Kosher Queers

98 — Vayelech: Ice-Skating Tzadikim

September 09, 2021 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow Season 2 Episode 98
Kosher Queers
98 — Vayelech: Ice-Skating Tzadikim
Show Notes Transcript

Shana tova! This week, we talk about unsatisfying endings, concise prophets, and how a DM slide can be a radical gift of honesty. Also, the pluses and minuses of smooth roads, insufficiently Jewish translation choices, and what having four different answers to the same question means, Talmudically speaking. 

Transcript here.

This week's reading is a combination of Hosea 14:2-10, and Micah 7:18-20 and Joel 2:15-27. Next week's reading is Samuel II 22:1-51

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Ezra Faust, and our transcript was written by JJ Jensen, who you can follow on Twitter @pantspossum. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

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Jaz: Shana tova u'metuka. How are you?

Lulav: And to you as well, my friend. I am doing okay. We are recording this in the past, where it is not yet metuka, not yet a shana tova, but soon.

Jaz: Why not sweet at the moment?

Lulav: Well, it's still 5781, which is a pretty garbage year, all told.

Jaz: (laughs) Okay.

Lulav: But for the people hearing this, it's 5782. The years just keep marching onwards. And, not to jinx it, like every other year has been incredibly jinxed of late, but hopefully this is a good one.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: What are your plans for Rosh Hashanah, Jaz?

Jaz: That is a great question that I don't 100% know the answer to, but I imagine that I am doing some small Rosh Hashanah services locally. Hopefully, outside. But being still new to the area, I don't have everything fully nailed down. (Lulav laughs) So.

Lulav: That's fair.

Jaz: But I believe I will be going with my roommate to a local service, where they're like, checking our vaccinations and stuff. (Lulav laughs) So, the beginning of the year is a funny time to be shul shopping, because High Holiday services --

Lulav: Oof.

Jaz: — are so different --

Lulav: OOOF. 

Jaz: from services the rest of the year.

Lulav: They sure are.

Jaz: But I will nevertheless be trying out a new place, and then going shul-shopping in this new Jewish year.

Lulav: Yay. I wrote for myself a very important note, which is "get apples."

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Because, despite the fact that I asked you what your Rosh Hashanah plans are, like you have specific ones, (spluttering) Ehh? I dunno! I always go into the High Holidays extremely unprepared. That could be a thing that I improve with time.

Jaz: Yeah. I don't feel so much, like, spiritually unprepared, and I know that for Jewish professionals, it's just a very busy time of year, which is partly why --

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: --a bunch of people just haven't been answering my emails of late. (Lulav laughs) So I have a lot of sympathy for people who are running services, and trying to make it work, which is always a hard thing to do, and is only a harder thing to do this year, especially as you want to do them safely.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: So, do you have — if not explicits plans for the High Holidays, hopes for the High Holidays, or the year to come? 

Lulav: Yeah. This is all gonna be pretty small, unfortunately. But I have hopes that I will take care of myself. In something that makes this a shana marah, I recently refilled a couple as-needed prescriptions. The reason I say that is — they are bitter, rather than sweet.

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: I like a good bitter taste. Anyway, so the idea is, if my face is feeling itchy, maybe I take some valacyclovir. If I'm feeling nauseous or have a headache, maybe I take some sumatriptan and head that off at the pass. So the energy that I'm bringing me into this new year 5782 is actually taking care of my needs.

Lulav: And… yeah. We've got our new roommate, so a big thing there will be making sure that everybody feels at home, and I have been feeling closer to my roommates, the last couple days. There's something about having a minimum of four people living here that just, you know, you end up talking more when there are conversations in the main room. More people come in and have conversations. So, yeah, my hopes are to take care of myself, to take care of my friends, and to have happy casual conversations. Any hopes for you, Jaz?

Jaz: This upcoming year is gonna be my first year of rabbinical school --

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: — and it's a year in which I hope to learn many new things. It's a year in which I hope to make beautiful and important new connections --

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And also hold onto beautiful and important connections that I already have. It's a year in which I hope to experiment with my Jewish practices.

Lulav: Heck yeah. 

Jaz: And it's a year in which I hope to deepen, also, my understanding of how I wanna live into my gender --

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: — a little bit.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: Which is to say that I'm hoping to change my name this year, legally speaking, and maybe also change my name Jewishly --

Lulav: Oooh.

Jaz: — ritually speaking. And maybe other things. So, yeah. I also have new roommates, and I hope that that is a nice experience, and I imagine we will not be roommates for the whole of 5782, if things go as planned, but for at least the majority of it. 

Lulav: So you're up to three now. 

Jaz: Four if you count the cat.

Lulav: Oooh. (laughs) Four of you. But it went from two of you to three of you to two of you to four of you? Counting the cat? 

Jaz: I don't quite follow all the back and forths, (Lulav laughs) but there are now three humans and one cat living in the house. Correct. 

Lulav: Not quite a minyan, but still a number required for a good time.

Jaz: I would not be prepared to live with a minyan of people at this exact moment. (Lulav laughs) Do you wanna roll into the episode?

Lulav: Sure!

(Brivele intro)

Lulav: Welcome to Kosher Queers, a podcast with at least two Jews and generally more than three opinions. Each week we bring you queer takes on Torah. They're Jaz — 

Jaz: — and she's Lulav — 

Lulav: — and we're here to joke about Judaism and talk Tanakh together. Today, our chevruta is learning the haftarah of Vayelech, which is, I mean, we're jumping and popping, we are jopping. Let's see here — Hosea 14:2 to 14:10, Micha 7:18 to 7:20, and Yoel 2:15 to 2:27. Fun little selection there. 

Jaz: Yeah. I just think it's very funny. There's all of these different jumping around bits. One of them is, like, very few verses --

Lulav: Literally the last three lines of Micha. (laughs)  

Jaz: Yeah. It is maybe the strangest haftarah we've ever done in that sense.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: They're like, it's the end of the year, we don't have to think about it too much, there's already lots of different stuff going on for the High Holidays, where everything is jumbled anyway.

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, I guess the last seven readings were from Yeshayahu, so they had to cram a bunch of diversity into there. (laughs) In the first, like, non-Consolation.

Jaz: Uh-huh.

Lulav: Oh, also, I guess it's useful to mention that sometimes, when we talk about the Admonitions and the Consolations, where it's three of Admonition and seven of Consolation, it's like, the next two readings are two of teshuvah, so we could read these particular haftarah readings through the lens of, like, how do we make things better? 

Jaz: Yeah. Good addition. 

Lulav: Thank you. So I have a summary of Parshat Vayelech, which is only from one book. Can you give me 35 seconds for that?

Jaz: Sure can. Ready, set, go.

Lulav: Moshe went and said, "I'm old. I'm not coming with you. G-d & Yehoshua will help you exploit weaknesses so you can do genocide and take the land." Then he wrote this Torah down and gave it to the priests and the elders. Then he made clear that you gotta read the whole thing to everybody - including goyim - at shmita Sukkot. After that speech, Hashem called a conference with just Moshe and Yehoshua, wherein it told them that the Israelites are gonna heck it all up - but it's okay; they'll have a poem that tells them what to do! Moshe told the Levites to tuck the Torah into the Ark, and then shared with everyone what G-d had said. He then read "Listen Up," that famous poem that I definitely remembered.

Jaz: Okay, you went a little bit over --

Lulav: Aaah!

Jaz: — but only slightly.

Lulav: Uh-huh. Yeah, I timed it twice, and the first time I got, like, 36 and a half seconds, and the second time I got 32 seconds.

Jaz: Uh-huh.

Lulav: Guess I'm just out of shape.

Jaz: Uh-huh. So, what does that have to do with the haftarah readings that we have?

Lulav: These last, like, five parsha readings are all basically saying, "Welp, this is the end." And similarly, this haftarah reading is some selections of the end. We have the last nine lines of Hosea, the last three lines of Micha, and the last 13 lines of Yoel chapter two, and you might be like, "Lulav, that's not really an ending." To which I say, "No, neither is this!" We end on the cliffhanger of, there's gonna be a poem next time. So that's the, like, structural similarity. This is an ending that continues even so, and the haftarah selection is endings that continue even so. The other half of it, the, like, thematic similarity is Parshat Vayelech is saying things are gonna go poorly, and then they're gonna get better. And so, the haftarah reading is some elaborations on what that means. For the Hosea reading, we could conceive of it is, how do we return after diaspora --

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: — and the quotes that we're given are like, "Instead of bowls, we will pay our lips," prayers rather than sacrifice. We're getting the line, "Assyria shall not save us," and we're told to not mess around with idols. So those are all very good, like, how do we return after diaspora. The Micha reading, that's just three lines, is answering the question, "will this be accepted?" And we get the quotes, "Hashem will take us back in love, and will put truth to our covenant that we made in the name of our ancestors."

Jaz: Okay.  

Lulav: And then the last half of chapter two of Yoel asks, "Who needs to hear this? Gather the people, bid the congregation purify themselves, and let the priests weep." Basically, everybody needs to hear it, and we're gonna put on an extra show to make sure that everybody does. However, we also get some extra lines that I feel like are iffily necessary, that say, "Armies will be cleft in twain and left rotting, while we eat our fill and praise the name." 

Jaz: Okay --

Lulav: That doesn't really answer a question. It's just there.

Jaz: Yes. (Lulav laughs) It's fascinating to me that you're like, "This seems like an extraneous line," because --

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: I have definitely heard you say things like that. 

Lulav: And then take it back, after you explain why it's not at all extraneous. 

Jaz: No, I mean like, I've definitely heard you, as a person, Lulav, say things like, "in a better future, the things of warfare will be that kind of extraneous."

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: And, like, we'll focus on things like feeding the people, and not funding the army.

Lulav: Oh, okay. I like that reading of it. Cool. Okay. So, can you give us a little context on, at the very least, who Yoel is? 

Jaz: Yeah, so, actually, let's take a look. All three of these are minor prophets. Now, a minor prophet doesn't mean necessarily that they're less important, so much as it means they are concise. They have a short book, and so, they are sort of bundled together, all of the little short books, and grouped together as the 12 minor prophets. Chronologically, they span quite a bit of time. Hosea, who we start with, is one of the earliest ones, who's from the eighth century BCE. 

Lulav: Okay, yeah.

Jaz: And Hosea is really focused, in a lot of ways, around connection to G-d specifically, and not on, like, the wealth that could be gotten from other nations, like, don't be seduced away, basically. 

Lulav: Yeah, that super tracks.

Jaz: Micah, who we have next, is a little bit later than that, more contemporaneous with Isaiah, so still pretty early, but at the very, like, end of the eighth century BCE.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: And Joel, who's our last selection, who we have not encountered before, is actually a little bit difficult to place in time. We don't know that much about him from his book. Some of the prophets talk a lot about their own lives. The book of Joel's four chapters, (Lulav laughs) we learn his name and his father's name, and no other facts about him. 

Lulav: Concise both in overall prophecy and in biography.

Jaz: Right. So later, scholars believe that he's prophesying a round the time of the Second Temple --

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: — because of some of his references to different liturgy that I'm not so familiar with.

Lulav: Like, the turns of phrase that he's using?

Jaz: Yes, basically.

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: That those would have been more active and present references around the time of the Second Temple. Which, in case you're like, "I don't know when the time of the Second Temple is," fair. And that's (Lulav laughs) a pretty broad span of time, actually, from the late 500s BCE to about the year 70 CE. 

Lulav: Yeah. So 550 years, about. 

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: (laughs) Great.  

Jaz: So we don't know exactly when he's prophesying. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Or, relatedly, if the events that he's talking about in his book reflect historical things that would have been happening as he spoke, or were more general types of speech that weren't reflective of, like, the politics of the day.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: So, let's go through it, bit by bit.

Lulav: Let's do, starting with Hosea. 

Jaz: So we start at Hosea 14:2, which, to your point about teshuvah, starts with the word "shuvah," "return." (Lulav laughs) "Shuva Yisrael." And they're telling us to return to G-d, because we've made some mistakes. (Lulav laughs) And you take words and things with you, and we get instructions on what we should say, which is a plea, much as we hear around this time of year, to forgive all our guilt, and instead to accept the things that are good.

Lulav: (laughs) And also, I do want to point it back to the, "Instead of bowls, we will pay our lips."

Jaz: Uh-huh.

Lulav: It makes me think of the "Adonai s'fatai tiftach, ufi yagid t'hilatecha."

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: What's that prayer called?

Jaz: I think it's in the Amidah?

Lulav: Okay. So it's just, like, at the top of the Amidah. Cool. But yeah, it's the idea of like, cut my lips to your service, so that they may declare your praise, and similarly here, instead of cutting the covenant with bowls, we are cutting the covenant with our lips. We're offering poetry instead of sacrifice. 

Jaz: Yeah. It is an interesting connection and parallel, because usually I think of that type of rhetoric as happening post the destruction of the Second Temple, and this is definitely well before that. The Second Temple hasn't even been built yet.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. It feels a lot like if you look at political cartoons from, like, 1890, 1910, that kind of era? And they're saying that the exact same problems that are happening now were happening then, and offering the exact same solutions as people now. (laughs) So yeah, like, sometimes people have had the same idea for a while and it comes back up again.

Jaz: Uh-huh. So, then there is also, going back to the idea that this external power, in their case, Assyria, isn't gonna rescue us from the problems, and there's the sort of recognition in Hosea's very, like, you just gotta turn back to G-d and the things we know, instead of, like, trying to pretend something else works. (Lulav laughs) And there is this thing that's like, okay, okay, okay, we've recognized we did wrong. We're not ever again gonna call, like, the work of our own hands a god, because that doesn't work, and we know it doesn't work, because when people are orphaned, the, like, gods we've made out of our own hands can't do anything for them.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. That's a thing we've heard a bunch. 

Jaz: Mm-hmm. And then, G-d speaks of, like, healing, and taking them back in love, and not being angry, and the people of Israel blossoming and taking root, and be beautiful like an olive tree, and fragrant like the cedars of Lebanon. And anybody who's near such thing will blossom as well and also have such beauty.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. Really nice imagery.

Jaz: It is. It's really lovely.

Lulav: Thanks for pointing that out. 

Jaz: And then a sort of revitalization of like, no idols, like why idols when I could bloom like a tree?

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: And this, like, so if you're wise, you'll consider this, the things that I just told you, and like, take note, and then there's this, like, similar to the thing we've heard in the Torah, about how the Torah isn't far away, but like very reachable.

Lulav: Mmm. It is very close to you. 

Jaz: Right. There's this note that the paths are smooth and tzadikim, like, those who are righteous and pursuing justice, can travel easily on them. And if you're not doing that, you will have difficulty with them. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm. This is interesting to me, having lived in the midwest my entire life, because usually when you have a smooth path, that means that it's covered in ice.

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: And it's very dangerous to walk along paths covered in ice, but this is probably coming from a context where there is rarely, if ever, ice. (laughs)

Jaz: Well, two things.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Clearly what we can learn from this is that tzadikim are really good at ice skating. (Lulav laughs) Also, if you're like, riding camels or whatever--

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: It's, like, nice to give your animals a smooth-ish path, 'cause otherwise they have to very carefully pick their feet, or they can fall, or whatever, and also, like, that's why we have paved roads (Lulav laughs) instead of not-paved roads. 

Lulav: Yeah. It makes it so much easier to maintain your inertia. 

Jaz: And also, if you want your place to be accessible in different ways, it's gotta be smooth so that wheelchairs can go up it, and people in the wheelchairs, and if there's like stairs, how are people supposed to traverse it?  

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. Cool. So, what are the three lines from Micha?

Jaz: So, three lines in Micah, as you point out, are also clearly committed to notions of teshuvah --

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: — in that it starts with an idea of forgiveness, like, we have, in Judaism, a whole bunch of things that start off with, like, who is like you? And this one does too, like, mi el kamocha, who is a god like you? And that's a formula that's followed by something that G-d does that is incredible, and here, it's G-d's capacity for forgiveness. 

Lulav: And I think it's important here that line two says what that forgiveness looks like, and then line three says what we have to do to deserve that forgiveness.

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: 'Cause it's not just like, "oh, you are washed in the blood of the lamb. Everything's all right, no matter what you do." It's like, you do have to keep faith with Yaakov.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Or, as I translated it, you do have to put truth to Yaakov.

Jaz: I like that translation better. I think it's a closer inside translation, and also, faith is kind of a wibbly word, and I like this word as "emet," like, "truth."  

Lulav: Yeah, it's like, "titen emet l'Yaakov."

Jaz: Uh-huh.

Lulav: Which, like, "put truth to" is not really a thing that we say in English, but it is a thing where, if you puzzle over it, it's like, oh yeah that totally makes sense. 

Jaz: I would, in some respects, if you wanted to do an even slightly more inside translation, do "give truth," because --

Lulav: Mmm!

Jaz: You know how sometimes, there is a thing where people are like, "I just gotta be honest with you," and then they say something unpleasant.

Lulav: (laughs) Okay.

Jaz: But they don't always feel the need to, like, say, "I just gotta be honest with you," and then say something pleasant.

Lulav: Hey, yeah. 

Jaz: Sometimes, but it's much rarer, and I do actually believe that honesty can sometimes require, like, saying hard things.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: But I also think it requires saying things that are generous of spirit, and that are lovely. (Lulav laughs) And, you know, sometimes different kinds of truths can make you feel vulnerable to people. 

Lulav: Jaz, I gotta be honest here. I really love the intention and emotional intelligence that you bring to your readings of Tanakh.

Jaz: Awww. (Lulav laughs) That was so sweet. I got so caught off guard.

Lulav: Right? It feels weird. (laughs) You're right. I'm glad that we could test that out.

Jaz: Well, so I was thinking of a couple specific things as I was talking. If you'll allow me, I'll bring a small personal example from our lives. 

Lulav: Personal examples? I have famously never said too much about my own life on the podcast.

Jaz: Oh my G-d. 

Lulav: Go ahead. 

Jaz: Shortly before we started dating, there was a moment when we were, like, flirting with each other, but like, not talking about it yet. (Lulav laughs) And then, you reached out to me more directly and asked, and sort of lay more of your cards on the table, of like, "Hey, we have been doing this thing. Is this..."

Lulav: "...okay?"

Jaz: "...okay?" (Lulav laughs) "What are you thinking and feeling? Here's some of what I'm thinking and feeling?" We weren't being dishonest previously.

Lulav: No.

Jaz: But we were being substantially more honest.

Lulav: Right. 'Cause we were focusing on the good and fun things, without having any of the conversations about, like, do you want to be flirting? (Jaz laughs) Is that okay? How does that affect our professional relationshi--that sort of thing.

Jaz: Right. So I think of that in one of those ways of, like, having that kind of direct conversation about it was like, I would put it under this same rubric of, like, a way that you, in particular, like, gave honesty and gave truth, right?

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: As something of a gift. So, I do like formulation of, like, I dunno to deserve, but to get a type of real loving response, sometimes you gotta put more of that honesty on the table.

Lulav: Yeah. Also, I am very touched that you are referring to a DM slide as a gift. That, too, is a rarity. (laughs) So, thanks for that.

Jaz: I think there's a lot of ways of gifting honesty to people, but yes.

Lulav: Uh-huh. And a lot of DM sliding techniques that do not involve gifting honesty to people. (laughs)

Jaz: Yeah, sometimes it's like, "Did I ask for this particular honesty? I did not. Do I want it? I do not."

Lulav: Oof. Yeah. Anyway, speaking of things that we do want, can we continue with these 13 lines from Yoel?

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: (quietly) Yoel.

Jaz: Okay, so this one --

Lulav: (quietly) Yoel.

Jaz: — is… wh— are you gonna keep muttering "Joel" over and over again?

Lulav: Yoel. (laughs) Sorry, when I was doing the, like, renewing prayerbook Hebrew class, Steve, the teacher, really drilled into the difference between the two dots and the three dots, and was like, "Don't say like 'uh,' it's 'eh.' Yo-ehl." So, I try. 

Jaz: That's cute. 

Lulav: Sorry, that was a huge derail. Go ahead. (laughs)

Jaz: I do have an uncle named Joel, which really does keep throwing me off, because I don't encounter the name Joel very often.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Nobody tends to refer to the prophet Joel, so I have known, like, two people in my whole life named Joel, and one of them is my uncle, and the other is, like, a dude I knew at college kind of. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm. And specifically with your uncle, this is a name that he chose to be more American? Right?

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: So you do not expect to see that on a prophet. (laughs) 

Jaz: So, I did learn recently that Mama said that his original name had been, like, a Yiddish Yochi, and if you just picked the English of that, it would be like, Josiah?

Lulav: Ohh. (laughs)

Jaz: Anyway, which is very hard for me to imagine of my uncle Joel. 

Lulav: Yeah. Wow, the language you say things in really does make a difference, huh? (laughs)

Jaz: Uh-huh. Anyway, our reading here starts with celebration. "Blow a horn!"

Lulav: Whoo!

Jaz: Says the English, but it's very funny that they translated it as horn because it's just a shofar. Blow a shofar.

Lulav: Toot your shofs.

Jaz: What?

Lulav: Toot your shofs.

Jaz: Aaahhh.

Lulav: As we say in English. 

Jaz: Nooo!

Lulav: We don't say that.

Jaz: No! (Lulav laughs)  But it's like, shofar, have a fast, have a whole big gathering of people, make everybody do some purification stuff, and then bring everybody, elders and babies and toddlers who are nursing, and grooms, and brides from under the chuppah, and --

Lulav: Oh, is that what that is?

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: (laughs) The JPS translation has it as, "the bride from her canopied couch."

Jaz: Okay, but the Hebrew has it as, "v'kallah mechuppatah."

Lulav: Good.

Jaz: And "the bride from under her canopy." Under her chuppah.

Lulav: Amazing.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: (laughs) You can't just translate it like that, JPS. Come on. (laughs)  

Jaz: I did once hear a mutual acquaintance of ours on the internet, who was like, "I just want a button that will toggle and give me Jewish-y translations. Because, why does it say a horn, when it's a shofar? Why does it say a canopied couch when I know what a chuppah is?" Like… 

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Why does it a sermon, when I'm actually much more familiar with the concept of the d'var Torah, which is right there in the Hebrew — right?

Lulav: Yeah. Let's go to the mishkan.

Jaz: Right. (Lulav laughs) So.

Lulav: So, what are the priests doing?

Jaz: The priests are weeping. They are, amidst all this revelry, are saying like, "Please, please take care of us, we don't want to be mocked by other people. We don't want other people to be like 'Where's their god?'" (Lulav laughs) "'Cause we're yours and we want you to take care of us." And then G-d's like, "Okay, okay. I'm listening. I heard you, you were crying, oh no!" and comes in with care, and is like, "Okay, we gotta fix this up," and there's grain and wine and oil, and you'll have lots of it, and nobody will laugh at you.

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, this does feel a lot like High Holidays, frankly?

Jaz: Mmm. Say more?

Lulav: This is the episode that comes out on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and next episode, we're going to release on Friday instead of Thursday. So the day after Yom Kippur. (laughs)

Jaz: Yeah, we are not putting out an episode on Yom Kippur. I refused. 

Lulav: G-d, no. But that means that, like, all of the High Holidays are combined into this one week here, where we are, you know, blowing the shofar, but also solemnizing a fast, and proclaiming an assembly. We're all getting together to, like… I can't remember what it's called when you get together at the end of Yom Kippur and do your big chest-beating and then have a feast?

Jaz: Neilah?

Lulav: Neilah, yes, thank you. (laughs) This first line here, line 2:15, is just Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Neilah. 

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: Basically.

Jaz: That's so sweet. (Lulav laughs) I love that reading.

Lulav: Yeah. So you got a thematic reading here in Yoel. 

Jaz: Yeah. How do you feel about the "I'm gonna grant you these things, so you won't be mocked."

Lulav: Well, it's nice to have new grain and new wine and new oil, especially in a new year. "I will drive the northerner far from you. I will thrust it into a parched and desolate land." This is the part where I was like, "armies shall be cleft in twain and rot," basically. 

Jaz: Okay, so. We were talking about this earlier, and I didn't actually know which line you were referring to.

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: But I did do research on this line in specific.

Lulav: Oh, great.

Jaz: Because I wanted to know who the northerner was. Actually, okay, before I do this, Lulav, would you like to make a guess who this is supposed to be referring to?

Lulav: Okay, so, this is in the Second Temple period. Um… 

Jaz: You're thinking about this very hard and I admire it. Don't think about it that hard. 

Lulav: Oh. Is it the Romans?

Jaz: So, Rashi gives, like --

Lulav: Oh G-d.

Jaz: — four different interpretations. 

Lulav: That makes sense. 

Jaz: And I just want to reiterate, in case some of you haven't heard us say this many times before. And this is a thing that I picked up from my Talmud teacher, Laynie Solomon, who I think might have picked it up from their Talmud teacher, Benay Lappe, which is to say… If something like a Talmud, or something like Rashi, gives you four different interpretations -- (Lulav laughs) gives you multiple possible things that this means, it means they don't know. 

Lulav: Which is basically what I was gonna say.

Jaz: They are not capable of saying, "I don't know." So they give you four different readings, and are like, "uhh, maybe it's one of these," basically. And if there was one right answer, they would tell it to you.

Lulav: (laughs) 'Cause it might, on the one hand, be saying, "just like Yehoshua led the people to put all the natives into a route, I will drive that northerner far from you," or it could be the Seleucids, or the Romans, or Assyrians. Who knows?

Jaz: But actually, most of their reading, because a lot of Joel is about locusts as like, the big evil that are coming, so lotta this is reading this as locusts which will be driven back. 

Lulav: Oh, that's fun.

Jaz: Yeah. There is also one that's like, Assyria. And there is also one that's like, actually, this word that we're translating as northerners actually refers to a temptation within a person's own heart, which will be, like, driven out.

Lulav: (laughs) So... Sorry, this is probably a distraction, but in the metaphor where this is locusts, what does it mean to send the head to the Persian Gulf, and the thorax to the Mediterranean Sea? 

Jaz: Well, Rashi doesn't give us that much detail, (Lulav laughs) so we gotta puzzle that out on our own.

Lulav: Uh-huh.

Jaz: But there is some stuff about the western sea and eastern sea. I'm just gonna read this to you. There's a note that says, "The western sea, the eastern sea, and our sages who interpret it as a reference to temptation, interpreted these two seas as the First Temple and the Second Temple. So they explained it because he directed a space towards the first temple and the Second Temple and destroyed them. When G-d says, 'I will drive them out to a land barren and desolate where they will find no one to incite,' that will be because they set their sights for the First Temple and for the Second Temple, and because they incited the people to sin, they were destroyed. The two temples where everyone would gather during the three pilgrimage festivals are symbolized by the sea where streams of water gather. And, according to the Targum, who explains it as a reference to the king of Assyria, we must explain his face to the eastern sea and his end to the western sea, to mean that part of his army I will send to the east and part of it to the west." So, there's like, a less straightforward one there, and there's a, like, what if it's this? Or this? Or this?

Lulav: (laughs) Cool.

Jaz: Yeah. I will notice there wasn't actually an answer to your question about locusts.

Lulav: No, you just kind of, um, pulled a real politician on that one. 

Jaz: I did not. (Lulav laughs) Maybe Rashi did, though.

Lulav: So, are there any parts of the next seven lines that you want to drill down on, or do you just wanna give us the gist?

Jaz: So, the next bits are about rejoicing, and it's very sweet because it's, like, talking to the land itself now, and to the animals, and it's telling them that good things are happening, and then we get to b'nei Tzion, like us, as Jewish people.

Lulav: Mm-hmm. We're third on the list.

Jaz: Yeah. After the ground and the animals, like the order of creation. 

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: And then there's, like, when we get to us, stuff about, like, rain falling and having enough food and wine and oil, and getting sort of repaid for the years that we were swarmed with locusts and stuff, and having definitely enough food, which you can imagine being really preoccupied with, if you were swarmed with locusts, because they would eat all your food.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: So. It's like telling a people who have been stuck indoors because of plague that you'll be able to go out and gather with people! "Oh, we'll be able to go out and gather with people!" And like, over and over again. (Lulav laughs) Anyway, there's, like, an ending of like, so, it will be such a good time. No more shame. You'll know G-d in that situation and be all good.

Lulav: Mm-hmm.

Jaz: Yeah. Anything you want to emphasize about this?

Lulav: No, that's fun. I do think that brings us to Rating G-d's Writing, where we emphasize our feelings about the text by rating it on scales that we make up.

Jaz: Yeah. Lulav, out of a swarm of deadly locusts, how many locusts would you give this haftarah?

Lulav: Turns out that these are cicadas. And I would give it the once in 221 year occurrence, where both the 13-year brood and the 17-year brood pop up at the same time. 

Jaz: You gave it a bigger swarm of locusts? I really thought you were gonna go by golf rules here. 

Lulav: Nah, 'cause like, we had to hop around a lot to, like, collect all of the readings for this. Much like there are a lot of different songs that the 13s and the 17s are singing with their butts, but also, we can really just have a great time, looking at all of the structural stuff and being like, wow, this only happens once every 221 years, and also, I think if you come into this with a great hunger, like, predators who are eating cicadas, then you end up not having any cicadas for the future, after they went to all that evolutionary work of differentiating into two broods that recur on large prime numbers. Like, dang. Let the cicadas live. Anyway, point is, we have to come into this expecting teshuva. Return isn't quite the right word, but like, giving back goodness. And so, we'll be fed with all of the leftover cicadas, but also, there will be more to continue into the future. We will have so many songs, and also, we will be happy with the silence when the cicadas finally burrow back down into the ground.  

Jaz: Okay. That was a complicated rating, but, you know, I think we're with you. Did you know that some locusts are kosher, presumably because in a situation of--

Lulav: They ate all the food. (laughs) 

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Oh yeah, I guess they're swarming things, so... Are cicadas treyf?

Jaz: I believe so. I think it is only specific kinds of locusts.

Lulav: What if I remembered kashrut? (laughs)

Jaz: However, because I had originally given you a swarm of locusts and some locusts are kosher, I let it go.

Lulav: Okay. Thank you.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: So, Jaz. If you're redacting this haftarah into your prophetic book, how many chapters does that whole prophetic book have? And I think this one is playing by golf rules.

Jaz: You can't do that to me!

Lulav: If you're like, "No, we are just making a Sefaria a study sheet," and all it is is this haftarah, that's a really good rating, but if you're like, "Yeah, this is one of, I dunno, 10 chapters," that's not an amazing rating.

Jaz: What? If I was doing my own prophetic book, I should get to write it. All of the other people got to write their own prophetic book.

Lulav: Bold claim.

Jaz: Why do I only have to do excerpts of other people's books?

Lulav: I will note that one dude definitely did not write all of Yeshayahu, but that is very fair.

Jaz: But it all got attributed to one dude. And it wasn't like somebody wrote bits of Malachi and bits of, like--

Lulav: No, that's very fair. So, Jaz, does that mean that you are casting out the content of these, or rewriting it in your own words, or quoting it? How do you feel about this particular text?

Jaz: Positively. I am down to quote other selections, including these ones, which I feel have good connections, as I do my own work, which I do not think should be a prophetic work in that case, but a work of commentary.

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: So. Yes. 

Lulav: That's cool. Also, sorry for giving you such a confusing, like, honestly counter-intuitive rating scale, because you're right. You deserve to write your own poetries.

Jaz: Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers. If you like what you've heard, you can support us on Patreon at, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. Also, if you can't commit to ongoing support but would still like to contribute, you can give to our Ko-fi, which is at We're almost wrapping up, but we could still use the supporters, and it would still mean a lot to us. Find out more information about our podcast, including bios for our team and links to our social media, at Also, please spread the word about Kosher Queers. Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross. Our music is courtesy of the fabulous band Brivele, whose work you can find on Bandcamp. Go buy their albums, they're great. Our sound production this week is done by our excellent audio editor, Ezra Faust.

Lulav: Thanks also to Jaz Twersky and JJ Jensen, who, together, make sure that every episode gets transcribed. You can find JJ @pantspossum on Twitter, and you can find the link to the transcripts that JJ writes and Jaz proofreads in our episode descriptions at

Jaz: I'm Jaz Twersky, and I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Massachusett people.

Lulav: I'm Lulav Arnow, and I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute Dakota. Have a lovely queer Jewish day.

(Brivele outro)

Lulav: This week's gender is: Atlanta, untouchable, under the bed.

Jaz: This week's pronouns are: she or it.