This week, people are gay for Shabbat, the Shabbos bride brings a dowry of relaxation, and people re-write prayers to make them more gender-balanced, but forget that Judaism has more than four women. Plus, a formal announcement about what's happening at the end of this season of KQ!
There are so many different kashrut certifying organizations that each have their own hechsher; you can see a list of some of their symbols here. Here's an Orthodox list of the 39 types of work that are not supposed to be done on Shabbat. Here's the text of the long kiddush in Hebrew, transliteration, and an English translation. Here's the text of Lecha Dodi in Hebrew, transliteration, and an English translation. Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz didn't do a lot that was remembered other than write Lecha Dodi, but you can still read about him briefly here. Here's the text of the part of the Amidah that we talk about in Hebrew, transliteration, and an English translation. Jaz discusses the book is: Heretical Jewish Blessings and Poems, by Yaakov Moshe, which, having now finished it, they don't necessarily recommend - it leans heavily into Buddhism, and they like their heresy to be more organically Jewish. However, fun opening poem. Also, a different but excellent book that's also discussed is Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
This week's haftarah reading would be Isaiah 54:11–55:5, but since we already read that in Episode 52, our reading was the kiddush, the amidah, and Lecha Dodi. Next week's reading is Isaiah 51:12–52:12.
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.
Lulav: Hi, Jaz.
Jaz: Hi, Lulav. What's something cool or queer or Jewish that you did this week?
Lulav: Well, good job phrasing it like that, because I was about to say the coolest queer and Jewish thing that I've seen this week is the, like, I don't know, pompoms on a string that you're wearing braided around your head? (Jaz laughs) It's very funny, especially when you just kind of like, look at me, and it droops into your eyebrow and makes your left eye slightly smaller. I don't know, that's just cool to me. But the other thing is that we went grocery shopping in your new place for the first time—
Jaz: We did.
Lulav: —yesterday. That was Jewish, because your new household is much stricter about kashrut than just California Pizza Kosher.
Jaz: (laughs) Uh-huh.
Lulav: And so, you were checking everything to make sure that there were hechsherim. Hechshers? It's Yiddish, right?
Jaz: I've always said it as hechshers, but I guess we could find out how they say it in Hebrew.
Lulav: No, we must forge ahead!
Lulav: Anyway, you were checking everything for hechshers, and we had to balance, you know, my inability to eat soy and tomato and stuff, with your desire to build as much of a fence around Torah as possible, given that you were not immediately in contact with your roommates. And just like. Yeah, I won't pretend that it was the coolest thing in the moment. We both did get very frustrated. But also, it was an opportunity for us to talk about how we express frustration, and how we make decisions when there are conflicting access needs, and how to interpret my autistic butt when I am talking and walking away and apparently not saying out loud the things that I am thinking. (Jaz laughs) So it was cool in the end. I dunno, gays in a grocery store. That's queer, and it was very Jewish.
Lulav: So. I ended up eating a beet sandwich because Stop & Shop has, like, one kosher meat, and that's got hydrolyzed soy protein in it.
Jaz: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) Yeah. It was tricky.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. So what's your cool and queer or Jewish thing for this week?
Jaz: So, as you mentioned, I just recently moved. I'm living in Boston now. And, because I was sad about leaving my friends and community in New York, where I've had a really lovely time living for the past three years, for the most part? Like, it's been a place that's been really good to me. I got myself a poster, this big piece of, like, white poster paper that I picked up at the dollar store, dragged out all my art supplies, and had all my friends contribute art to this poster that I'm gonna hang up in my new apartment. I haven't yet found a perfect place for it—
Jaz: But I have a couple good potential options. I think there's a good chance it'll end up right above my desk.
Lulav: Yeah, you have a decent amount of wall real-estate, so all of the posters that you have brought with you will probably go up somewhere, right?
Jaz: Yes. (Lulav laughs) I didn't bring that many posters, but...
Lulav: Why above your desk?
Jaz: Well, that seems like a nice place where, when I'm working, I can just look up and see my friends, so if I'm demoralized (Lulav laughs) they'll be right there, or if I'm just, like, lonesome, or—you know, this is a new place and I'm still building new community, and I know that that's a process that takes time. I've done it a number of times. And, you know, usually when I move, I move during the summer, like I did this time, and the way that that tends to work for me is that I tend to feel more settled by November and feel like, oh, yeah, I have friends here by February, but that's like, a six-month process, and in the meantime, it's nice to have reference points of, oh, I have friends and community in other places.
Jaz: Which will still be nice once I have friends and community here, too. To know that they're not just here.
Lulav: Speaking of friends and community here, the day after I leave, you've got a Zoom call with several of your classmates coming up, right?
Jaz: I do. Yes, which I'm very excited for. I haven't met them very much, but I did take the initiative of emailing all of the other new students, (Lulav laughs) and asking if they would like to meet up and have a Zoom call, and we have a Zoom call coming up, and I'm very excited to meet everybody. So they are all Jewish. Definitely. And a lot of of them are queer, which is exciting.
Lulav: (sarcastically) Wait, you don't think they let non-Jews into rabbinical school?
Jaz: Somehow, I don't think they let non-Jews into this rabbinical school.
Jaz: Although I do actually understand that there is—well, we'll see—that there is something of debate, because some of the student body is, like, more halachically-observant and some less halachically-observant, which means some of the student body is like, "Patrilineal Jews don't count!" And some of the student body is like, "I am a patrilineal Jew, and you're an asshole!" (both laugh) So...
Lulav: We side with Beit Hillel in this case, right? In that: “no, you're an asshole!” (both laugh) Because if somebody's in rabbinical school, training to be a rabbi, they're probably Jewish.
Jaz: (laughs) So...yes. In case this wasn't clear from the 91 other episodes we've made before, we're fairly pro-... (laughs)
Lulav: Also, the fact that I am the cohost of a Jewish podcast and haven't done a formal conversion process.
Jaz: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) So, but what I wanted to say, also, about this poster that I had my friends make, is that there are two additional things that I wanted to point to in particular. One is that I was having the first gathering where I had people make art on a Saturday, and not everybody made it to that, so I had some people add to it on other days, but because the first day was a Saturday, and I had a couple people coming who, for their Shabbat practice, don't draw—
Jaz: —or write on Saturdays; 1) I particularly wanted an art piece, so I did make a rule that nobody could write on the poster — which I bent a couple of times for good reasons — but mostly, I said you can't write on it unless you can do it with stickers, and the stickers (Lulav laughs) were specifically a thing that I originally got, because people won't draw on Shabbat will still often put down stickers on Shabbat.
Lulav: Which is interesting to me.
Jaz: How come?
Lulav: It seems like work to remove stickers from a sheet of stickers and place them somewhere else, at about the same level as using a writing implement to leave behind graphite or ink? But—
Jaz: Well, I think—
Lulav: —that's valid.
Jaz: I think that part of the deal, also, is that writing is one of the original 39 non-permitted activities—
Jaz: It's a very old prohibition—
Jaz: —from the Talmud, from a time when writing would not have been such an easy thing to do.
Jaz: And so that one stuck around, but they did not, I believe, have stickers in the same way, so... We do have some things on here that were thoughtfully placed by friends, and then, because I was getting stickers, I got really excited and got lots of stickers, so other people placed them for aesthetic reasons rather than observance reasons?
Jaz: So that's part of my Jewish thing, but there's also, like, specifically Jewish drawings on here. One of my friends drew a Torah. That was my friend Josh. One of my friends, my friend Aviva, had made prints of different foods and fruits for Tu Bishvat, and I put those on. It's very multimedia. People did painting and stickers and markers, and the first person to draw on it was my friend and roommate Tori, who drew a bi flag.
Jaz: Both because we're both bisexual, but also because I gave Tori her first ever — and I think only ever — bi flag.
Lulav: Awwww. That's wonderful.
Jaz: Yeah, it was wonderful.
Lulav: (laughs) I will note, (keyboard clacking) I just did some Googling, and I found that the Tannaim used to send around envelopes, where, like, Rav Yochi would have a sticker and be like, "Send back ten stickers to your friends," and then, uh....No, this is a bit, I'm sorry, that wasn't a real thing.
Jaz: I'm really enjoying the bit!
Lulav: Did you ever do that as a kid, or was that past your time?
Jaz: I don't know what you're talking about.
Lulav: (appraisingly) Okay. Okay. Chain letters?
Jaz: Oh, yes, of course I know what a chain letter is.
Lulav: Okay. But like, specifically sending stickers around.
Jaz: That one I didn't do.
Lulav: Okay, that's, like, an extremely 90s thing, as far as I'm aware?
Jaz: That's very funny.
Lulav: Anyway, it's amazing how the years just roll on. Would you mind if we rolled into the episode?
Jaz: Let's gooo!
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 would be learning the haftarah of Re'eh, which is Yeshiyahu 54:11-55:5. Now, you may recognize that, because in our second episode of this season, we did 54:1-55:5. And so, since this is a repetition, and we don't really wanna repeat content like that, instead we're gonna take a rest from the cycle and do a Shabbatpisode.
Jaz: (laughs) We are gonna do a slightly different format, this episode, in that we're still gonna summarize the parsha for you, but then we're gonna look at — instead of bringing you the Isaiah readings paired with it — a couple prayers that we like and that feel representative of some of the specifically Shabbat-oriented liturgy.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. So we've got three works, which we're gonna write up in the episode notes so you have links to those. Work number one: Jaz chose Lecha Dodi. The way that a lot of us are introduced to Shabbat if we go to Friday services. We throw open the doors; it's great. It's mystical poetry from a medieval time. Amazing. We decided together to do the Long Kiddush, which is, you know, talking explicitly about what Shabbat is, and also there's wine involved. And then, I decided to bring the first prayer of the Amidah, which is called Avot v’Imahot—
Lulav: —because that was my first, for learning a lot of stuff about Shabbat.
Jaz: Lovely. And, because we're still in the Consolations, I'm going to bring a Consolation, a thing that gives me hope and a sense of possibility about the future—
Jaz: —at the end of the episode.
Lulav: Heck yeah.
Jaz: But before we get into all of that, Lulav, will you summarize this week's parsha reading for us?
Lulav: Gimme 25 seconds in which to do so?
Lulav: I think. I'm using my laptop, instead of my usual desktop computer, so I cannot eyeball text at all. (Jaz laughs) It's just so strange.
Jaz: 3, 2, 1, go.
Lulav: There are two mountains, Blessing and Curse. Gotta remember not to tolerate idols, but rather, to go to the mishkan-slash-temple, unless of course, you are too rural to reasonably make it there. Also, don't eat blood. Haven't you heard there's a libel about that? Stone anyone who tries to make you join a multi-level marketing scheme, plus also, here's some kashrut refinement about which animals are treyf. Money can be exchanged for goods and services. Do a shimta — uh, okay. (ringer goes off) Do a shmita year! Let your slaves go. Also, do Shavuot, Sukkot, and Pesach.
Jaz: Okay. You coulda gone for 30 seconds there.
Lulav: Yeah. (crosstalk) Maybe like 32.
Jaz: You were optimistic.
Lulav: I was, alas. It's 'cause I chose this fun little font to be in all my Notepad documents, and it makes the text a different size than it usually is.
Jaz: Okay. (Lulav laughs) What a convenient reason.
Lulav: It looks like a typewriter!
Jaz: It's very cute. (Lulav laughs) Alright, well... Thank you for that orientation to the parsha, which we're going to promptly not talk about at all.
Lulav: Oh, not at all.
Jaz: You can check out last year's episode. We'll link it, in case you wanna hear more of her actually talking about the parsha, and we'll link the episode in which we talk about this haftarah reading, as well.
Lulav: I would like to note that there is maybe a connection to the content that we're talking about today.
Lulav: Because Parshat Re'eh talks about coming together in a central location to all celebrate your covenant together, and Shabbat often involves coming together for services with the community to celebrate your Jewishness together.
Jaz: Yeah. Sure.
Lulav: Given that we just totally made this up, that seems as good a connection as any.
Lulav: (laughs) Okay. So, can you tell us a little bit about Lecha Dodi? What it means to you, read through at least one stanza of it, and like, tell us your favorite lil' phrases in there.
Jaz: Okay. Actually, can we do this in a different order?
Jaz: So, we're gonna start with the long Kiddush. And the reason we're starting with Kiddush is because of how the long Kiddush begins, which is to say, "Vay'hi erev vay'hi voker yom hashishi." This is a direct quote from Breishit. Just a direct quote from the very beginning of the Tanakh, the very beginning of the Torah, and it's one of our coolest things, so it seems appropriate to start at the chronological beginning.
Lulav: And that's specifically for Breishit 1:31, right?
Jaz: So, we open with this invocation. There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. (Lulav laughs) And we continue with this lil description in that opening stance of like, and then, on the seventh day, G-d completed the work which G-d had been doing, and they rested, they Shabbat-ed, as Lulav said when we were reading it over together earlier.
Lulav: The line that comes right after that line is basically the same thing, but with a different verb right up front.
Jaz: So, the thing that we were looking at had these two lines—
Jaz: —that went like this: "Vay'chal Elohim bayom hash'vi-i m'lachto asher asah," followed by, "Vayishbot bayom hash'vi-i mikol m'lachto asher asah." So, those are very similar sentences, but they have different verbs. The first one opens with "vay'chal," and the second one opens with "vayishbot."
Lulav: Mm-hmm. And so, I was trying to deconstruct that second verb, because Jaz, pretty immediately, got that the first one was "completed," right? And it finished—it being G-d here—
Lulav: Great. And then there's the verb "vayishbot."
Lulav: And the "va" at the beginning is just a conjunction, right?
Jaz: No. But that's okay.
Lulav: The "va" at the beginning is a word part that isn't part of the root, the shoresh, right?
Lulav: And then "yi" is part of the conjugation?
Lulav: So that leaves shin-bet-tav, which y'all may remember from Shabbat! So, in figuring this out, I was like, "Oh! It Shabbat-ed."
Jaz: Right. Which is to say, G-d rested.
Jaz: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) The other two letters there, the yud would mark it as future-tense, except that the vav is there as a vav reversive, which means it is past-tense.
Jaz: Anyway. (laughs)
Jaz: Anyway, so this opening thing that's like, "Yeah, Shabbat is happening." (Lulav laughs) "This is where Shabbat comes from."
Lulav: Really deriving from first principles here.
Jaz: Yes. And then... A thing that I actually did go look up is... Sometimes when you're in groups of people, somebody opens with that and then you hear "savri." And I realized that I actually didn't know why we do that. Like, I know that root, samech-bet-reish. It's "svar," which is like, "reason" out, or "have an opinion about," or "feel deep in your gut."
Jaz: The organization Svara comes from this root, and they translate it as something like "moral intuition," which I love. But I didn't know like I said at the end of that section.
Jaz: I did a little bit of research and it seems to be something like, asking the people gathered there to affirm that what they just heard jives with their own moral intuition.
Jaz: Yeah. And people often respond to it like, "L'chaim!" Which is a, like, "Yeahh!" in this context. (both laugh)
Lulav: Good. It feels to me kind of a "Q.E.D." Or maybe like saying, "Therefore," but like, more poetic than that, clearly. So then, where do we go from that?
Jaz: So then, you go into the specific blessing over the wine itself, which is the ostensible reason for Kiddush.
Jaz: 'Cause you do all of Kiddush while, like, holding up a glass of wine.
Jaz: Which is great.
Lulav: "First, before we bless this glass of wine, lemme tell you the story" (Jaz laughs) "of where all our blessings come from. That's right."
Jaz: So, that one is very straightforward. Follows the structure of a lot of different blessings, especially blessings over food, but also just, blessings in general that starts with, "Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam." And then at the end, you get to the specific of the thing you're blessing, which is, in this case, for wine, the fruit of the vine, "borei p'ri hagafen."
Jaz: And then, there is a quick repetition of, "hey, do you remember the history of the Jewish people and how we got to where we are today?" (Lulav laughs) "We're so happy that we got to be here to celebrate Shabbat, which is great." And I really appreciate this final bit of it. It feels like the centerpiece of welcoming in Shabbat, because it talks about, like, G-d who brought us out of Mitzrayim, and brings us together to celebrate Shabbat in holiness, and it's like, a beautiful reminder of why are we doing this anyway? Like, what do we get out of this? A reminder that we do it 'cause we're Jewish, 'cause we can, 'cause it's special to set aside this time, because there's love and joy in doing so.
Lulav: If there's anything kinda central about Jewish liturgy, it's that it contains its own, "Hey, why are we doing this?" most of the time.
Jaz: Yeah! (both laugh) Which is also, I think, kind of what the "savri" is there for, about like... y'all good? Y'all in? Ready to move on to the next part? (laughs)
Jaz: Any interruptions? Any questions? You know...
Lulav: "I don't think they should be married."
Jaz: (laughs) Exactly. Which brings us, very nicely—
Jaz: —into Lecha Dodi.
Lulav: Okay! (Jaz laughs) Not expecting that segue, all right.
Jaz: We are, I will own to you, doing this in what I considered somewhat chronological order, but this is not how Shabbat services are organized.
Lulav: Hey, yeah.
Jaz: Even a little bit. I'm just owning that. That's not what this is today. (laughs)
Lulav: Also, there's a lot more that goes into a Shabbat service—
Jaz: Oh, yeah.
Lulav: —so if you've never been to a Shabbat service, try it! Even if you don't particularly like the shul that's hosting it over Zoom or whatever, it's nice to see, like, what they do? And you might like 'em.
Jaz: I find Friday night services really lovely. They're some of my favorite services. I'm in a new place, and I'm gonna be shul-shopping, or maybe going from independent minyan to independent minyan, like...
Jaz: But I imagine some actual shul-shopping also, because I want a shul to be at on the high holidays. (Lulav laughs) But I do like Friday night services, and I recommend finding ones that work for you, because they come in lots of different varieties. Lecha Dodi also comes in so many different tunes and styles, and I really like lots of them.
Lulav: Can you say what your favorite tune is?
Jaz: It's hard for me to pick a tune, partially because I'm not very musical, like I really like a lot of music but I can't name it that well, which is to say, if you burst into a tune I might recognize it but I can't necessarily summon up all of the tunes I've ever heard. But, you know, there's a few that I know that I hear frequently, you know? When I was planning for this episode, and reading over Lecha Dodi and all its lyrics, I did start singing it to myself then, I think, one that I'd heard one of the more recent times I went to a minyan in person, which was...a long time ago. (Lulav laughs) I used to go really regularly pre-pandemic, but I was singing to myself the one that goes, (singing) "Lecha dodi likrat kallah, p'nei Shabbat n'kabelah, lecha dodi likrat kallah, p'nei Shabbat n'kabelah."
Lulav: And I think Shir Tikvah sometimes does that one, but usually how they do it is this is a very long poem and we hit most, if not all, of the stanzas—
Jaz: Mm-hmm. So they sing it—
Lulav: By about the sixth or seventh stanza, it's taken us like 20 minutes to get there, and it's like, okay, maybe we need a different tune. And so it goes like (clapping)—
Jaz: (singing a different tune) "Lecha dodi likrat kallah, lai lai lai, lai lai lai, lai lai lai." (laughs)
Lulav: (singing) "P'nei Shabbat n'kabela-a-a-ah."
Lulav: There's a lot.
Jaz: There's lots of different tunes. Some of which are faster and some are slower. Depends kinda on the mood you're looking for, but one of the things that's fun about Lecha Dodi. The words "lecha dodi" together. The first one is based on "lech," which is the same as in, like, parshat Lech lecha, like, "go forth,"
Jaz: —which is when Abraham is told to leave his father's house, and this one is like, "go forth! Come."
Lulav: Go forth, my dod.
Jaz: The "i" at the end of "dodi" is a first-person singular possessive, so "lecha dodi" is like, "go forth, my beloved."
Lulav: I like dode.
Lulav: Sounds like "dude." It's like you're giving your beloved some daps.
Lulav: Okay. Wow, left me hanging. (Jaz laughs) That's real toxic. (both laugh) Anyway.
Jaz: And in this case, the "beloved," "dodi," is Shabbat, who's being addressed specifically in the feminine, even though we talked about Shabbat isn't inherently always in the feminine, and there's different interpretations, like, I think the other day my friend Meli was talking about how there's different commentators who have talked about, sometimes, Shabbat in one breath as a queen and in the next breath as a king, which...fun genderfluid Shabbat! I'm into it.
Jaz: But anyway. There's also explicit references to Shabbat as a "kalah," a bride. But that's all the opening line, which gets repeated many times, but there are different stanzas in between.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. It's an acrostic, right?
Lulav: I can't remember the exact phrase, but the stanzas of Lecha Dodi are an acrostic for like—
Jaz: Oh, that dude's name.
Lulav: The name of the dude who wrote it.
Jaz: Yes. I did know that. I thought you were talking about, like—sorry. There's a bunch of Jewish poetry that's like, every single letter of the alphabet, and I was like, it's not that kind of poem—but you're right. It is one of those ones that just, like, spells out the name of the poet who wrote it, which I don't remember, so it didn't work on me. (both laugh)
Lulav: We might be able to derive it if we just—
Jaz: I don't want to! But I—
Lulav: Yeah, let's not.
Jaz: But useful to note that Lecha Dodi isn't Biblical poetry, it was written by a dude whose name we know.
Lulav: (laughs) Sorry, that's just a really funny way of saying, like, instead of, we have some Biblical redactors who took this oral tradition and made it into a thing and just, a dude whose name we know. (laughs)
Jaz: It's only written in the 16th century.
Jaz: So it's fairly recent.
Lulav: So like, not even medieval, but like—
Jaz: No no no.
Lulav: (French accent) Renaissance.
Jaz: It feels so iconic to us, but it is relatively recent in the span of Jewish history.
Lulav: Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz.
Jaz: Yes. Who's from Thessaloniki, which had a large Jewish population, I think, at the time.
Jaz: And one of the things that's fun about it is that it's definitely a poem, and it is inspired, theoretically, by Shir Hashirim, by Song of Songs.
Lulav: Hmm. I can dig it. Yeah.
Jaz: Yeah. Which is also very much like Biblical poetry that's holy, but also is a love poem.
Jaz: You know? So like...
Lulav: Kinda makes sense that this dude spelled his own name with the stanzas.
Lulav: And what do you think of the imagery here?
Jaz: It's beautiful—
Jaz: It's not as beautiful as Shir Hashirim, but it is beautiful. It's about… let's all go out and greet the bride, there's blessings, and beauty, and regal-ness... I would be really interested in someone who played with Lecha Dodi and was like, what if we wrote it and it's a love poem and it's about, like, the highest form of beauty and love and adoration and it didn't rely on royalty metaphors to achieve that?
Jaz: I think this is, in some ways, very of its time (Lulav laughs) and I would be curious to see a different type of attempt that really still focused on, like, beauty and poetry, it's not like a political treatise, but it picked a different metaphor.
Lulav: Yeah. It… usually I zone out for the first, like, five stanzas, and then I'm like, "Oh, whoa, it's Shabbat. I should not be zoning out. Lemme, uhhh, think actively about the text that we're reading," and then I look at it, and there's all this stuff about, like, the walls of Yerushalayim and princes and stuff, and… I never liked the text as much as I liked the "yai lai lai"ing along with everyone else.
Jaz: Well, so the last stanza —
Jaz: —that comes after, like, "and all who come to destroy you will be destroyed." (Lulav laughs) "And also, in your radiance, the world will be bright." But after all that, after this thing that's like, "nis'mechah venagilah." Joy and rejoicing. Then, everybody stands up, turns towards the door, where Shabbat is gonna be coming in, in all her beauty and amazingness, and in that one, we start with, "Bo’i v’shalom," like, "come in in peace," and that stanza is all about like, in happiness and in songs among us, come on in. "Bo’i chala, bo’i chala," that's like, "come in, lovely bride, come in, lovely bride."
Lulav: Yeah. And ostensibly the reason that you throw open the doors is like, hey, anyone in the community can also come in, even if they don't know what the hell's going on.
Jaz: Oh, that's interesting. I haven't—I mean, I believe that. I had heard that as an interpretation for why you open the door for Elijah at Passover—
Jaz: I hadn't heard it as much about Shabbat.
Lulav: I might be making that up.
Jaz: But I like it.
Lulav: Right? (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. Everybody should get rest. Everybody deserves rest.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Everybody should come to the oneg, we always have a little extra food.
Jaz: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) And then you do often end with the, like, yai lai lais of whatever tune you have picked. You keep going, in just pure joyous noise.
Jaz: I love that that's built in. At the services that I tend to go to when I can, part of how you know it's a nice atmosphere is that, once you've picked a tune, if you don't know the words, you can "yai lai lai" along, and that is always the right words. (Lulav laughs) And usually you can pick up the Lecha Dodi chorus, 'cause we say it a lot of times.
Lulav: That was probably the first part of any Shabbat liturgy that I learned, even when I had no idea what was going on with Shabbat liturgy. (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. It's a nice one. I like it.
Jaz: There's fun things that people have done in terms of thinking about what kind of queen and what kind of bride, and if you were to imagine Shabbat, like—she doesn't have to be any one particular kind of thing, you know?
Lulav: Project Runway challenge where you design an outfit for the Shabbat Bride based on one of the stanzas of Lecha Dodi.
Jaz: I love that. (both laugh) There was a, like, Jewish crafting competition—
Jaz: —that happened a while back. And if they do it again, they should make that one of the competition things.
Lulav: Anything else that comes to mind about Lecha Dodi?
Jaz: You know, I love seeing different people's interpretations about Lecha Dodi. I love seeing, like, people who are posting on Twitter about being gay for the Shabbos bride. I'm just, like—it's a very sweet.. And the idea that, like, Shabbos bride comes every week, marries the whole Jewish people, (Lulav laughs) each and every one of us. The reason they choose "bride" is bride was historically like — on a bride's wedding day, she's supposed to be the most beautiful person in the world, or like, the one deserving of all of the attention.
Lulav: Also, her family is often bringing gifts, so that you can take their daughter off their hands.
Jaz: Somehow I don't know if that's what the poet had in mind, but uhh...
Lulav: But no! Like, the gift is rest. The Shabbat bride comes, and the dowry is… some rest, some cows and chickens, you know...
Jaz: That's nice. (Lulav laughs) Okay.
Lulav: Yeah. I wasn't being that cynical, I was just being kinda cynical. (laughs)
Jaz: Okay. All right, do you wanna talk to us about the text you brought?
Lulav: Yes. So. I brought the first prayer from the Amidah, which is, like, silent time for you to pray. You know more about this than I do because you grew up in it, and everything I've got is from context—
Lulav: But, basically, it's the part in the service where you've already said like, "Hey, listen up everybody, Hashem is our G-d, and Hashem is one thing."
Lulav: That is many things. Hashem is everything.
Lulav: And it's after that, and it's after you've said, "Hey, Hashem, circumcise my lips so that my mouth may declare your praise..." Interestingly, right after that one, right, it goes into the silent meditation.
Jaz: Right, so, the thing about an Amidah that's interesting, and why it is interesting to me that you picked it, though I'm excited that you did, is—the Amidah comes in both silent and spoken aloud versions—
Jaz: The Amidah changes what you say, the Amidah is part of the weekday service and Shabbat service. It's present in a lot of different ways. It's very central, as a prayer, and it means literally "standing up," like, this is a prayer that you stand for.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. Including in the spirit.
Jaz: Yeah. It's not just about like, physically you rise up. Not everybody can do that, not everybody does—
Jaz: But like, in general—
Lulav: The standing itself is not as important. (laughs)
Jaz: But it matters that it's called that, because it's a highlighting of like, this one's very central. It's a pillar.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. It's also — the standing is how you indicate that a quorum is still doing their prayer.
Lulav: There was a tumblr post, many years ago, that combined my interests of Homestuck and Judaism— (laughs) —that was like, Vriska and Terezi have a competition where they try to sit down the fastest during Amidah and see who will go along, which I didn't like. My personal favorite there would be, they keep standing the longest, to see how long they can keep the entire congregation in a time of silent prayer and meditation on their stuff. And that's what I personally do, not as a prank, but because I wanna take as much time as possible to go through the readings that we've been provided with, and like, for some people, they don't go through these prayers, they go through their own prayers, like, talking over things that have been going on in their week, things that they have hoped for, or are worried about, or not necessarily prayers but just, like, thinking, quiet meditation, and… yeah. At Shir Tikvah services, usually the, like, last two people up are me and Khesed, and I haven't actually asked Khesed what's going on their end, but on my end, it is literally just reading through all of the prayers, and I started this when I didn't know any Hebrew—
Jaz: And now you know quite a bit!
Lulav: Yeah, and so, when I started it, I was using Avot V'imahot as a way to start to learn Hebrew, while everybody's, like, standing and mumbling to themselves, just kind of look at the Hebrew texts, which I couldn't quite read 'cause I didn't know the alef-bet, but look at the transliteration, look at the translation, and how those maybe relate to each other. And as time went on, I would try to read the Hebrew itself.
Jaz: Now that you can do that!
Lulav: Yeah. So, some weeks, if I hadn't met to shul in a while, which was a very common experience, because who goes outside? Yeah, some weeks, I would just pick up from Avot V'imahot, and just tried to get all the way through it, and then, you know, say the concluding lines of all the rest of the prayers before I would sit down, but if I had been going to shul pretty regularly, I might do Avot V'imahot the first week, and then the second week, do the next prayer, and then the third week do the next one, and just, like, spend time thinking about the central concepts that were trying to be conveyed in this liturgy.
Lulav: I also had a really fun time at Beth Jacob's service once. That's a Conservative shul—
Lulav: —because they just said it out loud?
Lulav: I've been working on this for a year and he just tweeted it out.
Jaz: It is very strange to me. Like, different shuls that I've been at do it differently, and—
Jaz: I know that and I accept that, but there's certain things were like, I learned them because we all did them out loud and it would have been harder for me to learn them if we hadn't all done them out loud, but some places don't do them out loud, you know?
Jaz: Also, I have respect for some of that. A lot of places don't do the second line of the Shema out loud, and I understand why they don't, and I don't do it out loud anymore.
Jaz: But I did learn it because we did—you know, like. (Lulav laughs) So.
Lulav: Yeah, basically what we're saying is, there are a lot of different strokes for different folks, and the Amidah is kind of the acme of those different strokes, because if you are doing it silent, everybody gets a chance to like, maybe they're mumbling under their breath a little, so it's a little bit out loud, which is what I do, mostly on accident, but also sometimes on purpose, but I try to be quiet for the people around me.
Lulav: And, you know, sometimes it's completely silent and sometimes there aren't even words, just thoughts. And...yeah I really enjoy it. So, this is Avot V'imahot, which in Mishkan T'filah, the Reform siddur—
Lulav: —that we use that my usual shul, it's the first one in the Amidah.
Lulav: I'm not sure the extent to—
Jaz: I do wanna—
Lulav: —which that's true everywhere...
Jaz: What I was gonna actually say, because I had said that we would do this chronologically, and then lied, because there was such a good transition into Lecha Dodi—
Jaz: Yeah, well, it was just too good to pass up. Just to give a teeny bit of history about the Amidah and where it comes from, before you dive into the text?
Jaz: The Amidah should be, chronologically, between Kiddush and Lecha Dodi, because the beginning of the Kiddush comes from the Torah—
Jaz: The Amidah was compiled in roughly the fifth century BCE.
Jaz: But it really dramatically expanded into what we now know in more Talmudic times, which is like 200-300 CE.
Lulav: All right.
Jaz: So it's definitely not like, Torah, but it's also not like, 16th century. (both laugh)
Lulav: Can I read—?
Jaz: Jump in, yeah.
Lulav: Yeah. So it goes, "Baruch atah Hashem, Eloheinu v'Elohei avoteinu v'imoteinu, Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzchak, v'Elohei Yaakov, Elohei Sarah, Elohei Rivkah, Elohei Rachel, v'Elohei Leah. Ha-El hagadol hagibor v'hanora, El elyon, gomeil chasadim tovim, v'koneih hakol, v'zocheir chasdei avot v'imahot, umeivi g'ulah livnei v'neihem l'maan sh'mo b'ahavah. Melech ozeir umoshia umagen. Baruch atah, Hashem, magein Avraham v'ezrat Sarah."
Jaz: Beautifully done.
Lulav: And so there's a lot going on here, and I wanted to just walk through the lines, and point out the ones that I feel particularly good about. So it starts out, you know, talking about our G-d and the G-d of those before us. It says "eloheinu," our G-d, "Elohei avoteinu," the God of our fathers, "elohei imoteinu," the God of our mothers.
Lulav: So, like, it's an emphasis that this is a tradition that includes everyone, and is like, backwards in time.
Jaz: Yeah! I mean, my understanding is that's a later addition, right? We added—
Lulav: Oh, yeah.
Jaz: —the "imoteinu" in the last couple 100 years.
Jaz: I'm not opposed to editing liturgy, but I do think it's useful to know that we've edited it—
Jaz: —rather than saying, like, this was always there! No no no. (Lulav laughs) We had to add that back in.
Lulav: Right. And there are a couple things that you can say about that, which is like, we don't care about women, or just saying the masculine thing includes everybody?
Lulav: And so people can have different ideas about it, like, you won't hear me often saying that I enjoy things about Reform liturgy, but like, I enjoy that the Reform liturgy specifies "avoteinu v'imoteinu"—
Lulav: —has both that list of the Patriarchs, and of the Matriarchs—
Lulav: And I can also see being like, "No, let's just say avoteinu but still list all the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs." (laughs)
Jaz: Yeah. Sometimes there are ways in which I am frustrated by that, like, in the children's blessing—
Jaz: For boys, it was traditionally, "May you be blessed to be like Ephraim and Menashe"—
Jaz: And for girls, they just decided, "we'll put in the matriarchs?" And it's like, well. Boys' version didn't just have the patriarchs. Didn't in fact have the patriarch at all, it has these other people who are here specifically because they were siblings that got along really well, unusually for the Torah?
Jaz: And I would love really to have a feminine version that, like, recognized where they came from and wasn't just like, "Uhhh… these are the only women we know how to put in liturgy!"
Lulav: Yeah. Yeah.
Lulav: You can even just say, "May these girls be blessed like Ephraim and Menashe," because the entire point is that Yisrael was placing his hands on the heads of Ephraim and Menashe and giving them blessings, and they got along well and all that.
Lulav: I dunno. Point is, we go from that beginning of inclusion, to a reminder of all the major pre-Egypt figures that we hold as ancestors. Jaz, can you give me a couple of words about what you remember of those major pre-Egypt figures of your ancestors?
Jaz: I remember a lot of things about them. What are you looking for here?
Lulav: What do they make you think of, when you think about them?
Jaz: I mean, these are all figures who have interesting stories. They're at the fun part of the Bible, where there's just a lot of story going on. Those stories are familial in nature, rather than being nation focused. They're extremely dysfunctional.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. The reason that I ask is, usually what comes up for me when I think about the Patriarchs and Matriarchs is: these people are so nasty! They're so mean! (Jaz laughs) And petty, all the time. And so, it's interesting to me that we have, "remember these specific figures, all of whom did really nasty things to the people they care about," and then we go into, like—
Jaz: I don't think that's entirely, 100% fair—
Lulav: Okay. I'll get there. I'll get there.
Jaz: Leah did nothing wrong. Anyway, continue.
Lulav: (laughs) I think she was petty back, after several years, but...whatever. So then there's cheerleading that melds into descriptions of wielding chesed, you know, saying, "G-d is great, G-d is good. Yay, G-d." And then the line about wielding chesed that I want to bring up is, "remembers the kindness of ancestors," "zocheir chasdei avot v'imahot."
Lulav: Because the way that we are calling this G-d that is being prayed to—
Lulav: —is as one who remembers the kindnesses.
Lulav: Not, like focusing on all the nasty stuff, and the trading some beans for a birthright, and all those things. It's focusing on the wife who stuck together with her husband through a lot of travel in a very unfamiliar place, instead of the lady who threw out her other woman—
Lulav: —and that lady's infant son. So yeah. This is a prayer about like focusing on the kindnesses, about being kind to each other. And then there's some bit about, "brings redemption to their children, to defend the name in love." And then we end with, "Melech ozeir umoshia umagen"—
Lulav: —which, in the English translation that Mishkan T'filah has, it's translated as "sovereign, deliverer, helper, and shield." I only see conjunctions before "deliverer and shield."
Lulav: So it—the way that I would translate it is as "helpful supervisor, deliverer, and shield." Do you think that's fair, in that "melech" and "ozeir" are supposed to be read together?
Jaz: I'm okay with that. (Lulav laughs) You can do a slightly more outside translation, and they can too.
Lulav: Where there are letters, or where there are no letters, this too is an important thing to the reading of Torah. So, yeah, it's these different aspects that are, like, instead of being "sovereign, helper," my reading is "helpful supervisor." But it's about delivering people from bad places, about helping, about being a shield, and all of these are really nice aspects to think about, especially at the beginning of the Amidah.
Lulav: And then the "Baruch atah Hashem," that finishes it out is "magein Avraham v'ezrat Sarah," the shield of Abraham and the helper of Sarah.
Lulav: So. I like it. There's a lot to learn from if you are just learning Hebrew, and like, just learning, I dunno, Jewish concepts? And I found it very personally helpful to me.
Jaz: That's lovely.
Lulav: Thank you. So, we have a Consolation to talk about.
Lulav: Because we've talked about our favorite parts of Shabbat. Would you say Lecha Dodi is your favorite part of Shabbat?
Jaz: It's hard for me to pick a favorite, but it is a prayer that I like a lot.
Lulav: Okay. It's a favorite.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. So, can you tell us a Consolation, one of your many favorites of things to think about for the future?
Jaz: Yeah. So, I just got a new book.
Lulav: Oooh. What is it?
Jaz: I got a new book from Ben Yehuda Press, which was having a Pride sale a bit ago, so I got it on sale with the code GAYFORBOOKS. Great. And the book is called is: Heretical Jewish Blessings and Poems, by Yaakov Moshe. And I have not made it very far in the book, but (Lulav laughs) the initial poem starts, "If you have an idea of G-d, it is not G-d. G-d negates your idea. G-d is not anything you can think of, except everything. G-d is not anywhere you can be, except here. And when you are only here, you are not here." And it reminded me so strongly of Octavia Butler's Earthseed idea, and its central poem.
Lulav: Which you've read here before.
Jaz: Which I've read before, but it bears repeating 'cause it's related. I have it up, but I'm gonna see if I can do this from memory, 'cause I've said this a lot, which is... "Whatever you touch, you change. Whatever you change, changes you. The only constant is change. G-d is change."
Lulav: I love that you translated it into and then out of Hebrew? (both laugh) You got the spirit of it very much, but not the exact words, and that's great.
Jaz: Aaaaah. Alright, give it—
Lulav: I think it's especially great because this is developed by a character who is in mid-2020s America. (laughs) And so is ostensibly speaking the same language.
Jaz: Alright. Give us the real one. Okay.
Lulav: "All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. G-d is change."
Jaz: Alright, I was close.
Lulav: Yeah exactly—that's what I'm saying. You got it. (laughs) The things that they talked about in Parable of the Sower is, "hey, isn't all this Earthseed stuff that you're writing down gonna change eventually?"
Jaz: You're reading Parable of the Sower—?
Lulav: I read, in the course of a single day, 'cause that's how I consume books.
Jaz: Oh, that's right. It's not always, but it is often how you consume books—
Jaz: You were reading it on our train up to Boston.
Lulav: Yeah, exactly.
Jaz: That's right. In a period of transition and change. One of the things I talked to my therapist about before I moved is accepting that like, constant transition is always gonna be part of my life. He was commenting on how many times I've moved since I've been working with him, and he's like, "And maybe when you move to Boston, you'll settle into a place for a while," and I was like, "So I think I might be at this next place for a year, and then I might move into another place for another two years, and then I'll be abroad for a year, and then I'll probably move into another place for my last two years of school, and then I'll probably move somewhere else." (Lulav laughs) And he was like, "Alright. Alright. Well." (Lulav laughs) I don't know that that's gonna be the specific way it works, but it seems plausible that it will be.
Jaz: And also, like, I'm gonna move here, and then I'm gonna spend some time, like, getting settled and making friends, and then I might move houses the next year, but also, I want to change my name legally, which I haven't done, and also sometime in the period of being at school here I might go on hormones, and... Those are just, like, changes I already now can know about, (Lulav laughs) and can anticipate.
Jaz: But there's always gonna be different periods of change. You know, my family—my parents moved cities across the country, to a city they've never lived in before, and if you told me that a year ahead of time, I would have not believed it quite—
Lulav: There? (laughs)
Jaz: And, uh—
Lulav: That city?
Jaz: Right. And the two of us are talking about living together in the future, which is also a wild thing. Also, we're winding down out podcast. We're gonna be ending this format of the podcast at the end of this season—
Lulav: Of weekly episodes.
Jaz: Of weekly episodes. We're not gonna be doing that, at the end of this season, because I'm gonna be in school, and it's just too much, so...
Lulav: And I have ADHD, and it's just too much.
Jaz: So, you know, it's been a great project for both of us, and a two-year one, and it's gonna be different. But that'll also free both of us up to do other new and exciting projects. So...
Lulav: Does being different mean that it won't be, Jaz?
Jaz: Well, for our podcast specifically, we're gonna be taking something of a pause, so we'll be releasing some bonus content, and—
Lulav: If we decide to make episodes, it'll be because we decide to make episodes, not because we're obligated to.
Jaz: Yeah. So, we're not gonna be maintaining a frequent schedule in the same way. For now, you could think of season two as sort of the end of the regular run of the podcast. That we may put out occasional stuff after that, and we reserve the right to come back to do a, like, more, full, third season at some point in the future, but that's not what we're doing at the moment.
Jaz: But I...there's so many new opportunities and possibilities in a world where things change all the time, and often things do change in really harmful ways, like, the world really does change and get scary, and we're living in a time of climate change, and... You know, there's a lot of things happening, and we can't just be afraid of change. We have to know that change is happening, and we have to reckon with that reality, because things aren't gonna stop changing just because we want them to.
Jaz: We have to do things, actively, to make sure that when things change, they change for the better, or at least, when things change, we, as humans, take steps to take care of each other, given those changes.
Lulav: Yeah. Part of the foundational text of Earthseed, from The Parable of the Sower, is that G-d shapes you, and you shape G-d. You shaped the change that is going on around you, and you are shaped by it, and you just gotta make sure to do as good of a shape as you can.
Jaz: Yeah. All right. I think that brings us—
Lulav: To the—oh. Do you want to rate Shabbat?
Lulav: Okay, sounds good. I give it seven out of seven, because it's the seventh day.
Lulav: (laughs) Jaz, can you take us to the close?
Jaz: I sure can. Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers. 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 keep making this for you. Also, if you can't commit to ongoing support but would still like to contribute, you can give to our Ko-fi, which is at ko-fi.com/kosherqueers. Find out more information about our podcast, including bios for our team and links to our social media, at kosherqueers.gay. Also, please spread the word about Kosher Queers. 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: And I cannot emphasize enough that Ezra Faust did the episode two ago, where, in the actual audio, we said that I did it. I didn't do a single bit of episode 91, and Ezra took care of that so that Jaz and I could have, like, a week where just moved them into Boston. So, I'm very thankful for that. I'm pretty sure I'm actually going to be editing episode 93, but I wanted to shout out those credits in audio and not just in our episode notes. Jaz Twersky, on the other hand, makes sure that every episode gets transcribed. They do so with the similarly much-appreciated help of JJ Jensen, who you can find @pantspossum on Twitter. You can find the link to the transcripts that Jaz and JJ do in our episode descriptions at kosherqueers.gay, where you can also see if Jaz needed to rope in additional help for the episode.
Jaz: Yeah. I'm Jaz Twersky.
Lulav: Where can we find you on the internet?
Jaz: You should go just check out the Kosher Queers account on Twitter.
Lulav: I'm Lulav Arnow, and you can find me @palmliker on Twitter.
Jaz: So, because Lulav has so helpfully agreed to move me into my new location, we're both in Boston. I have been doing my research on Boston, in a variety of different ways. Normally, this is where we put the land acknowledgement.
Jaz: And it's important to me that the land acknowledgement not just be—
Lulav: Points to a map?
Jaz: Yeah, not just be a rote thing? But I don't know as much about the history of this land as I do about the ones that I lived on for long periods of time. So, I have been doing, in a variety of ways, different research on this land and who's been here and, hopefully, somewhat self-evidently, like Massachusetts, the state, is named after the Indigenous people who lived here, the Massachusett, but I don't think I've got it quite right, but there's also, the Pawtucket people who were in this area, and we're now a little north of, like, the Wampanoag, but also, like, when colonization happened, a lot of people got moved around, around here, is my understanding. And also, like, this is a place with a lot of documented history of, like, where early colonists came to the US started Christianizing people, by which I mean, sending missionaries and trying to convert people and also giving them smallpox, and also killing them. And it's an area with a lot of historic activism and a lot of historic grief.
Jaz: And I want to know more and be able to come back with a more, sort of full set of knowledge, but I am new to this area, and I don't know all of the things yet.
Jaz: That said, really appreciate you all listening to this podcast and this episode—
Lulav: —and we hope you have a lovely queer Jewish day.
Jaz: This week's gender is: contained in multiple cardboard boxes.
Lulav: This week's pronouns are: bo/box.