Kosher Queers

87 — Balak: The Rest is Commentary

June 24, 2021 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
87 — Balak: The Rest is Commentary
Show Notes Transcript

This week, we talk about mountains as metaphors, Rashi's genital jokes, and being an anti-astrology gay. Plus, we debate anti-assimilation vs anti-colonial readings, and Lulav is a slut for economic interpretation. 

Transcript available here.

Seen and Not Heard is a touching narrative podcast about not getting in fistfights with ableist mothers, and instead figuring out how to live your best deaf Jewish life. You can find a comprehensive list of other works Caroline Mincks here or follow them on Twitter @saucymincks. Lulav's first exposure to beating swords into plowshares was this Magic: the Gathering card. If you're not on Lex but would like to be on Lex, you can download it here.  You can learn more about the work of Jaz's Talmud teacher, Laynie Solomon, on the "Trans & Jewish World-Building" episode of Judaism Unbound, or read their bio here. The song Lulav references about 28 minutes in is "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, which came out two months before Jaz was born. Also, gender reveal parties are bad and here's an explosion to prove it! 

This week's reading is Micah 5:6–6:8. Next week's reading is Jeremiah 1:1–2:3.

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: Howdy, Jaz.

Jaz: Hi, Lulav.

Lulav: What's something cool and queer or Jewish--

Jaz: No, can I start?

Lulav: Oh, okay.

Jaz: What's something cool or queer or Jewish that's happened to you this week?

Lulav: Well, usually I've been having to say, like, "Oh, I've been having a fun time with my queer friends," or "Oh, I learned something Jewish this week," but this week I actually have something cool and queer and Jewish.

Jaz: Fantastic.

Lulav: Which is that I listened to the podcast Seen and Not Heard.

Jaz: Yeah! Lulav, tell us about this podcast.

Lulav: It is about a woman with progressive hearing loss, recently acquired, and is like, dealing with that, in her family, and making community with other Deaf artists, and old friends that she's reconnecting with, and... It's about, like, growing into a comfortable place as a disabled person, who, you know, is faced with an initially pretty hostile world. 

Jaz: I have only just started this--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: So I've just listened to a few episodes, and I have to say, so far, when you're talking about "hostile world," I'm like... I would get in a fistfight with her mother, no questions asked. 

Lulav: Oh god, yes. (laughs) Ohhh. As someone who has some trauma around family members being unreasonable and provoking, and then being yelled at for any ensuing conflict. Yeah, I would get in a fistfight with her mother. (laughs)

Jaz: Her mother is very difficult.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. So, you might be like, "Lulav, that sounds cool, but how is that queer or Jewish?" And it's Jewish, because the protagonist and mother in question and the person who is behind the podcast are all Jewish. Like, literally, the finale is titled "Mishpocha."

Jaz: Also, like, it's not just that the protagonist is Jewish, it's a significant part of the plot.

Lulav: Honestly, yeah.

Jaz: She goes to talk to her rabbi...

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Yeah. So, there's a rabbi who's a part of that, an entire episode about "I guess I should call the services more..." And the queer part is that, I just talked today to Caroline Mincks, who's the voice actor for Bet Kline.

Jaz: You did?

Lulav: Yeah! Did you not get notifications for the Kosher Queers account?

Jaz: No.

Lulav: Oh, good. Anyway, they are non binary. 

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: And I was a little confused because I finished the whole show and then looked up was behind it, and I was like, "Wait, I don't remember if Bet got gendered, 'cause I'm feeling she-nouns, but also it feels weird, knowing that the voice actor uses they-nouns." So I talked to them, and they were like, "Haha, yeah, funny thing, I was writing that for myself when I began the podcast, but after completing it, I realized that I was non binary." (laughs)

Jaz: Aww!

Lulav: So that's pretty great. They were fun to talk to, and we both repeatedly said thank you. 

Jaz: Oh, this is adorable. Now I'm looking at it, and it's this -- a very sweet exchange. You asked what pronouns Bet uses, and Caroline said, "Hi! Thank you so much for asking. Bet uses she/her." And you said, "Thank you! Absolutely love the show," and they said, "Thank you so much." Is that the bit you were referring to?

Lulav: (laughs) Yes.

Jaz: There was more, but that's adorable.

Lulav: That was just really funny to me. No one's allowed to say "you're welcome." (laughs)

Jaz: Well...

Lulav: Anyway, that was really fun. Also, I had some trouble with dialogue tags, because I was just listening, instead of looking at the transcripts--

Jaz: Uh-huh.

Lulav: But I think Bet self identifies as bisexual. At the very least, there are some very supportive family members, if I got the dialogue tags wrong. 

Jaz: Oh, that I definitely did pick up on.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: The mom's being like, "Do you have a boyfriend?" and her sister keeps being like, "Or a girlfriend?"

Lulav: That is her sister? Gotcha. 

Jaz: I think it's her sister, yeah.

Lulav: Mmkay. But yeah, it's great, and I highly recommend that people listen to Seen and Not Heard. It's pretty quick. It's eight 20-minute episodes, and then there are also auxiliary episodes that are interviews with people involved, or cool people who are Deaf and in the podcast world, and it's just like--

Jaz: Also there are prologue episodes, and those are great.

Lulav: Yes. So it's 11 episodes, three of which together are like 25 minutes long. 

Jaz: Yeah, but I also want to say, because we found this via that Christian podcast that we mentioned on the show a bit ago--

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: --called Forgive Me, and I want to say that the way the host of Forgive Me described it for presumably their, like, intended to be Catholic audience anti-sold me on this show. (both laugh) They didn't mention it was Jewish, didn't mention it was queer, they compared it to Fleabag...

Lulav: Oh, G-d. Out loud? Oh no.

Jaz: Yes. Anyway, so, it's good. Also, the way you sell things to Catholics is apparently by not mentioning any of the things that made it fun. So... (Lulav laughs) That's not true. There were lots of things that made it fun, but...none of the way they sold it on Forgive Me made it sound fun to me--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Even though I really did like the show itself, which is fascinating as a cultural comparison thing 'cause we both liked it, so... (laughs)

Lulav: Yeah. And also, the episode that was the teaser through Forgive Me was, I think, episode six or something? Darts? It's definitely not the first episode--

Jaz: No.

Lulav: --and it's wild that I got sold on it because it is a date with a man, and I liked it. So like, good podcast. 

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Okay. Jaz, what is something cool and clear or Jewish that has happened in your life recently? 

Jaz: Well, this is a small thing, but today I was hanging out with (the hawk?) [6:43] while we were both sort of doing work on our computers--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And I filled in this work survey for my Jewish job for an end of the year party--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And the survey included things like, "what are three defining characteristics of you?" and "what are two things you love?" and "what are two things you hate?" (Lulav laughs) And I call out to (the hawk?) like, "What are two things I hate that I can put on a work survey?"

Lulav: (laughs) Important.

Jaz: Right. Her first suggestions...I actually don't remember, but they were definitely things that I was like, "I don't wanna put that on the work survey." And in the end, the two things that I picked were... Can you give me a drumroll?

Lulav: (drumroll noises)

Jaz: Linguistic prescriptivism, and gender-reveal parties.

Lulav: Heck yeah. (laughs) One of which I feel is slightly more deadly, but--

Jaz: Which one do you want to argue is more deadly, 'cause I can fight you on either count.

Lulav: Right, it's not like linguistic prescriptivism doesn't have a body count. 

Jaz: Yeah...

Lulav: But gender-reveal parties are kinda up there. 

Jaz: Both of them have a body count. I would actually argue that linguistic prescriptivism has a higher one, if you think about it more broadly. Gender-reveal parties are a little narrow. (Lulav laughs) But they're both bad.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. 

Jaz: I'll stand by both of those things. I got a text from my friend and coworker and chavruta, Diko, who was putting together the game for the end of year party based on our responses, who said to me, "I love that you wrote 'gender-reveal party' as one of the things you hate. Most people put, like, 'littering.'"

Lulav: Which, I will note, is just more specific. 

Jaz: Gender-reveal parties are littering, in that anything you make for a gender-reveal party is probably trash. (Lulav laughs) Anyway...

Lulav: Good.

Jaz: I am excited about that work party, which is happening right after this, we're recording in the short bit right between work and when the work party starts.

Lulav: Okay, so do you want to roll into the episode? 

Jaz: Yeah.

(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 chavruta is learning the haftarah of Balak, which is Michah 5:6 to 6:8. Yet again, this is one that I'm going to pronounce a little differently, but am definitely going to put up on the website with the same spelling in Hebrew and English. 

Jaz: Great. 

Lulav: I will do many things to playfully irritate Jaz, but I won't mess with an ordering system. 

Jaz: Thank you.

Lulav: So, do you have any particular feelings about the parsha, or the haftarah, or do you want me to just summarize it to refresh your memory?

Jaz: I would like you to summarize Balak to get us started. 

Lulav: Cool, give me exactly one minute.

Jaz: Oooh, snazzy. Ready, set, go.

Lulav: Balak, king of Moav, is real spooked by the progress of the Israelites through the area. He asks Balaam to put a curse on them. But Balaam consults with Hashem and decides...that's a bad idea. Flamiroads the Ass-Spooking Angel shares her Jellicle name after Balaam decides that he'll go so the messengers will stop bothering him. Balak sends sacrifice after sacrifice with Balaam, but always the message is the same: "These people are blessed. Leave them alone." In his final prophecy, Balak gives a couple other messages about... Sorry, in his final prophecy, Balaam gives a couple other messages, about currently uninvolved nations and how they will fall against am Yisrael. Then there's a smash cut to a situation that commentators insist was engineered by Balaam, but texturally it is just that the Israelite men were singing the song "Shiksa Goddess" from The Last Five Years. (Jaz groans) Aharon's grandson, Pin’chas, was like, "Oh, there's one of them now," and stabbed both the dude and the local woman to death. Also, there was a plague, I guess?

Jaz: Nice! You only went, like, one or two seconds over. 

Lulav: Nooo! And that was because I had to re-say an entire thing because these two dude have the exact same name. (both laugh) Yeah, this is one of them parshot that's just named after a dude.

Jaz: It is. There's only a few of those. Uh, four, I think. 

Lulav: Uh-huh. The next one is actually one of those. We go straight from Balak to Phinehas.

Jaz: Right, and we already have Korach, recently. 

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: And there's also Yitro.

Lulav: Yeah. (laughs) This is like, the main clump, and then there's our guy Yitro way back in Shemot. 

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Yeah, so, the really obvious reason that this connects to the haftarah portion is that they mentioned Balak and Balaam.

Jaz: They sure do.

Lulav: But I think, moreover, this is a parsha that's about, "No matter how much you sacrifice, you're gonna get the same answer."

Jaz: Hmm.

Lulav: And the haftarah portion really gets into a kind of controversial opinion, frankly, that like, you can bring all of these explicitly annotated sacrifices, but like, if you're not following the're out of luck, like, the only thing that matters is that you follow Torah.

Jaz: Mmm...

Lulav: At least, that's how I read it?

Jaz: I think that's a very fair read.

Lulav: Okay. Can you walk us through a bit of the context that we're gonna need to understand Michah?

Jaz: Yeah. So, Micah is a pretty early prophet, as these things go, from the 700s BCE--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And we don't know a lot about his life. We have his words, but we don't have a lot of the other contexts of who he was and like, how he grew up, and what the events of his life were, like we do for some of the other prophets. (Lulav laughs) Particularly in the later ones. 

Lulav: Yeah, we have some place names but not much else, right? 

Jaz: Yes, and he's considered one of the Minor Prophets, mostly because he doesn't have a lot to say. Like, his words are somewhat abbreviated compared to some of--

Lulav: Oh. 

Jaz: --the other ones. 

Lulav: Yeah, seven chapters, okay. 

Jaz: Yeah, so compared to, like, Isaiah, he's just a rather concise prophet. (Lulav laughs) An unusual characteristic for a prophet, frankly. (Lulav laughs) So, like Isaiah, he's considered a prophet who focuses a lot on justice and right behavior--

Lulav: For sure.

Jaz: --and telling Jewish leaders that they're misbehaving, but he's also prophesying doom to come to the people, in a way that does in fact result--

Lulav: Yeah, that's fair.

Jaz: --the destruction of Sumeria. I think that's the main context that we need to dive in.

Lulav: Oh, can I pause you, because I was reading through some nearby stuff trying to find five--

Jaz: Uh-huh. 

Lulav: And there's a bit in, I think, four, that's about beating swords into plowshares.

Jaz: And you like that and wanna talk about it?

Lulav: I mean, isn't that a pretty famous part of Nevi'im, or is this a restatement of something else?

Jaz: I dunno, it is a famous part of it.

Lulav: Great, yeah. Michah 4:3, it looks like. "Thus, Hashem will judge among the many peoples and arbitrate for the multitude of nations, however distant, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation. They shall never again know war."

Jaz: (singing) Ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, ain't gonna study war no more, no more. Yes.

Lulav: Yeah. And then in Mishkan T'filah, the Reform siddur, there is a riff on this that's like, "We'll beat our swords into ploughshares and we won't stop there. We'll beat them into drums, so that everyone can play music," and I'm really mangling this.

Jaz: My impression of that particular reading--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --is that it's got a cute thing also of, that way, like, if you ever want to turn them back into swords, you have to first turn them back into ploughshares.

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah.

Jaz: Which might give you pause along the way.

Lulav: Yeah. Also, I'm pretty sure that's not how blacksmithing works--

Jaz: Oh, it sure is not. 

Lulav: But I love that.

Jaz: It's a very cute idea, (Lulav laughs) even if it doesn't work out literally.

Lulav: Yeah. Anyway, I first heard about this passage from a Magic the Gathering card back in like, 2001. 

Jaz: Oh my G-d. How? Where?

Lulav: Swords to ploughshares was...okay, hold on. (typing) "Swords to Plowshares MTG." You just completely get rid of a target creature, like, it's out of the game, but also the person who controlled it gains, like, equal to its power.

Jaz: Hmm.

Lulav: So like, as much as there was a sword, that becomes a ploughshare for the person.

Jaz: I will say, that's probably one of the most famous lines, but the other one of the most famous lines is at the end of our reading today--

Lulav: Mmkay.

Jaz: Although it doesn't have a song, so...

Lulav: (laughs) Oh, yeah. For sure, we do end on a really famous one. Do you have any more thoughts before you get us into Michah?

Jaz: No, let's get us into it. 

Lulav: Yeah, so...I'm just forgetting, where shall the remnants of Ya'akov be?

Jaz: So, we're starting there at 5:6, with, like, what's gonna happen to the leftover people of Ya'akov, who will be amid many other people, like, (??) [17:32] and shouldn't place their trust in other humans--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And that they'll be in a dangerous situation, as if they're among lions. It's a little unclear to me actually. How do you read this? Like a lion among beasts of the wild, like a fierce lion among flocks of sheep?

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: Do you think that that's supposed to be the remnant of Ya'akov?

Lulav: Yes, because the next line is, "Your hand shall prevail over your foes and all your enemies shall be cut down." 

Jaz: Yes, but the line after that is, "And then I'll destroy you"?

Lulav: Oh, "and wreck your chariots." Huh. Interesting.

Jaz: So I feel like it's a little debatable who's supposed to be the lion here.

Lulav: Right, because even when you're spread among the nations, there are still, like, dishonorable impulses that have to kind of be hammered out by really confronting that military might isn't going to save you and that you can't rely on idols and stuff.

Jaz: Mmm. Say more? I think there's already an implication that if you're spread out, clearly your military might didn't work.

Lulav: Well, but it does say, "Your hand shall prevail over your foes," like, "you will be a lion among the beasts of the wild," but the fact that you trample wherever you go and rend with none to deliver. That's not actually great. So, even though you will have that triumph in that day, I will destroy the horses and chariots and fortresses.

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: And all of this stuff that has been railed against by prophet after prophet, that's like, gonna go down too.

Jaz: Mmm. Okay.

Lulav: And I think an uncharitable interpretation is like, "Can't believe you're assimilating. Gosh," and a charitable interpretation is like, "No matter how much you learn the ways of other people, don't assimilate, be your own people."

Jaz: Those are the same thing, just a difference in tone. (Lulav laughs) And I do think that there is a possible anti-assimilation thing there--

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: --with either tone. 

Lulav: (laughs) For sure. It does depend on what you mean by assimilation. Yeah.

Jaz: But I also think there's an anti-colonial thing there--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --which is not just "don't assimilate to other people's cultures," but "don't attempt to militarily conquer them."

Lulav: (laughs) Uh-huh. Definitely not applicable to any major Jewish events of the last 70 years.

Jaz: And so, I think that you can't just go by military might--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --as like, a flip side to a simulation, which I think the difference there is just about power, like, who is conceived of as having power in the situation.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Whether it's you, as the people coming in, or them as the people already there.

Lulav: Right, when I charitably talk about anti-assimilationism, it's stuff like, "I will destroy this sorcery you practice and you shall have no more soothsayers, I will destroy your idols and the sacred pillars in your midst, and no more shall you bow down to the work of your hands," like, this is stuff about "don't do the local things that are explicitly forbidden in Torah." 

Jaz: Yes. So, after we do the sorcery thing, I will destroy you for military victory?

Lulav: Mm-hmm. 

Jaz: There is definitely a thing that says, "I will destroy the sorcery you practice." And if you think about this in, like, a small, niche, gay way. 

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: So there is a gay app called Lex, (Lulav laughs) and Lex recently instituted profiles. It had previously been like, you would just post an ad on Lex, basically--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --and then people would message you, or you could message people, and now you can, like, set up a profile for yourself--

Lulav: Mm-hmm. 

Jaz: --and what you have on the profile is, like, pretty optional for the most part, like there's a bunch of questions you can answer or not answer. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: The thing that's not optional is your zodiac sign. (Lulav laughs) And I, uh, have seen some irritation about this. I have a little bit of irritation about it. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Not in a, like, major way, 'cause, like, it's small-scale and doesn't matter--

Lulav: Also, wait, is this only your sun sign?

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Okay. So it's not like people can reverse-engineer your exact date and time of birth, but...

Jaz: No. Thankfully.

Lulav: I don't see who's happy about this, because the astrology gays are like, "There's so much more information that I need to know here," and the, like, anti-astrology gays are like, "Why is this a default part of the profile?" 

Jaz: I just do think that, like...I dunno. I once went on a couple dates with somebody who seemed perfectly pleasant but told me all about the different astrological signs of everyone they worked with, and how that was causing various issues and frictions--

Lulav: Mm-hmm. 

Jaz: And I was over here like, "I don't really understand the things you're saying to me, and also I'm not sure that I want to." (Lulav laughs) "You seem perfectly fine, but maybe we shouldn't go on another date." (Lulav laughs) I don't fully understand why--like, I have theories--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --but no more than that, about why it's, like, a thing that so many gay people are expected to be into, like, astrology and Wicca and stuff like that. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm. Listen, I've definitely used my own chart to flirt with people, but that's because they were really into it, not because I was.

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: I don't think you actually needed to listen to that. That wasn't very important information. Anyway, so like, were you just kind of providing that as a text accompaniment, or were you trying to spin a thesis out of this? 

Jaz: Well, I was providing it as an accompaniment to: you have choices about what you regard as sorcery and not sorcery--

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: --and what you regard as intrinsic to your practice and not intrinsic to your practice.

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: The way you conceive of your queerness may be connected to this thing that other people would consider, like, somebody else's practice, you know, sorcery--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --and both are possible reads, but it is worth thinking about, what are the type of things that you actively want in your life, and what are the type of things that you've just kind of accepted as part of the culture that you inhabit. 

Lulav: Yeah, for sure. 

Jaz: So moving on from there. After the things about "no idols, no pillars to other goddesses," stuff like that--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: It moves on to general fury and wrath at whole populations.

Lulav: Yeah. I have auditory processing issues, can you hear what the Lord is saying?

Jaz: (laughs) Well, yes, the Lord is saying, "(kum riv et heharim v'tishmanah hagivaot kolecha." Which is so interesting--

Lulav: Yeah?

Jaz: Because "heharim," is like the mountains, and "hagivaot" is like the hills?

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: It's so fascinating to, like, turn on a dime between "no false idols, only me," and then be like, "But take it to the mountains, and the mountains are real things that you can present it before." 

Lulav: Yeah. I definitely think that the image of Hashem that we have often been presented with--at the very least, in pre-temple times--is one of the natural world, one of the majesty of mountains and of the erosion that takes hundreds of thousands or millions of years to change a landscape.

Jaz: Mmm. That's beautiful. Rashi posited that the mountains and the hills are metaphors, even though the next line is, like, pretty clear about repeating, like, "Mountains, foundations of the earth--" (Lulav laughs) "Mosde aretz.” Like...

Lulav: Oh yeah, Rashi, you think this is a metaphor? I couldn't tell from how the metaphor is very explicitly explained here. (laughs)

Jaz: Well, he thinks the mountains are a metaphor for the matriarchs and the patriarchs. So--

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: Or--I said that wrong, he thinks the mountains are the patriarchs and the hills are the matriarchs. 

Lulav: Ah.

Jaz: I don't know why. 

Lulav: Well, 'cause... "I don't know if you know anything about genitals, but..."

Jaz: Rude.

Lulav: Sorry, that was my Rashi voice. 

Jaz: No. (Lulav laughs) My most frequent, and also one of my favorite Talmud, teachers, Laynie Solomon--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --has been clear that Rashi is your friend, in the way that some of the other commentators on the page of a piece of Talmud or Tanakh, they're like, less your friend, in helping you, but Rashi is generally your friend and being helpful., and so I will not imagine him as extremely annoying.

Lulav: Okay. The homophobia is a little much, but...yeah.

Jaz: I'm gonna pretend that he is not (Lulav laughs) a man from hundreds of years ago, who is extremely annoying and pretend that he is not. 

Lulav: Okay, there you go. Keep going. 

Jaz: No, question for you, which is: if you were making mountains into metaphors for something--

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: --what would you make them metaphors for? What are something you could plead your case in front of?

Lulav: Hmm... Okay. Wow. What are they metaphors for? I think part of it might be just on the human time scale, these are things that do not move.

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: And also, I don't know, mountains seem like a thing that you gotta shout at, that are inherently far away--

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: And hills seem like something that you can be intimately a part of.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: So it makes sense that it's like, present my case before the mountains, like, put out all this formal evidence and, you know, read it into record by shouting it into the mountains, and also just let the hills hear you pleading, as you walk up and down them just like, "Man, I really wish that the true and right thing comes out in the course of this argument." 

Jaz: That's so lovely.

Lulav: Thank you. So instead of having them stand for anything, the metaphor is in the function.

Jaz: That's nice. That's great.

Lulav: Thank you.

Jaz: I think I'd have gone with a similar take--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: --but not exactly the same one, like mountains are older, more imposing--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And so, I might go with, the mountains are your ancestors, and the sort of broad sweep of history and what legacy you're gonna leave--

Lulav: And the hills are your peers?

Jaz: And the hills are your present community.

Lulav: Aww. (laughs) That's great.

Jaz: Who, you know, should be treating you with humanity, but also, you gotta--you gotta show up before them. 

Lulav: You gotta really really really gotta zig-a-zig-ah.

Jaz: Okay. (Lulav laughs) So, then, as you're before the mountains, G-d has a case against the people of Yisrael--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And says, "All right, you want to testify against me. Go for it, go for it. What wrong (Lulav laughs) do you think I've done you?" And before you get a chance to answer that question, G-d is like, "Hey, remember what I brought you up from Egypt, and I gave you the prophets of Moses and Aaron and Miriam. And hey, remember when Balak the Moabite king plotted against you, and helped Balaam said that nothing bad would happen to you if I didn't want it to. And I didn't." (Lulav laughs) "Hey, remember all of that?"

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And then we sort of get to the ending bit that says, "So, given all this, since obviously, you will recognize that that was so important and gracious, and you have to do something to show G-d gratitude and honor for that--"

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: Now, the only question that remains is how should you do that? (both laugh) Which is a really funny line of logic to get to from just a few lines ago when it was like, "You want to come at me? Huh? Huh?"

Lulav: I mean, my first instinct here is to, like, approach them with burnt offerings and with calves, a year old, 'cause that's basically what the Torah says. Maybe you could get, like, thousands of rams in there, myriad streams of oil, I don't know. 

Jaz: Yeah, you might even be inclined to give up your firstborn.

Lulav: The fruit of my body? For my sins... (Jaz laughs) Yeah, I guess.

Jaz: However, Micah is here to tell us--

Lulav: Oh.

Jaz: "You don't have to do any of that."

Lulav: Oh! Well, what do you gotta do? What's the best tribute?

Jaz: Aww.

Lulav: I'm so sorry about this.

Jaz: (laughs) Okay. "Ki im asot mishpat ve'ahavat chesed v'hatznea lechet im elohecha."

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: "Only to do justice and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d."

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: You can translate some of those in different ways, but...yeah.

Lulav: Which is, like, a pretty bold statement, considering that we spend so much time talking about what are proper sacrifices or not?

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: And it's just like, I dunno, it doesn't matter how rich you are, as long as you do justice and love kindness, and are humble. 

Jaz: Yeah. Well, it reminds me of the thing where... Sometimes when people are telling the story of Hillel saying, "Well, I can summarize the whole Torah while you stand on one foot." (Lulav laughs) They stop it, a little early, right? Hillel says, "Do not do unto your neighbor as you would not have them do unto you. That's the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary," and sometimes people stop there, but the last line, the last part of that is, "Now go and study," (Lulav laughs) because all the rest might be commentary, but you need the commentary? 

Lulav: Commentary's important. (laughs)

Jaz: Commentary's not like, unimportant just because you can distill it down to a central point. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: You still have to have things to guide your life around and opportunities to sit and discuss and debate.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: So.

Lulav: So that's the haftarah.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Also, you know I'm always a slut for an economic interpretation... There's a bit here that's like, "Will I overlook, in the wicked man's house, the greeneries of witness and the accursed short ephah? Shall he be acquitted despite wicked balances?" This is not in the haftarah, but there's just a lot here about, like, "Don't cheat people, knowingly." 

Jaz: Yeah. There's a thing in the Talmud, that's like, "If you die, you'll be asked a number of different questions to assess whether you were a good person." And I believe the first one is, "Did you conduct your business practices fairly and honestly?"

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah.

Jaz: Which is rad. (Lulav laughs) To be like--

Lulav: "Did you pay your employees?"

Jaz: Somebody said it really succinctly recently, and I can't remember who it was--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: But it was like, your money shows your morals, the things you fund, and the things you don't fund, and how you pay your people, and all of that sort of thing.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Those are moral questions.

Lulav: Oh, for sure. 

Jaz: So.

Lulav: Definitely being more willing to pay for guards, than for, like, a basic decent society, uh, really shows where your priorities are. 

Jaz: Yeah. Or, like, in the thing of a synagogue that you like, pay your executive director fair market rate, but also, I dunno, your lowest-paid staff don't have health insurance or whatever, like that's not an uncommon thing for people to do.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: So, I think it is a helpful thing to remember too.

Lulav: Yeah.

So, that brings us to Rating G-d's Writing, where we bring out our accursed short ephah and then hit it with a hammer at the bottom so that it is actually the proper volume.

Jaz: Cute. Alright, Lulav, how high of a mountain would you rate this haftarah?

Lulav: I think it's a scalable mountain.

Jaz: Hmm.

Lulav: Something where, when you are off of it, you're like, "Oh dang, that's a mountain! I can see the entire majesty of this," but when you're up close on it, it feels like, you know, just a place that you are. It's something that you can walk around and learn to love.

Jaz: Mmm. Charming.

Lulav: Jaz, out of 4000 rams, how many rams would you give this haftarah? And, also, is there justice and goodness and humble walking underlying that? 

Jaz: I would give it no rams, (Lulav gasps) because I am a good listener (Lulav laughs) and I understood that that was not what was being asked for in this haftarah.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. I will note it's not not being asked for, like, you can still do sacrifices...but okay, I like that interpretation. 

Jaz: However, of the rams that are already marked for sacrifice, for, like, the next year or whatever--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Maybe you divide your herds up into three and name them Justice, Goodness or Kindness, and, like, Humbleness--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And the way that sometimes, if you go into an elementary school, the elementary school classrooms are named after colleges--

Lulav: Are they?

Jaz: Have you ever heard about this? This is a thing that sometimes they do in schools, and it's like, this is the first grade class, Harvard College or whatever, and they're called different colleges, to be like, yeah, you all are scholars, and you're going to college someday, and in the meantime, we're reminding you that you have a future.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Anyway, so the idea of like, having, in view, the thing that you want aspirationally--

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: --every day--

Lulav: You want the whole herd. 

Jaz: Yeah. Anybody who's part of the herd is in at least one of those camps.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. Cool. 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: (gasps) Oh! Well, my inimitable co-host, Jaz Twersky, makes sure that every episode gets transcribed, and you can find a link to those transcriptions in the episode descriptions at, where you can also see if Jaz roped in additional help for the episode. Some of that additional help that's been roped in pretty regularly for the last couple episodes is JJ Jensen, so shoutout to @pantspossum on Twitter. They seem pretty cool.

Jaz: Yeah!

Lulav: They've been working on some pretty short notice, quickly and with accuracy, so.

Jaz: Yeah. We have been oh-so-lucky in our teams here.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: I'm Jaz Twersky--

Lulav: Were you--? (laughs)

Jaz: I’m Jaz Twersky. You can't find me on the internet, except for here, at the moment. But 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 @palmliker! I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute Dakota.

Lulav/Jaz: Have a lovely queer Jewish day.

Lulav: Boom. (laughs)

Jaz: Okay. Well.

(Brivele outro)

Jaz: This week's gender is: surrounded by lesbians.

Lulav: This week's pronouns are: any, apparently.