This week, we talk about abolishing air forces, the human capacity to change large social institutions, and driving lessons. Plus, Jaz can't remember things about Christian theology but does know you can learn different lessons from history, and Lulav is always down to fight Hashem out back behind your fast food joint of choice.
Transcript available here.
Here are our episodes with Jill and the Hawk! Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott is a public domain work available for your bedtime reading wishes, though be forwarned that it is extremely racist against Chinese people specifically. "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is another public domain work that we talk about, which has the advantage of being funny, but also, includes old slang that I don't understand, so it seems likely that it's bigoted, but not sure against who. You can also check out Finnegans Wake by James Joyce if what you really want from your public domain works is for them to give you a headache.
Also Lulav references the quote "I can excuse racism but I draw the line at animal cruelty" from the show Community, that was turned into a meme. Plus, Jaz talks about Bo Burnham's new comedy special, "Inside" and the book of Lamentations (or Eicha). Also, the thing that Jaz was quoting, about the US not being a democracy was by Nikole Hannah-Jones as part of the 1619 Project, and was in particular the article, "Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true."
This week's reading is Isaiah 66:1-24. Next week's reading is Isaiah 1:1-27.
Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Lulav Arnow and 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.
Jaz: Hi, Lulav.
Lulav: Well, howdy, Jaz.
Jaz: What is something cool or queer or Jewish you've been up to this week?
Lulav: We're in the middle of a long stretch of people coming to visit. The last person who came to visit was Theo's friend Bax and now it is Theo's girlfriend, Kat. They're really cool, and I'm excited to have them here, especially because Theo looks so happy.
Lulav: And that's the particularly cool and queer thing for this week.
Lulav: Is that my roommate, who is also my ex, I keep forgetting about that— (Jaz laughs) ---is just, like, super happy about their girlfriend.
Jaz: Yeah, I remember about it some of the time, mostly because I was just using your and Theo's friendship as an example when talking to other friends here about how, like, people can have positive relationships with their exes. (Lulav laughs) And, in ways that are non-threatening to their current romantic relationships.
Lulav: Oh yeah. Huh. (laughs) That's really cool.
Lulav: I'm trying to think if there's anything, like, particularly Jewish that's been going on. Oh, I'm going to be cutting the covenant pretty soon. (Jaz laughs) Last time it was done kinda without my consent. So this time, I am sacrificing some gonads. 'S gonna be great. Looking real forward to this bilateral orchiectomy, which will make it so that I can take fewer medications, and also not have testosterone, and, uh, I dunno. I'm just really looking forward to it and to the strange and wonderful things that my life will bring following. I'm not actually getting a bilateral orchiectomy for the sole purpose of renewing my covenant with Hashem. That was just a fun way to put it. (laughs)
Jaz: It was very charming.
Lulav: Thank you. Jaz, what's something cool and queer or Jewish that's happened in your life recently?
Jaz: Well, on the queer side--
Jaz: My friend Jill was turning 26, so her girlfriend arranged for a couple of surprises for her birthday.
Lulav: Cool. Have you ever mentioned Jill or her girlfriend on this podcast before?
Jaz: (laughs) Yes, both Jill and her girlfriend are guests on our previous podcasts episodes and I will link to both of their episodes.
Jaz: They're both wonderful.
Lulav: (laughs) Sorry to troll you.
Jaz: But Jill was turning 26, and so the Hawk did two things.
Jaz: The first one was: she told her that they weren't going out for dinner for her birthday, and I think they maybe did do that, but also--(Lulav laughs) She's like, "Yeah, we'll just have a night for just the two of us hanging out." Instead, rented a movie theater, filled it with 20 of Jill's friends and family, and took her out to see a movie she really wanted to see.
Lulav: Oh, it was a movie theater.
Lulav: You said the name of the musical, and I didn't realize that that movie was out.
Jaz: It just came out.
Jaz: So, we went to go see In the Heights, which is a musical that Jill loves, and just came out. Like, we're recording this, and I think at the time of recording the musical has been available to watch for about a week.
Jaz: So, we also, as like a whole friend group, spent the week previously having events basically every evening to distract Jill from going to go see the movie.
Lulav: Oh my god. That's so nefarious, I love it.
Jaz: Not just for that reason. That is part of why we scheduled it on those days as opposed to other days.
Lulav: That's so good.
Jaz: They made specific plans for when they were going to see it, which was the following week. (Lulav laughs) But instead, Jill showed up to the movie theater, and all the rest of us were there and we shouted "surprise" or "happy birthday," and, uh...
Lulav: You didn't agree on something to shout beforehand? (laughs)
Jaz: We absolutely did, but we went back and forth beforehand and (Lulav laughs) I don't remember what we agreed upon.
Jaz: It was great. And because it was only us in the movie theater, people, meaning, mostly Jill, could sing along (Lulav laughs) to the movie. That's not true. Tori--
Jaz: --definitely sang along also.
Lulav: Friend of the pod and lover of musicals, Tori.
Lulav: We love Tori.
Jaz: True. Anyway, it was wonderful, and that was not a particularly Jewish thing but it was a queer thing. (Lulav laughs) Also, because she's turning 26 and her job does not provide her health insurance--
Lulav: Oh G-d.
Jaz: --the Hawk's other suggestion was a coordinated gift campaign. So, each of us showed up with medical supplies.
Lulav: Oh, that's great.
Jaz: Bandages and Advil and a pill caddy and stuff like that.
Lulav: Okay. No, like, scalpels, or...?
Jaz: Well, courtesy of me, the Hawk gave Jill a stethoscope?
Lulav: Aww, that's sweet. That sounds like a wonderful day.
Jaz: Yes, it was lovely, and then followed up by another tiny queer thing I'll just throw in, which is that we did that at the very end of the day, and then I came home and the only other thing I did in my day was read Rose in Bloom, and this is the book that you and I have been reading--
Jaz: --that I thought we were going to finish last night, because we were very very close to the end.
Lulav: Oh, I conked out immediately, apparently.
Jaz: Right, we were reading a Kindle copy, and it said it was, like, 97% of the way through--
Jaz: And now it says it's, like, 99% of the way through, but we're not actually done with the book.
Lulav: The only thing that I remember from that chapter is waking up and being like, "Hey Jaz, why have you stopped reading? Jaz?" and then looking at my phone and being like, "Oh, never mind." (laughs) Because you had already hung up, and that's how asleep I was. Anyway, if you have trouble getting to sleep, I highly recommend having a partner read to you.
Jaz: I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Lulav: It's so soporific, and you might get a story out of it if you're actually awake. (both laugh)
Jaz: Anyway. Do we have time for a Jewish thing of the week?
Jaz: So, last weekend, I officiated at my grandfather's funeral.
Jaz: As a Jewish funeral. He died over a year ago.
Jaz: But, you know, given how COVID was in the world, we weren't able to bury him at the time, and we didn't have a funeral, but he was cremated, and so we could kind of have the funeral whenever--
Jaz: So we had it around what would have been his birthday in the summer--
Jaz: --and lots of different relatives came, including relatives who I hadn't seen for a while, and it was the second funeral I've officiated, both for grandparents of mine, and both with Jewish ritual and Jewish ceremony, you know, and this one was a little bit different ritualistically, because it had a little bit more English, it had a few more replacements of traditional things, though, some things we still kept, but my grandfather was a little bit more atraditional, so we kept the parts that felt like it would be meaningful for his children and grandchildren in particular.
Jaz: And didn't keep the things that we didn't think would feel as meaningful.
Lulav: Yeah. And in terms of things in English, I hear there was a lot of poetry?
Jaz: Well, there wasn't a lot of poetry, but after my mom, who was my grandfather's daughter, and her siblings, spoke, there was opportunities for other people to speak, and my other mom and my brother introduced and then recited a poem that my grandfather had read to us when we were all on vacation together that he had been very eager (Lulav laughs) for us all to know, which was “Casey at the Bat,” that my brother did a dramatic reading of. My mom had been considering doing a dramatic reading of a follow-up poem that grandpa also brought for us, (Lulav laughs) but we ended up just doing “Casey at the Bat.” It was delightful--
Lulav: Oh, I'll bet.
Jaz: --and it very much brought his spirit and humor into the whole thing.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. May his memory be a blessing.
Jaz: Thank you. It was very meaningful for me to be able to do, you know, a meaningful Jewish service for everybody who was there, and I do think that it was very meaningful for the people who were there.
Jaz: A couple people came up to me afterwards and were like, "Why do you have to go to school anyway? Seems like you got it down enough." (Lulav laughs) Which was — which was very sweet.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. I'm glad that helped a little bit with the incredible imposter syndrome you seem to have been feeling recently.
Jaz: I don't have so much imposter syndrome, there's just a lot of Judaism, and it's hard to know a lot of it.
Jaz: It's not possible to know all of it, but it is hard to even feel like — it's a lot of it.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. I mean this in the most blessing sort of way? May this not be the last funeral you officiate.
Jaz: Mmm. Thank you for the preface.
Lulav: In that you will be a rabbi, not in that --
Jaz: — more people will die. Yeah, sure. Well, on that note… Lulav, can you take us into the episode?
Lulav: Oh, surely I can.
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 Matot-Masei, which is Yeshiahu 66:1 until the very end of the book of Isaiah. So.
Lulav: We are combining the end of Yeshiyahu with the end of Bamidbar, 'cause these two parashot are the last two in the book that is known in English as Numbers.
(karaoke track of "Like a Virgin" starts)
Lulav: (singing) We made it through the wild — (stops singing) Okay, sorry, yes?
Jaz: I was just gonna say that it is my understanding that they're not combined every year.
Jaz: But they were combined last year as well.
Lulav: Yeah. That's interesting. Masei is a little less....uh, it's a little lighter on the content than Matot, so it makes sense to me that they would just squish 'em together instead of having that as a standalone most years. Do you want me to summarize what all goes on in these two parashot?
Jaz: Yes, please. How much time do you need?
Lulav: 80 seconds, please. That is one minute and 20 seconds.
Jaz: Yes, I can do basic math.
Lulav: Ah --
Jaz: Most of the time.
Lulav: Listen, we have a lot of gay listeners, and, uh, not to play into stereotypes, but a lot of us are bad at math.
Jaz: That's so mean. Just because I'm bad at math doesn't mean you can generalize at other people that way.
Jaz: 3, 2, 1, go.
Lulav:V'yidaber Moshe el the heads of Yisrael's banners: keep your oaths! Unless you're a woman and the men in your life don't extend dignity of risk. Oh, story time! Moshe has to fight the Midianites and then he can die. MAN that's a lot of senseless sacking that they do, considering Moshe's father-in-law was a Midianite chieftain. Even Balaam bites it here. Moshe doesn't like benevolent sexism getting in the way of genocide, and he doesn't allow murder as exemption from rules about the ritual purity of dead bodies. When it comes to divvying up warm bodies -- yes, including human slaves -- the high priest takes a 0.2% warrior tax, and the rest of the Levites take a 2% tax from non-warriors. We love to traffic tens of thousands of virgin women! Okay, then the houses of Reuven, Gad, and Manashe make their pact to act as shock troops in exchange for getting the pre-Jordan lands, and that brings us to parashat Masei. We get a travelogue of the 40 years' wandering, and then some words about how the ethnic cleansing must be total if this whole "promised land" thing is gonna work. More travelogues, this time in the form of drawing borders. Oh, and my favorite part because it's the only one so far with nuanced epistemology of blame: talking about which cities are for people accused of murder, and burden of evidence for murder convictions. The daughters of Tzelophekhad have their marriage prospects limited, v'chazak chazak v'nitchazek!
Jaz: Okay, only five seconds over.
Lulav: Nooo! (laughs) It was, like, exactly on time, when I timed it previously, but...
Lulav: That's fair. I had more dramatic reactions in the live run-through.
Jaz: You did great.
Lulav: Thank you. I love praise. And also percentages.
Jaz: So, Lulav, do you have connections for us, between the parsha, and the haftarah?
Lulav: So, kind of. The most salient connection here is that we are in Admonition two out of three--
Lulav: --and so, this is just as Bamidbar is closing and Deverim is coming in. So with the second Admonition, we have the end of Yeshiyahu and Bamidbar, and then with the third Admonition, we're gonna have the beginning of Yeshiyahu and the beginning of Devarim. It's kind of like Finnegans Wake, in that when you finish the book, you start right back over at the beginning, and it's a complete sentence, kind of, except for Finnegan's Wake doesn't make sense, and I was so angry at it that I threw it across the room, which is not a point that I have gotten to with Torah yet. (Jaz laughs) So.
Jaz: I appreciate the "yet." (Lulav laughs) Also, I have never read Finnegans Wake.
Lulav: Neither have I. I got a page and a half into it.
Jaz: This is, apparently, a ringing endorsement of my choices.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. So, I was in college, and John Green spoke glowingly of James Joyce's writing, especially Finnegans Wake, and uhh...Let's just say I made some choices when I was in college.
Jaz: (laughs) That seems fine. (Lulav laughs) Though I will say that I find James Joyce, in general, to be something of a frustrating writer.
Lulav: (laughs) I am entertained by his sects. Am I putting enough letters in there? Whatever. Anyway, what have you read of his?
Jaz: I tried Ulysses, and then decided against it.
Lulav: Okay. How far did you get?
Jaz: I don't remember, but not very far.
Lulav: Okay. Yeah, so this is an anti-Joyce podcast. Joyce Sun, if you're listening, you're wonderful; I was talking about the James.
Jaz: I do have a cousin named James Joyce--
Lulav: Excuse me?
Jaz: --so I wish to clarify that I have nothing against him.
Lulav: Sorry, is that his middle name or his last name?
Jaz: Last name.
Lulav: Oh no, the parents really did that, huh? Sorry, way off track. You were asking me about connections, and so we talked about the structural ones of, like, it's the end of a book and the end of a book, but also, like, the haftarah portion that we read today talks about how, ha, wouldn't it be weird if you had to make a whole nation at once? Oh wait, that's what happened. So it's kind of pointing back to the mythical history that is really encapsulated in Parshat Masei.
Lulav: And that's the kindest reading that I will give of the haftarah.
Lulav: Can you tell us a little bit of the context here?
Jaz: Yeah, so we've talked a lot about who Isaiah is before?
Jaz: That he's a major prophet, that he is one of the leader prophets, chronologically, and that he's often seen as something of a social justice prophet, you know, very into justice, and retribution, but also restoration to a good place.
Jaz: He talks about doing and behaving right, and also dealing with exile.
Lulav: I'm not feeling a lot of exile in this haftarah portion?
Lulav: Are you?
Lulav: Okay. (laughs)
Jaz: This is later in Isaiah than most of what we've read before.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. It is impossible to be later in Yeshiyahu than this reading. (laughs)
Jaz: Right, so this is in part of the conclusion and the wrap-up, it's like, once we've gotten beyond telling you about right behavior.
Jaz: This is like, a fate that might await you.
Lulav: Yeah. Oh, and I guess it is very much an admonition.
Jaz: Oh yeah. (Lulav laughs) It sure is. The Admonitions are nothing to sneeze at, and the building up of the admonitions until Tisha B'av, when we read them from Eicha — from Lamentations.
Jaz: Like, sometimes you can read from Isaiah in the same chanting style people read Lamentations, read Eicha.
Jaz: 'Cause like, I don't know all of the different styles, but I know enough to know that different days and holidays often have their own tunes, right?
Jaz: Like, there's specific High Holiday tunes, specific Chanukah tunes, specific Passover tunes, like those are ones that I'm familiar with, for example.
Jaz: So I think there's also specific Tisha B'av Lamentations stuff, and sometimes people read the Admonitions, in that sense, too, because it's like you're preparing for Tisha B'av.
Lulav: (laughs) For sure.
Jaz: So I think that's all of the context.
Lulav: Yeah. Can you walk us through the actual text?
Jaz: Yes. So, we start at the beginning of chapter 66, and it's, um--
Lulav: I'm vibing with it, in the beginning, at least.
Jaz: Yes. (Lulav laughs) It is retreading territory we've already been over, about, "I don't need a temple. Why do you think you should build a specific home for me? I'm doing fine. Like, the whole earth could be my footstool."
Lulav: "So like, where could you build a house for me? Come on."
Jaz: Right, which creates this idea of a G-d that's kind of like, as big as the universe.
Jaz: And it implies a thing that, you know, religious Jewish people have said since then, about like, places of worship aren't for G-d, they're for us. (Lulav laughs) We need them.
Jaz: We need things that are human scale. So then we go into talking about, G-d made everything, and that's how we got it, but G-d's gonna focus on the poor and the brokenhearted.
Jaz: The English renders it as "brokenhearted," but the Hebrew is something closer to, "the stricken of spirits."
Jaz: And I like that too. That's "nakeh ruach." So, the poor, the stricken of spirit, the people who are concerned about G-d's words and things. And then we do something of a pivot.
Lulav: Yeah, I mean... I don't know that this next line is as much of a pivot, but...
Jaz: It's the beginning of a pivot.
Lulav: Yeah. Like, this seems — rather than a U-turn, like a Y-turn.
Lulav: Does that make sense?
Lulav: Do you remember enough about driving stuff?
Lulav: What? (laughs) Actually, I taught you Y-turns, didn't I? Or re-taught you?
Jaz: Probably. Well, but this next line, I'm gonna just read the JPS translation of it--
Jaz: Of 66:3, because it's a little intense. Actually, I'm gonna pause in the middle, at the place where I paused when reading this line aloud to my roommates--
Jaz: --so that you can guess what they said.
Jaz: "As for those who slaughter oxen and slay humans, who sacrifice sheep and immolate dogs..." Pause.
Lulav: "I can excuse racism, but I draw the line at animal cruelty."
Jaz: (laughs) No. But that was a good guess.
Lulav: (laughs) What was the reaction?
Jaz: "The Bible is terrible and we shouldn't have one."
Lulav: (laughs) Okay.
Jaz: And I was like, "Well, they are condemnatory of it," and I received the responses like, "Yes, but still!"
Lulav: The very next line is about mocking people who immolate dogs!
Jaz: Okay. "But for those people or those who do something with the blood of swine or offer incense, or worship other gods, just as they've chosen their ways and take pleasure in their abominations, so will I choose to mock them, to bring on them the very thing they dread." I do want to say, the rest of this haftarah gets increasingly, like, specific about what it means to, like, turn on those people, but initially I was like, "Mocking them seems like really gentle."
Lulav: (laughs) It's the beginning, I don't know.
Jaz: The wording of it, it's like, "Well, they've chosen their way, and it's not my way, but I guess, you know, live and let live, and I'll just make fun of them and let them keep living in their way."
Lulav: Mm-hmm. I do think that, on the way to abolishing the police, you are also very welcome to make, "(snorts) What's up piggy?" jokes too.
Lulav: Like, mockery can be an important part of making something less of an eternal monolith, the way that, like, I don't know, idolatry might seem in a situation where you've got a lot of idolatry.
Jaz: Hmm. I'd have to think about that, I think.
Jaz: There is a certain amount of like, if you see people killing other people, setting dogs on fire, worshipping that stuff and your response is like, "Well, I guess I will stand here and make fun of you," like, it reminds me of the things of when there's, like, incidences of war crimes, and comedians are there making jokes about it, and there's some comedian who's like, "Yeah, and we made lots of jokes about it. Did it help, did it change things? No. Did we still do it? Oh yeah."
Lulav: Yeah. Like, it's definitely not the end.
Jaz: Like, there's a bit in the new Bo Burnham special, which is on Netflix, and if you're enjoying listening to our podcast, I suspect it might be a thing that you might also like? Really different vibes, but...
Lulav: Way to mark all of our listeners out as having depression, dang.
Jaz: Yes, that is what that means. (Lulav laughs) It's very much a comedy special for people who have had, like, fairly significant mental health things.
Jaz: Did you watch it?
Lulav: I did.
Lulav: I can't remember all the thoughts that I had, but I was definitely like, "Oh, that's why Jaz had that reaction," when they were considering telling me about it.
Jaz: Right? (Lulav laughs) But he does have a song where he goes like, "Saving the world with comedy," about the evils in the world.
Jaz: That he does not believe he's saving via comedy. Anyway--
Lulav: To be clear, you do also have to abolish the police, and that's like, the main part.
Jaz: So, then, we go on to that you gotta listen to those who are concerned about what G-d thinks, and after they're saying like, you have to listen, and your family will hate you. What do you make of this line in 66:5 that say, "Your kinspeople hate you--"
Jaz: "--because they say, 'Let G-d physically manifest, so that we can see how happy you are.'"
Lulav: Mm! I think, if we want to extend the metaphor, it's like people who are saying, "And what about crime and stuff, what are, what are you going to do when there aren't police to help you?" And it's like, that's not the point. You can't just ignore the fact that we have been demonstrating the joys of living in community and also the absolute uselessness of police the entire time, asking really theatrically for this proof is bad. Don't do that.
Jaz: Hmm. Okay.
Lulav: And, you know, that's borne out by “there shall be the shame,” because it's an intellectually dishonest thing.
Lulav: I dunno, like... Hashem doesn't need to have a physical presence for joy in the multitude of existence, and the fortitude of real justice, to be real.
Lulav: That's the thing that's pretty central to my Judaism, because I am still an atheist, but what if we just talk about Hashem instead? (laughs)
Jaz: I remember you having a conversation — this might be reductionist, so tell me if I get it wrong--
Jaz: --that basically boiled down to like, yes, in a technical sense, still don't believe in G-d, (Lulav laughs) but in a non technical sense, I will fight G-d behind a Denny's.
Lulav: (laughs) I may have said exactly that.
Lulav: That sounds very like a conversation that I was having on Twitter with someone. (laughs) Oh. Great.
Jaz: It sounds like you, which is what--anyway. Yes.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. That's it. Like, it is convenient to externalize the sources of joy to one thing, and also to externalize the "Hey, this needs to be better," on to one thing--
Lulav: But that's not the end of stuff, it's not that everything exists only because of this conception of G-d, or that everything will be okay, just because this conception of G-d exists, like...
Lulav: You do also have to do the actual work.
Jaz: (laughs) Yes.
Lulav: To see a better future, and you have to appreciate the actual work that got you to the point where you can be like, "Dang. Mountains are cool, I'm so glad I get to see those."
Jaz: Yeah. And on that note, we move into tumult from the city, thunder from the temple, as G-d is dealing out retribution.
Lulav: Wow, the sky is clear, where's that thunder coming from? (laughs) Translator's note: it is the thunder of the Lord. (laughs)
Jaz: Okay, okay. Sure.
Lulav: So yeah, what is this section saying? And I'm including, like, the next several lines.
Jaz: So, then as we're talking about this retribution, we move into this metaphor about giving birth--
Jaz: --that it's like the people of Israel who are giving birth, or potentially the Land of Israel. The metaphor is actually a little bit vague on the details.
Lulav: Yeah, I'm unsure who is laboring, but it's definitely that Am Yisrael is the one being delivered.
Jaz: Yes. Frankly, although the translation doesn't like it, it could also just be G-d?
Jaz: We don't have a name provided to us at any point, just feminine conjugation.
Jaz: So, if you want to go with that interpretation, you absolutely could. Actually, that's not true, I take it back. In line eight, they do specified Tzion, like, Zion, or Jerusalem, right.
Lulav: Though, G-d can also be named Tzion, like the place of safety and stuff.
Jaz: That's true. I am pro-that interpretation, and they're delivering Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. Jewish people. We have this language about, it's miraculously, like, whoever heard such a thing? Whoever witnessed it? Could have people being born all at once? Or a land, get through all of that in a single day?
Lulav: Can I give a word on this?
Lulav: It does seem to be talking about that whole story that we got in Parshat Masei, about, like...Yeah, here's where everyone went, and then here are all the people that we displaced, and then we had a nation, and there's a whole bunch of stuff in the middle there, but like, that's basically what happened. We made a nation from basically nothing, and it was all at once, is like the mythical story being told.
Lulav: So, I know that this is a rhetorical question of “whoever heard the like,” “whoever witnessed such events,” but it's like, any time that your nation-building is predicated on ethnic cleansing, uh... You get to witness these events, I don't know.
Lulav: Like, the United States of America as incorporated in the very late 1700s, that was a nation born all at once, because it was based on the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans.
Jaz: Maybe this is nitpicky, but would you, in fact, argue that it was born all at once?
Lulav: So, neither was the United States born all at once, because it's coming from states that also were predicated on ethnic cleansing, but nor was the nation of Israel born all at once, because in the mythical founding, it's coming from all of these staves, these banners, what gets translated as tribes, usually. These are already family divisions that existed, and they're just coming in, so I don't think, if we want to give another non-rhetorical answer to a presumably rhetorical question. No, a nation is not born all at once. (laughs) That has never happened.
Jaz: Hmm. Okay.
Lulav: What are your feelings?
Jaz: So, one of the things that it reminds me of...
Jaz: And I wish I had the quote-sourcing from this--
Jaz: And I don't so I'll have to see if I can find it… is, as you're making this analogy to, it's like the US —
Jaz: There has been writing, in particular, by like, Black American writers, about the fact that the US was not founded as a democracy, because, even if you were to disregard the genocide of Native Americans that it's premised on, which, to be clear, you shouldn't set that aside--
Jaz: — but even if you were to set it aside, you would still be left with a system in which most of the residents couldn't vote.
Lulav: And more importantly than 'couldn't vote,' like, were literal property.
Jaz: Sorry, I don't mean to imply that, like, that was the determining factor, but the thing that was notable about this particular argument that I remembered was that they were talking about the ways in which the US has become more of a democracy since its founding is attributable to the activism of marginalized people, particularly like, Black people and women, but all different kinds of marginalized groups really.
Jaz: And that the other thing that you know is possible to think about when you think about something being born all at once is, like, the ways that things change over time because people who are impacted by them force them to change--
Jaz: Which is just to say that people have the power to change what a nation is over time, like the idea of a nation as something that can't be born all at once but is just an assemblage of people--
Jaz: — who live according to their common agreements means that it has the potential to be an entity that changes radically over time.
Lulav: Also, like, humans aren't born all at once. There's the development beforehand, and then there's also like your brain folds and grows. Nobody grows up in a vacuum.
Jaz: Right. And definitely, there's things sort of to unpack here about when you say that a nation is born all at once, like, to your point about indigenous genocides and like, who gets left out in the story of something--
Jaz: — being framed as miraculous, you know? But also this idea of like, yeah, things don't get born all at once and that's a good thing?
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah.
Jaz: 'Cause the original versions are often not great, and humans get a chance to either improve them or throw them out and try something else.
Jaz: And we have choices about what things we think are worth improving and what things we think you just gotta throw out and try something else.
Lulav: So, from that birth metaphor, where do we go?
Jaz: We continue on, actually, with the birth metaphor for one more line about G-d saying like, if I caused you to be born, why would I shut the womb, why would I not want you to be born? That sort of thing. And then we move into this rejoicing. Celebrate with Jerusalem, join in jubilation. For those of you who loved her, for those of you who mourned over her...
Lulav: Bringing it full-circle with some breast imagery in the book of Yeshiyahu. (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. And this is moving into, like, you could get wonderful things. Prosperity, wealth, that you can just drink of it to your heart's content. When we're slowly having this like metaphor of growing up, right?
Jaz: Of moving from breastfeeding to, like, being carried on shoulders and sat on someone's knee, and moving towards those types of analogies.
Lulav: Yeah. So then what happens?
Jaz: So then, "You shall see. And your heart shall rejoice." Yeah, so, I think this is more moving into the, like, growing up, getting older part of the analogy--
Lulav: Mmm. 'Cause your limbs are flourishing like grass, or like puberty.
Jaz: (laughs) Would you say that your limbs flourished like grass in puberty?
Lulav: Yeah. I mean, what else were the incredible shin pains that I had for several years of my life?
Jaz: Would you describe that as flourishing?
Lulav: Yeah, 'cause they were growing.
Jaz: Okay, well...
Lulav: It's growing pains. They don't call it growing joys. (laughs)
Jaz: I'm just saying, if somebody asked me to describe puberty, I would never, in my whole life, come up with the phrase "flourishing like grass." Not even if somebody asked me to describe puberty really poetically.
Lulav: (laughs) Good.
Jaz: Anyway, would you say that this is where the real turn comes? You were saying earlier that it wasn't pyre, so I was wondering if you thought it was here.
Lulav: So, I described this as a Y-turn, right? The first thing where you were like, "And then we have a turn." That was the turn to the left that carries you to the opposite side of the road. And then this, like, maternal imagery has been reversing to the right, and now lines 14-15, that sort of thing. That's straightening out and pulling back onto the road in the opposite direction. (laughs)
Jaz: Great. Beautiful. Okay.
Lulav: Thank you. (laughs)
Jaz: And in fact, G-d's coming down that road with you, in a chariot, like a whirlwind on fire, and swords that will be used against any being of flesh who may be slain. Just because G-d is angry.
Jaz: Now, Lulav, if you saw a flaming chariot with swords that was killing people and shouting about fury coming down the road, um... What would be your course of action to defend yourself or keep yourself safe?
Lulav: A, write a very sternly-worded letter to my congresspeople about cutting the military budget. (Jaz laughs) B, uh... Scream, whimper, and die.
Lulav: Probably take cover, but like, there's only so much you can do against an air force--
Lulav: --which is what I'm assuming that a flaming chariot like a whirlwind is. I don't know. Anyway, abolish all air forces. That's my hot take.
Jaz: Okay. All right. Well, Isaiah proposes that if you find yourself in such a situation, you should enter a grove to the center, sanctify and purify yourself.
Lulav: Hold on. (laughs) Is it saying that you should do that, or that those people do do that, and they one and all come to an end.
Jaz: Well... (Lulav laughs) My apologies, I got the next couple verses mixed up.
Lulav: Mmkay. In fact, I would not enter a grove. I would go for a target that is less easy to see.
Jaz: No groves. Okay. You're gonna go hide underground. And because you know that if you enter a grove, to the center, you'll be among the people who are eating pork and reptiles and mice, and those are things that people can kill you over.
Lulav: I mean, to be clear, they are inherently un-kosher.
Jaz: They sure are. I have, however, eaten alligator.
Lulav: Oh yeah, I guess that's a reptile.
Jaz: And pork! Not mice. I don't eat any of those things anymore.
Lulav: I've eaten rabbit, does that count as mouse?
Jaz: I mean, it's also not kosher. But that doesn't (Lulav laughs) mean it's a mouse.
Lulav: Anyway. What time is it?
Jaz: It is time to gather all the nations and tongues! It's very funny that they call them tongues.
Lulav: Isn't that what everybody calls languages?
Jaz: Hmm… sure, sure.
Lulav: Like when Moshe's saying that he has a speech impediment. He's heavy of tongue.
Lulav: (laughs) But that is… you are right, very definitely an "I am translating from Hebrew" sort of thing.
Jaz: Yeah. Or they want to sound fancy and somehow think saying "tongues" is fancier than "languages."
Lulav: Okay, but also, "languages" is derived from "tongue." It's all just a circle.
Jaz: Yes, but etymology has no bearing on modern communication.
Lulav: Mm. Fair. There's like, a distance from the concept of a tongue that the word language gives to English speakers.
Lulav: Okay. That's fair.
Jaz: So, after we've gathered everybody together, specifically in like an anti-Tower of Babel type of way, G-d's gonna set a sign among them, and from that sign, do another extraordinarily ominous thing.
Jaz: Send survivors to the various nations, el ha-goyim. Now, the "nations" part's okay, the "suvivors" part? Hmm. Troubling.
Jaz: Also could be translated as "fugitive, refugee, escaped one" instead of "survivor." None of those are words that inspire, like, great faith and security within me.
Lulav: Right. Now would probably be a good time to note that scholars think the latter half of Yeshiahu is written by a collection of different people who are not the first guy who was writing.
Jaz: Yeah, that is, like, a striking difference from earlier (Lulav laughs) in Yeshiahu.
Jaz: And it's doing a really, really unusual thing here, of saying that non Jews will also declare G-d's glory, people who have never heard of Judaism before.
Jaz: And all of those people will, like, send representatives and ambassadors and stuff in their fanciest carriages to Jerusalem and bring offerings, and some of them will be taken to be priests, and there's different things, like... That's fascinating.
Lulav: Ooh. Not just offerings, but they are bringing all your brothers, which is to say, you're living in exile now, but when all these nations catch wind of how absolutely destroyed they're going to get, they're just going to send all of the Jews, which...don't love that.
Jaz: Do you think this is where the Christians pulled their thing about how like, in the end of days, all the Jews will go back to Israel?
Lulav: Okay, so, I don't know enough about philosemitic apocalypticism to fully answer that question, but given how much Christians love Yeshiahu, that totally makes sense.
Jaz: They do.
Lulav: It's very quotable, is the thing.
Jaz: Facts about Christianity stay with difficulty in my mind.
Lulav: Fair. I was looking up a thing to see if there was a connection between Yeshiahu being in the wilderness, or something, and the fact that we were ending our durance in the wilderness, and I was seeing a lot of results of, like, Christian sermons on something from Yeshiahu 39, which is the only place that the word "wilderness" is used in the book, apparently.
Jaz: Huh. Okay.
Lulav: What this stood out to me more as was the Zionist project?
Lulav: It's like, the idea that there will be significant victories against people who don't worship G-d the correct way, and then the refugees from that are going to be sent to other lands, and then those other lands are going to be like, "Welp, better let the Jews go to their true home in Jerusalem," which is sometimes a nice way of saying, "Better expel the Jews," but... I see this play out in terms of national policy in the modern day.
Lulav: And hate it. Especially because this part seems like such a turn from even the beginning of this chapter, where it was like, yeah, the most downtrodden, those are the people who are important. The temple, that's not actually an important thing because G-d is everywhere, so like, we are really going the opposite direction, in my opinion. What do you think?
Jaz: Well, just that we've talked about this a little before, but not so much, about when you're writing about people who have recently, in the span of their history, experienced something really difficult, like, such as exile, such as the destruction of the temple--
Jaz: Or, as sometimes comes up, re: the modern state of Israel, with the Holocaust, like people can go in different directions with that, and groups of people can go in different directions of that, and you can learn different lessons from it, right? (Lulav laughs) And sometimes the lessons you can learn can be about solidarity with all people who've lived through something like that--
Jaz: --or are at risk of it. And sometimes the lesson you learned is, we specifically can never allow ourselves to be in a position of weakness such that anybody might hurt us ever again, even if that means we hurt other people.
Lulav: Yeah. And like, one of the lessons learned is: nobody really does anything when you hurt other people, so you can just do it as much as you want, which is very cynical but like...
Jaz: It is cynical. It is, while definitely not always true, true enough to make it still a difficult thing about the world. So I do think that, when you're thinking about where does this particular theology or particular politic come from--
Jaz: It is useful to look at the history that got people there, or the narratives that different groups of people tell themselves.
Jaz: And also, about the way that it is easier to make groups fight each other than to hold the other powers responsible.
Lulav: Boy, howdy.
Jaz: Like, the British and the French took over a lot of the Middle East, and then put some people in positions of power really disenfranchised other people, and then were sort of like, great, you all figure it out now, 'kay thanks bye.
Jaz: And nothing ever happened to the British or the French about it, even as like, Israelis and Palestinians and Syrians and Yemenite Libyans and a lot of people have been feeling the repercussions of the things that they did.
Lulav: Yeah. Yeah.
Jaz: Which is not to say that, that means you can't hold modern people responsible for their modern actions.
Lulav: Oh G-d no, you definitely do need to. Especially if you're reading the writings of ancestors who were coming from a place of hurt, you can't uncritically take all of that? It has to be considered in the lens of "this was a people in exile," rather than just like, "Oh yeah, this is a prophecy for the future, and we're gonna make it happen."
Jaz: Mmm. And I do think you gotta, as you're trying to, like, dream, towards a better world, think about the hurts and pains that got us partially to the world we now live in. Because if your solution ignores those things, people aren't gonna buy into the vision you're selling them.
Lulav: And also, the vision you're selling won't materialize, 'cause it sucks. (laughs) I don't know, we talked about how you can go in different directions as a reaction to trauma, and I would like our tendency, as a podcast, to go in the direction of "this cannot happen to other people."
Lulav: Rather than "we will never be this vulnerable again."
Jaz: Yeah. So, let's wrap up on the last bit of this haftarah.
Jaz: And the last bit is this thing that sort of about, like, time after time under a new sky, under a new earth, month after month, moon after moon, Shabbat after Shabbat, there's this thing they translate as, "'All flesh shall come to worship me,' said God."
Lulav: (creepy voice) All flesh shall come to worship me!
Jaz: And you could end it on that semi-triumphant note-- (Lulav laughs) which there is an element of the horror, even in that one, but you could imagine it as like a scene of triumph, but then in the next line, they really double down on the horror element.
Jaz: They shall go out and gaze on the corpses of the men who rebelled against me. Their worms shall not die, nor their fire be quenched, they shall be--
Lulav: (creepy voice) They shall be a horror to all flesh! (dropping the voice) Sorry, not to keep referring back to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but the register here is very much like Dracula is being poorly translated. (both laugh) Boy, we are just speeding in the opposite direction, right after a Y-turn, huh?
Jaz: Now that we've come to the realization that some of the Torah writers were really working through some stuff, (Lulav laughs) and decided that, as part of their processing, horror-writing, creative-writing exercise, they decided they could just, like, stick that in the holy text?
Jaz: And look, I'm supportive of, in general, not to get into the mess and the mire of it, but when people are like, "Those young queers wrote messy dark stories to cope!" and it's like, "Yes, yes, that's fine, but we're not gonna make role models of it and take it as a literal guideline of what to do and if you're reading it like that, that is incorrect."
Lulav: Uh-huh. It is important to have opinions like this represented, but not taken as the consensus of everyone?
Jaz: Like, you can write your horror. You just have to properly categorize it as horror.
Jaz: And not like, instruction manual.
Lulav: (laughs) Uh-huh.
Jaz: Murder-mystery stories are a perfectly valid thing to exist, but if you're using them as guidelines for how to be a good person....eh, probably don't.
Lulav: So, that brings us to Rating G-d's Writing, in which we map out the Y-turn that this haftarah portion has taken. Out of 20 true crime podcasts, how many true crime podcasts would you rate this haftarah?
Jaz: Well, I don't like true crime podcasts. It's not a genre that I enjoy. For the most part. There is one podcast that, I dunno if it quite counts as true crime, that I have probably recommended before called Scam Goddess.
Lulav: Oh, like true crime for people who don't want to read about murders.
Jaz: There is not murders, there's just scams. The host, Laci Mosley, is fairly approving of the scams. It's not sensationalist, it's just fun. It's not loving on police.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Or uncritically taking their word for everything. (laughs)
Jaz: Right. So, that said, horror's not really my genre either, and--
Jaz: --neither is writing that seems to swing back and forth between genres.
Jaz: But some people are into that. I personally find it challenging, but I also want to be like, there is room for multiple aesthetic tastes besides mine. (Lulav laughs) So, how many true crime podcasts did you give me?
Jaz: So I will give it 10.
Jaz: In recognition of the fact that I did not like it very much, but other people might.
Jaz: And I feel, like, poorly qualified to evaluate it for them, in the same way that I would feel poorly qualified to evaluate a horror movie, or a true crime podcast, but I also do think that maybe, pick a genre, and be clear about communicating it, (Lulav laughs) and be clearer than this one particularly is.
Jaz: For you... How long was the labor to birth this haftarah?
Lulav: So, I'm pretty sure I popped out in about five hours, which is traumatic, frankly, and I can't remember the upper end that we're looking at, but I'm feeling like maybe 40 hours would be like, a real upper end.
Lulav: Again, I haven't gotten very far in my obstetrics for nurses book from 1908, but someday I will. So...how long was the labor? I'm gonna say that it was 32 hours, because you have had several shift changes of nurses in that time, and so the people who are helping you through labor are, at first, a really nice nurse, and then a nurse you misgenders you, and... (laughs) Like. Yeah. It did very much feel like there was a lot of different stuff going on here, and I liked some of it, and some of it just sucks. So, that's my rating, is 32 hours of labor.
Lulav: Jaz, would you take us to the close?
Jaz: I would. Thanks for listening because your queries. If you like what you've heard, you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/kosherqueers, which will give you bonus content, and help us 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 said 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. 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 cohost Lulav Arnow.
Lulav: (creepy voice) Flesh! (regular voice) Jaz Twersky makes sure that every episode gets transcribed. You can find a link to the transcripts in our--flesh!--Oh, sorry, in our episode descriptions at kosherqueers.gay, where you can also see if Jaz roped in additional help for the episode.
Jaz: I'm Jaz Twersky, and 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.
Both: Have a lovely queer Jewish day!
Lulav: (creepy voice) Flesh!
Jaz: This week's gender is: self-pollinating.
Lulav: This week's pronouns are: fleur and fleurs.