was teaching my third-graders about death and funerals as part of our life cycle unit.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: So, it felt very ironic. (Lulav laughs) I will — if you're ever looking for ways to talk to children, in particular, about death, I will link a couple of books that I've found very helpful.
Lulav: Cool. Thank you.
Jaz: I deal with things a lot by reading, so last year I read a bunch of different books about death — 
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: –which I would be happy to give out. Some of them I found more useful than others, but-- (Lulav laughs) Different people might have different tastes.
Lulav: Yeah. You mentioned that the unit on death and funerals was particularly relevant because this last year and change, a lot of the kids have had their first major experience with family dying.
Jaz: Yeah. Disproportionately, grandparents have died this year, among my students--
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: Not all of them, by any means, but certainly more than I had last school year. So, you know, I believe that one of the things that Judaism is good for is giving us rituals to hold to and ways to think about when we're at moments when things seem all at sea? That you have things to hold onto.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: And you don't have to use those rituals if they're not useful to you, but it means you have a structure to work with and you don't have to reinvent it all while you're grieving.
Lulav: Yeah. And the point is, you're not alone.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: Like, Judaism is in community, and one of my favorite things about us saying the Mourner's Kaddish, which is just like, a prayer entirely of praise for Hashem, is that, like, some people are going into that with a sense of grief where they can't even get out the words, and some people are going into that with a sense of grief where it's like, “I'm going to honor my relative's memory,” and some people are just, like, at shul that day, and it's a normal week to them, and so many voices join together so that everybody can say it together.
Jaz: Mm. Yeah, and one of the things that I was teaching my students about, and that also so many of the people that came to my family's shiva call said to us, is this phrase, “Hamakom yenachem etchem betoch she’ar avelei Tziyon v’Yerushalayim,” which translates roughly to, “May G-d console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Lulav: Mm. Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Which is, to me, connected to that thing that you're saying of – it's about consoling, yes, but also about acknowledging among other mourners, you know, you're not the only one mourning.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: Other people are doing that too, and have been, throughout history, experiencing the things you've experienced.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: And not to tell anybody else's story but mine, but I didn't give a eulogy at this funeral, it didn't seem quite my role --
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: — and instead my mom and my aunt both shared different things about their mother, who they had really different relationships with, and afterwards, you know, different people came up to them to say things, because sharing your own story really honestly can prompt other people to share theirs.
Lulav: Yeah. And you talked about sharing story honestly – isn't that what eulogy means?
Jaz: Well, that's beyond the scope of my knowledge, because eulogy is a Greek word, I believe. I didn't ever study Greek.
Lulav: Ah, okay. It's made up of the word parts for, like, “true word.”
Jaz: I believe you.
Lulav: Okay. (laughs)
Jaz: But traditionally, right, a rabbi or an officiant says a eulogy, and I didn't do that. We decided that that wasn't how ours was gonna look.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Mostly I'm asking, 'cause this was very enlightening to me, what is a eulogy? And how is that different from saying your feelings about a person?
Jaz: So a eulogy usually is like a summing up of their life.
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: The reason it's done by the rabbi often is — they'll talk to a bunch of other people who knew the person --
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: Most particularly, the close family, and it will be like an overview of their life and who they were and what it will mean to their community that they're gone.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: Which is different than individual people sharing their individual stories and relationships.
Lulav: Right, it's like the difference between figuring out a shape by holding it and figuring out a shape by touching it. Does that make any sense?
Jaz: I would say, actually, it's a little bit of the difference between a biography of a person --
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: — that is supposed to be their whole life, touching on all the important parts and comprehensively, and it's written by a stranger --
Lulav: (gasps) Ooh.
Jaz: — versus a memoir, which is pretty intentionally only part of it, through a particular theme or particular time.
Lulav: Yeah. And there it's the difference, etymologically, between writing a life and remembering --
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: — which seems pretty illustrative of the difference between a eulogy and sharing memories of someone. Thank you for digging in deep on that.
Jaz: Mm. I wanna add one last piece before moving on, which is a small personal queer note --
Lulav: Mm.
Jaz: — to add to this Jewish section, which is… I have one thing from my grandmother. It's a necklace that she wore to her high school prom. (Lulav laughs) The necklace is, like, a gold chain, and then on it there's like a semi-circle --
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: — of, like, purple fake gems, and then hanging down, these, like, 18-ish thin gold chains --
Lulav: Whoa.
Jaz: — that just kinda, like, hang down from the fake gems.
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: And she gave it to me years ago, and I don't wear it very often, but I brought it to the funeral and wore it, and I was wearing it a few days before, and wearing a button-down, as I often do, and it was one of those button-downs that have little buttons on the corners of the collars, so you can button the collar to lie flat --
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: — so I had put the chain of the necklace under the collar, like, under those buttons, and somebody who I didn't know complimented me on my tie. (Lulav laughs) Which was my grandmother's necklace.
Lulav: Uh-huh.
Jaz: Which was a delight, frankly. It felt very in line with some of the things that we talk about, like, you don't have to get rid of tradition, but maybe you can repurpose it.
Lulav: Uh huh. You sent me a picture of what you were wearing that day and I didn't even notice this necklace. That's really cool. And it does kind of — if you squint a little bit — resemble a bolo. (laughs)
Jaz: Well, you didn't see it with that particular shirt, in which --
Lulav: Mm.
Jaz: — it does look more like a tie, though I hadn't thought about it at the time.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: So, what's something cool or queer or Jewish that you did this week?
Lulav: Well, thanks for saying “or,” because probably like 40% of all of my thoughts recently have been, like, “Hey, Medinat Yisrael is doing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” So that's most of what I have been thinking about, unfortunately. But also I'd rather be thinking about it than not? Yeah. And this episode is coming out, like, two weeks from now or so, and so, who knows what will have happened by then?
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: But it's been a lot, recently.
Jaz: Yeah. Sure has.
Lulav: And… this is another thing where it's not best to try for a biography or a eulogy, because there is just so much to be said, so I think I'm gonna leave it at just touching the shape.
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: Sorry to mix all these metaphors. Yeah, that's the Jewish thing, overwhelmingly. That's the Jewish thing. And it has been nice seeing a lot of Jews who I am in community with making very clear statements of, “This is unacceptable, and now that I am looking more into things it has always been unacceptable, and also we need to make sure that our Jewish institutions are divesting themselves from settler-colonialism,” so that's been heartening. And then, the cool and queer thing in my week is that my roommate has made a sourdough starter. It does not yet have a name, but they did make a loaf of sourdough which — like, part of that was my breakfast. I don't know, that's cool, because they made new life and stuff, and that's queer, because everyone I know who makes sourdough is some flavor of gay, so. How do you feel about sourdough, Jaz?
Jaz: Positively.
Lulav: Okay. Who do you know who makes sourdough?
Jaz: Very few people.
Lulav: It is a lot of work, 'cause like, you have a living thing that you need to keep feeding.
Jaz: Mm-hmm.
Lulav: There's a lot of new life sprouting up around the house. It's still pretty cold at nights here, so we haven't done, like, planting planting, but more and more of the seeds in the greenhouse have been sprouting, and like, they're getting potted, and set out on the porch to get at least a little bit of sunlight, and it's the time of new life, and gay roommates.
Jaz: Mm.
(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. Today our chevruta is learning the haftarah of Behaalotecha, which is confusing. So, the haftarah of parshat Vayeishev, which is Amos 2:6 to 3:8 and we read the haftarah that's for today for the episode of parshat Vayeishev.
Jaz: Lulav, do you know how that ended up happening?
Lulav: I have no clue. Do you?
Jaz: No. (Lulav laughs) My guess is that the program that initially gave us our listing made a mistake --
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: — and we just copied the mistake.
Lulav: Uh huh.
Jaz: Because lots of the different things are similar.
Lulav: Uh huh.
Jaz: And also different from each other, so like, it didn't immediately raise a flag that they'd be from the same book, because that happens a bunch. (Lulav laughs) But also, we didn't check it against other lists, because other lists just are different?
Lulav: Mm hmm. And critically, we didn't check it against our own list to notice that we were reading the same thing twice.
Jaz: Right.
Lulav: So. Instead of reading Zechariah 2:14 to 4:7 today, we are gonna read Amos 2:6 to 3:8 and just, you know, map it to parshat Behaalotecha. Like, that's the reading now. It's our own haftarah cycle. (Jaz groans) What was that noise?
Jaz: Yeah, I just want to apologize to our listeners for getting it in the wrong order.
Lulav: Oh, me too, to be clear. I listened back to the episode, and like, we had a pretty good connection.
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: Like, we did not notice that that wasn't supposed to be the haftarah for that week. But yes. Very sorry, and, uh… we're rolling with it. So Jaz, can you talk a little bit about parshat Behaalotecha?
Jaz: Yeah. I can give you a short summary.
Lulav: How short?
Jaz: 75 seconds?
Lulav: Ooh, cool. A long summary.
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: No, it's like, typically long. Ready, set, go.
Jaz: G-d told Aaron to make a menorah, and then some Levites got purified and got an age cutoff in their job description. Passover happened, but some people had touched dead bodies, so they got Second Passover (Lulav laughs) but for those who skipped First Passover just for fun, they got… excommunication! (Lulav laughs) A cloud, which was just a regular-looking cloud during the day and a cloud of fire at night, acted as a tour guide and showed people when to keep moving and when to chill. They made and blew cool silver trumpets, people marched out in order by family, and Moses would say a special incantation every time they started and stopped. The Israelite people became irritated by all the aimless wandering and wanted different food than the same thing they'd been eating for ages, all of which tasted like coriander. Moses asked G-d why he had to put up with this whining, and G-d was like, “They want meat? Let's give them meat.” And G-d gave them so much meat they were heartily sick of it, and then a bunch of them died of sickness. Meanwhile (Lulav laughs) 70 elders were conferred, and two became prophets. Joshua was upset about this, because people named Josh can't be trusted (Lulav laughs) but Moses thinks it's rad, and everyone should be a prophet. Ironically, though, his siblings confront him, and maybe it's racism about his wife, but maybe they just want a power-sharing agreement as fellow prophets, and G-d has favoritism toward Moses as G-d's favorite prophet. G-d turns Miriam into a scalie (Lulav laughs) and Moses and Aaron say, “Oh no, this was not what we wanted!” But G-d makes Miriam wait a week before turning her back.
Lulav: I can't believe that this is the parsha where we had Pesach Shemini, a bevy of quails, speaking in tongues, and also "el na refa na la". That's so much! Jaz!
Jaz: Uh huh.
Lulav: So how does all of that connect to this haftarah, and it can be a really specious connection, since it's technically unintentional?
Jaz: Well, okay. The thing about these is that so many of them have all sorts of things going on, so you can find connections. (Lulav laughs) But when I was looking at it for connections, I also found things like this line: “I raised up prophets from among your children, and nazirites from among your youths.” Like, teens.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: And that seems like it connects, actually, quite nicely to this bit in here when they're arguing at the end about “Aren't we all prophets, Moses?” Like, Aaron and Miriam are also prophets?
Lulav: Ohhh.
Jaz: And also, this bit with Eldad and Medad --
Lulav: Mm.
Jaz: — were these two representatives, and they (Lulav laughs) also developed the gift of prophecy, and Joshua was like, “Hey, they're not allowed to be prophets, are they?” (Lulav gasps) And Moses was like, “Everybody should be a prophet. It's great.”
Lulav: He ordered the prophets not to prophecy, like in 2:12 of Amos.
Jaz: Yeah. And so, even though G-d's like, “I raised up prophets. This is a good thing.” (Lulav laughs) So that's one connection. And, of course, it's also this whole thing of like, “I brought you up from the land of Egypt, led you through the wilderness,” and then it's like, “I will slow your movements,” like the cloud that tells you when to go and when not to go. So.
Lulav: Mm hmm. I like this. I prefer our haftarah cycle that we have accidentally made. That was a great connection. And also, it follows right after the haftarah about Shimshon, who is a nazirite from birth, and nazirites are mentioned here. So like, week-to-week we talk about nazirites. That's great. Did you get a connection from this haftarah to the parsha it's supposed to be for, Vayeishev?
Jaz: So, it's supposed to be for Vayeishev, and Vayeishev is the parsha where, like, Joseph gets thrown into a pit by his brothers, (Lulav laughs) and then other people come along and take him out of there and sell him, and then he goes and somebody frames him for rape and gets him thrown in prison, like, there's a lot going on in parshat Vayeishev.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Joseph interprets some dreams and is like, “If I did good, say so” (Lulav laughs) “and help me get outta here.” And he did do good, but they don't say so to anybody in power, so he doesn't get out of there right away.
Lulav: Like, follow, and subscri— or— wait.
Jaz: It's “comment.”
Lulav: Like, comment, and subscribe?
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: You can tell that I don't watch YouTube. (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. So...
Lulav: Links are in the dooblydoo.
Jaz: There is things here about, like, G-d has spoken concerning you, concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt. So, that is a reference--
Lulav: Mm.
Jaz: – to Joseph's family...
Lulav: For sure.
Jaz: Though it's not such a direct connection to the parsha. (Lulav laughs) But I think the connection here is: they have sold for silver those whose cause was just, and the needy for a pair of sandals.
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Like, the way Joseph, who we know later has a special connection with G-d, gets sold.
Lulav: And the midrash about that is that the brothers take, like, 20 pieces of silver, and each buys a pair of sandals, right?
Jaz: I don't know about that one. But maybe?
Lulav: Okay. Chabad said that.
Jaz: Fascinating.
Lulav: (laughs) Would you like me to talk about context for Amos?
Jaz: Please do. What was happening when Amos was prophesying?
Lulav: So, for more samples of Amos, because we have read him before, you can check out our episode with the Hawk for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: It was a good episode. I just relistened to it. I relistened to several episodes, because I was listening to them at 1.5 speed, so I had enough time before we recorded. Anyway, Amos is an early, early prophet. We're looking at 2800 years ago, when the prophets who have books in their names and aren't just parts of other books like Chronicles and Kings. When those prophets were just starting their performance art. So, Yerovoam II, who's named after the first guy to split the northern kingdom Samaria off from the southern kingdom Yehuda, has an incredibly prosperous reign. What we know from basically all of history, though, is that with trade-based prosperity comes stratification of wealth. So, this haftarah, which is an indictment of the northern kingdom, is gonna mention several examples of that stratification. That's like the first half of the haftarah portion. Also, I think it's relevant to note that Amos comes from the southern kingdom, where the temple stands and where King Uziyahu is also presiding over prosperity, but has instead reinvested that wealth in agriculture and military, instead of, like, palaces? And the prophecy that Amos levels at his hometown is 2 lines out of this entire book about, “Hey, you've ignored the Torah and are prideful, so your fortresses will be consumed in fire like everyone else.” In contrast, prophecy against Samaria starts here, with the very first line of this haftarah portion and lasts 80 percent of the entire book. Do you have, like, feelings about that?
Jaz: Do I have feelings about...?
Lulav: The fact that Amos is coming from the southern kingdom and is prophesying mostly against the northern kingdom, what it means for him to be doing that? The fact that the southern kingdom of Yehuda is still met with condemnation, but not at quite this length?
Jaz: Well— I— I, yes, sure, I do have thoughts about it.
Lulav: (laughs) Okay.
Jaz: But I'm curious about what prompted this question, and what you were thinking about it.
Lulav: I don't know, like, I think there is a certain amount of entitlement that he feels to talk about the Northern Kingdom, because it's not like he's totally unrelated to it. This, too, is Yisrael.
Jaz: Sure.
Lulav: Like, the Northern Kingdom is, if anything, more often known as Yisrael, because, according to legend, the 10 nations of the north split off from the 2 nations of the south. Yehuda is just, you know, the Levites and one other group--
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: Whereas up north here, you've got basically the entirety of Yaakov's family.
Jaz: Sure. In some respects, then, do you feel like this is the way that sometimes people in the North talk about the south of the US?
Lulav: Mm!
Jaz: Or even in the way that people on the coasts talk about the Midwest?
Lulav: Speaking of callbacks to the episode with the Hawk! (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. Just that, there's a sense of, well, they're part of us--
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: But also, they're an embarrassing part of us.
Lulav: Mm! Yeah. Yeah, I think so.
Jaz: I learned recently that sometimes in Georgia--
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: — they compare to other states to get Georgians to be more reasonable, which is to say, if you're trying to persuade somebody in Georgia that they're acting too conservatively --
Lulav: Uh-huh.
Jaz: You might say, like, “You're acting like you're from Mississippi! Do you want to be Mississippi?” (Lulav laughs) And they're like, “We're not from Mississippi. How dare you compare us to Mississippi.”
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: Which is not a thing that I, being neither from Georgia nor Mississippi, would ever have picked up as a distinction with significance.
Lulav: But yeah, I think that's a fair comparison — that sense of, like, "we are part of the same people." Not the comparing to other people negatively; (Jaz laughs) that I don't think is as much here, but is a very good insight, and probably happened a whole bunch in the history of Yehuda.
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: And, frankly, since we don't get a lot of things from the perspective of Samarians, probably happened in Israel too — like, the Northern Kingdom.
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: But, right. When I lament public policy that is made is to, like, stratify wealth and bankrupt systems of any public investment, I talk about this happening in states that I've never been to as though they are still my people?
Jaz: Hmm. Okay. Do you think about that just in terms of states in the US, or other places as well?
Lulav: Less, and yes. So like, I can definitely critique public policy anywhere? But it feels less like, “These are my people,” and more like, “Ah, the government of other people is doing these things.”
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: Does that make any sense?
Jaz: Yeah, though I would say that that is not always the case, right? 
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: Like you were, at the beginning of this episode --
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: --talking about Israel, which is not a place that you are a citizen of.
Lulav: Right.
Jaz: But is still a place that you feel a certain amount of responsibility for.
Lulav: Yeah. It contends that it is the nation of all Jews, and so, I, as a Jew, get to have an opinion is why I feel entitled to talk about that like “my people” more than a separate sort of thing.
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: Does that make sense?
Jaz: To some extent, yeah.
Lulav: Okay. And I think a charitable reading sees Amos as talking about the northern kingdom because, “This is my responsibility. These are my people,” and an uncharitable reading sees him as talking about it like, “You wouldn't wanna be from Mississippi!” (Jaz laughs) Or, like, “Man, why doesn't the South just secede again?”
Jaz: Mm.
Lulav: Like, y'all, that's not the point. I think that we should have a more charitable reading of Amos here. He's not being a Yankee about it.
Jaz: Excuse me?
Lulav: So you know how northern people in the United States are often like, “Ah, we're so much more evolved and know so much better than those southerners.”
Jaz: Sure.
Lulav: Yeah, that's what I'm saying, he's not being a Yankee about it.
Jaz: Okay.
Lulav: I feel like he does really consider the people of Samaria, the people of Israel, as his people.
Jaz: Mm.
Jaz: I think that's a fair reading as to what's happening here.
Lulav: Okay. So we should actually get into the text. 
Jaz: Hit us with it. 
Lulav: It starts off with that same formulation that we see throughout chapters 1 and 2. “Thus says Hashem, for three transgressions of [place], for four, I will not revoke it,” it being like, the coming punishment. And then, it explains, "because they have bluh bluh bluh bluh, bluh bluh bluh." And similarly here, we begin, “Thus said Hashem, for three transgressions of Yisrael, for four I will not revoke it, because they have sold for silver those whose cause was just, and the needy for a pair of sandals.” But then, like I said, 80% of the book follows this, instead of just a couple more lines about, like, fire raining down on fortresses. (laughs) So, there's a lamentation to “those who trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the ground, and make the humble walk a twisted course.” There's a bit about sexual deviancy, 'cause it's not the Tanakh if you don't have a bit about sexual deviancy.
Jaz: Uh, this is un --
Lulav: Politics.
Jaz: Okay, but this actually does seem… Like sometimes you say “sexual deviancy” and it's like, nothing?
Lulav: Mm-hmm.
Jaz: This one doesn't feel like nothing in the same way? You know? Like...
Lulav: Right. This is… father and son go to the same sex worker, I think is what's implied here?
Jaz: I really don't think so. 
Lulav: Oh, okay.
Jaz: I mean, maybe?
Lulav: Or also, are trying to marry the same woman. Is that what you're thinking?
Jaz: Yeah. My read of this is a little bit more along the lines of, one of them is married to this woman.
Lulav: Mmm.
Jaz: The other one hooks up with her.
Lulav: Okay. So it's like we had with Ruven.
Jaz: Back in… Bereishit? Aw man. Do you remember… Did you read that recent “Dear Prudence” column?
Lulav: I did not.
Jaz: Maybe it was a podcast episode, actually… there was a recent podcast episode of “Dear Prudence,” on the episode called “Unconscionable Ex.” Danny Lavery discusses, with someone called Maddy Court, who wrote this book, The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is My Girlfriend. (Lulav laughs) Anyway, they are discussing a letter from a letter-writer who wrote in to be like, “So my ex-husband cheated on me with my now-deceased mother, and... (Lulav groans) I'm having a lot of feelings about this.”
Lulav: Uh huh.
Jaz: The text here has it as like, father and son, and the advice letter is like, a mom and a daughter, but it's the same principle.
Lulav: It's the same principle.
Jaz: So that's more of my vibe.
Lulav: I think the way it's been stated in Torah before is, like, the nakedness of your father's wife is your father's nakedness?
Jaz: Something like that, yes.
Lulav: Just this concept about, like...don't.
Jaz: Yeah. But it's also such a matter of like, betrayal? So...
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: But we then come to a bit that I think points more directly to the actual problems of the northern kingdom. “They recline by every altar on garments taken in pledge and drink in the house of their God wines bought with fines they imposed.” This is talking about economic inequity. Jaz, do you know what a garment taken in pledge is?
Jaz: Yes, but I wanna push back very slightly before we go there.
Lulav: Ooh, hit me.
Jaz: You were like, this is like, the real problem. But I don't think it is, like, this is the more clear-cut economic problem, and the thing I think they're trying to highlight here also is the breakdown of a functional society and the breakdown of people being able to work together and trust each other.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: — in which the economic system having exploitation is related to that, but it is not not a problem that is represented by an example within the family and then they go outwards, but those are both — 
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: — supposed to be — 
Lulav: I just bet you could, for every example where you find father and son going to the same girl in the Northern Kingdom, you could probably find an example of that in Yehuda.'s covered up better. (laughs)
Jaz: Well...
Lulav: I definitely see what you're saying. These do describe problems, and it's like, indicative of a breakdown of society. 
Jaz: You know how there's a thing that's like, progressive spaces are also gonna have harassers in them?
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: You know? Any spaces are likely to have harassers in it. The thing that is best to do is to come up with ways that you, as a group, are gonna handle it and have policies around how to deal with problems and how to have people properly treat each other?
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: So you're prepared to tackle those problems when they arise. (Lulav laughs) 
Lulav: Right.
Jaz: This symptom here of, like, this is just happening and people aren't dealing with it, does seem to be representative of, like, whatever things you have in place, they're not working for people.
Lulav: Yeah. So the particular things that aren't working for people in this economic stanza are like… garments taken in pledge is if you owe somebody money and you can't pay it immediately, you give them a nice piece of clothing.
Jaz: It's collateral.
Lulav: It's collateral. Right. Because the fastest fashion that you had still involved incredible amounts of labor.
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: It's not like you're putting up, you know, a $20 T-shirt for collateral? You're putting up a $2,000 dress.
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: But there's this image of, like, the people who trample on the poor are reclining in holy spaces with these garments that they stole from people by making predatory loans.
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: And they drink wine in the temple that is bought with fines that they imposed. They made up reasons to get money from people who already didn't have a ton of money, and they're, like, buying wine with that. I think in contrast to how the Levites are supposed to be priests, right?
Jaz: Yeah.I mean, like, in general, you're working with the assumption that you want leaders who are treating people properly.
Lulav: (laughs) Right. Not bank cronies.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: So, then we go into...listen, I destroyed the Amorite, right in front of them, and the Amorites, they were so strong, but they got completely destroyed above and below. Also, I brought y'all from out of Mitzrayim and led you through the wilderness for 40 years. I raised up prophets, and raised up performance artists who aren't partaking in — who don't drink wine, basically, and who don't shave.
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: There are all of these people in history who have been so dedicated to making a better world and you are making the straight-edge kids drink wine and you are telling the very loud performance artists not to do their performance art. Like, taking these people who have such drive and dedication and saying, “Eh. What if you didn't, though?”
Jaz: (laughs) Well...
Lulav: And so — mmhmm? Go ahead.
Jaz: No, keep — sure.
Lulav: Okay. And so, as a result, your movements will be slowed, just like a wagon is slowed when it's full of cut grain. Or — and this is a metaphor that's not in the text — like a ship laden with treasures rides extremely low in the water.
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: Does that seem like what's being said here? Like, you're in a place of prosperity and because you're prosperous you're gonna have a rough time?
Jaz: That's fair. I didn't read it like that. I think that's a fair interpretation.
Lulav: Okay. I wanna hear yours.
Jaz: I more thought of it like... the wagon is slowed because you're not doing what you're supposed to --
Lulav: Hmm.
Jaz: --so it feels more like it's about a deliberate pause rather than just, you're too laden down with material goods, which is sort of what you offered.
Lulav: Oh
Jaz: It's sort of more of a, “all of the people who are telling you the right things to do, who, if you listen to them, you could go speedily in the right direction” — because you're not doing that, if you're gonna go in the right direction, it's gonna be much more difficult for you, so you gotta slow down, because--
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: This way at least you won't go speedily in the wrong direction.
Lulav: Yeah. Are you saying, like, a wagon full of cut grain has food that feeds people, and so you need to take it slow, like that wagon would?
Jaz: No. That's a perfectly fine interpretation, but not remotely the thing that I said.
Lulav: Okay. How's the wagon involved? (laughs)
Jaz: I really think that the thing about the wagon is mostly in giving you a weight because you need one because you gotta slow down in the thing that you're doing. That the thing that's being posited here is just that...they're doing the wrong thing, and so, they have to slow down and be forced to so they don't keep running off to to do the wrong things because they refuse to listen to people like the prophets who are telling them what to do, so they have to be slowed down so that they don't run to do evil, basically?
Lulav: Okay. Yeah. Okay, so this chapter ends with, like, all of your soldiers are gonna be weenies and run away. Is that a fair encapsulation of those three lines?
Jaz: Sure.
Lulav: And then, we come to the last bit of the haftarah, which… there are three things that stand out to me here. One is this refrain of, like, can two walk together without having met? Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? And specifically… in the second line of this chapter, it says, “You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth. That is why I will call you to account for all of your inequities.” “Rak etchem yadeati,” er, yadeti? How would you pronounce that?
Jaz: Yadati.
Lulav: Rak etchem yadati, mikol... and all of that stuff. related to “yodeah,” like, to know?
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: So it's like, only you have I known, among all the families of the earth.
Jaz: Mm hmm. Uhh.
Lulav: Sefaria is saying that's “to know.”
Jaz: Oh, it is definitely “know,” I just would wanna double-check whether that's, “Only you have I known,” or whether that is, “have known me”?
Lulav: Hmm. Okay.
Jaz: I can't speak confidently to that, but I think we should double-check it.
Lulav: Okay, so, generally, the thing that stands out to me is, the idea that you are facing rebuke, this northern kingdom, because they are part of the people who have been chosen to be special, like, two don't walk together without having met. A lion doesn't roar in the forest with no prey. Because you alone have been singled out of all the families of the earth, this is why 80 percent of this book is gonna be taken up with prophecy. And then there's a bit about, “Can misfortune come to a town if Hashem has not caused it?” which seems like a different thing from the thrust of the rest. It's more about theodicy than about obligation to fulfil a covenant.
Jaz: Sure.
Lulav: And the last bit that I wanted to say is this last line: “A lion has roared — who can but fear? My lord Hashem has spoken -- who can but prophesy?” Like, when you've seen all of this iniquity, what can you do but yell about it? If you're not yelling about it, at least on some level, you're not actually hearing the words of Hashem?
Jaz: Hmm.
Lulav: Is that a fair interpretation of what's written here?
Jaz: Uh, yeah. Sure.
Lulav: Okay. So that brings us to rating G-d's writing, the segment where we identify a metaphor and then follow it through with a rating. Jaz, how many tekiot is the alarm shofar blowing in this parsha?
Jaz: Let's go with three. I feel like all prophets are blowing at least a couple of alarms. (Lulav laughs) And this one --
Lulav: Uh huh.
Jaz: --is no exception.
Lulav: Okay. Does this feel pretty in-line with other prophets that we've read?
Jaz: Yes, I do think so. Lulav, out of different animals — like a lion, eagle, great beast of no particular description — what kind of animal would you rate this haftarah?
Lulav: Okay. I would rate it a dog, because humans domesticated dogs, and so we have a responsibility to them, and similarly this haftarah is about, like… you decided to be the people chosen by Hashem, and so you have a responsibility to act like it.
Jaz: Okay.
Lulav: So yeah, a dog. (laughs) Jaz, can you take us to the close?
Jaz: 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: Jaz Twersky makes sure every episode is transcribed. You can find a link to those transcripts in the episode descriptions at, where you can also see if Jaz has 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 yell at me on palmliker. I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute Dakota. Have a lovely queer Jewish day.
[Brivele outro music]
Jaz: This week's gender is: bones.
Lulav: This week's pronouns are: os and etzem.