This week, we talk about the dubious metaphor of Gog and Magog, name our city Pluralism and then rename it again, talk about crumbling empires, and reflect on what we’ve learned about the text over the last two years. We do that because this is our last episode of season 2 and thus, the formal end of the podcast!!!! Bye y'all; thanks for these last couple years. (But stay tuned for a small surprise in the feed coming soon.)
Lulav listens to the podcast Emojidrome, which you can support on their Patreon. The bracha for immersion that Lulav said in the shower is available here, and more commonly used when visiting a mikvah. The local indie printing press that Jaz visited was Reflex Letterpress, and if you're in Boston you can also rent out the space or take classes there. If you're not in Boston, you can still order custom prints, buy pre-made prints from their Etsy page, or follow them on Instagram at @reflexletterpress. "Cis", in case this hasn't come up in the two years we made this podcast, is NOT an acronym for "comfortable in skin". It means "the two things we're considering are on the same side," or, in gender terms, that the gender you are is the same as the gender you were assigned at birth.
"The Crucible" is a 1953 play by Arthur Miller that dramatized the 1692 Salem witch trials as an allegory for Congressional attempts to ferret out communists and homosexuals — real or imagined — that is usually referred to as "McCarthyism". Also, turns out Eretz Yisrael IS on a fault line, and according to the Geological Survey of Israel, there is a rough average of one earthquake per day. Lulav mentions some things from the 1996 computer game Civilization II: its global warming mechanic, and a famous scenario where the world's resources are wholly devoted to war. Lulav also references the song "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads.
Please do what you can to stop Line 3, which is an oil pipeline that violates native treaties, crosses hundreds of bodies of water, and has the potential to be a major pollutant.
Tip us on 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.
Lulav: Hey Jaz, is this the blessing?
Jaz: (laughs) This is a blessing.
Lulav: Aww, what if the real blessing was the friends we made along the way?
Jaz: Of the two years that we did this podcast?
Lulav: Oh yeah, that… definitely that, right. (both laugh) I was just making a “friends along the way” — but yes, you are right, that is… exactly. I love that.
Jaz: Lulav, what's something cool or queer or Jewish you did this week?
Lulav: So, two things. The less serious one is that I was listening to the podcast Emojidrome, and they got to the questions section and they were like, "This one comes in from palmliker on Twitter." And I was like, "Wait, who stole my Twitter handle?" And then I realized that they were reading a question that I had written several weeks ago.
Jaz: Oh my goodness. What was your question, and also tell us a little bit more about how this is a queer or Jewish thing.
Lulav: Emojidrome is a psychosexual journey into the little pictures on our phones, in which every episode, they talk about an emoji, or when there's another, like, big group of Unicode prototypes, they'll talk about, like, 20 emoji at once. But yeah, every episode, they talk about an emoji and the way that it's displayed on all the different platforms. And this particular episode was the screaming face emoji, (Jaz laughs) where, like, it's kind of blue up top and has, like, hollowed-out eyes and two hands on either side of the screaming face.
Lulav: And this made me think of the movie Scream. Spoilers for Scream for the next, like, five seconds. The villain is played by Matthew Lillard, and so, I asked which of these emoji is played by Matthew Lillard? (Jaz laughs) And instead of really addressing the Scream thing, though Ryan picked up on it, they talked about Scooby Doo lore because Matthew Lillard also played Shaggy in the live-action Scooby Doos.
Lulav: Which is great. I feel blessed. (laughs) Couldn't have gone better, frankly. So, Emojidrome is queer because Ryan is, like, a gay furry or something, and Sylvia is a trans woman. I got into this podcast through Friends at the Table but it is, like, totally different vibe. (laughs) It's a nice thing to, like, put on in the background while I'm doing other stuff. And occasionally I'll hear some really cursed things being said about emoji. It's… it's great.
Lulav: And then, the more serious thing is that I was taking a shower recently, and because I recently had surgery, and it was, like, one of the first times that I was really directly addressing the wound, I said the bracha for immersion and, like —
Lulav: — dunked myself three times under the running water. (laughs)
Jaz: A mini mikvah.
Lulav: Right? That was fun, because I had to really look up what mikvah practices were without any guidance, because this was a thing that I was just doing on my own in the shower, and also, it's queer because this was a gender-affirming surgery to remove gamete-producing and hormone-producing glands, and so, you know, recovering from that and like, making sure to take care of myself… cleanlinessly? Is a Jewish thing.
Lulav: And it was just cool.
Jaz: That's very sweet.
Lulav: Yeah, so I wanted to, in our last official episode, the last one that's part of, like, a regular cycle, just bring something that's particularly Jewish and feels like a good hope for the future kind of thing.
Lulav: I'm figuring out what my body is like in… fourth puberty, I guess?
Jaz: Ah… mmm…
Jaz: I really think you're still in second puberty.
Lulav: I mean… okay. It's like puberty 3.0 1.0? Thrice upon a puberty.
Jaz: Sure. I really think that going off your hormones for, like, a few weeks in preparation for a surgery does not constitute a third puberty. But —
Lulav: Okay, it was bad and I can totally see a bunch more hair on my face that I haven't gotten lasered in, like, two years because I didn't wanna die.
Jaz: Okay. Alright.
Lulav: Anyway. (laughs) Jaz, what's something cool and queer or Jewish that's happened to you recently?
Jaz: Well, I got to go to an indie printing press locally —
Jaz: — with a bunch of classmates to cap off the end of my first week of rabbinical school. A bunch of my classmates are queer, different members of our class experimented with different printing things, one person found a stamp that was just already there that said, "the gayest spot in town," and just printed that a handful of times. (Lulav laughs) But also, our teacher had these incredibly rare Hebrew printing blocks that were probably originally used as part of a Yiddish newspaper.
Jaz: And we got to make words with them and we made these incredible pieces of art with the Shema, and also, we each got to make our own, as well, with cool phrases and I really enjoyed it and I had a great time.
Jaz: And then, like, I've gotten to spend a little bit more time with other classmates, and like, we went out to lunch together and had a Shabbat dinner together, and they're gonna do some Rosh Hashanah things together and it's just really lovely.
Jaz: We're a good queer group.
Lulav: And I can name all of them now.
Jaz: All of them? You can?
Lulav: Yeah. I did a similar thing when I was meeting your roommates, where I just, like, really study some pictures with a couple notes from you, to be like, okay, I know who this person is, and this person, and this person. (laughs)
Jaz: I told my classmates that you were learning their names and faces and they were very charmed by it.
Jaz: I'm not 100% sure about this, but I think I am the only person in my cohort with a partner, which is very surprising to me, because people in other cohorts are like, married with children. And so…
Lulav: Yeah. It's grad school.
Jaz: Yeah. Anyway, my other queer and Jewish thing that I wanted to share with y'all is that I was trying to sign up for an online High Holidays service —
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: — because I'm able to do some High Holidays stuff outside and masked, but not all of the things, so I was looking into at least one online service, and there was one from an organization which shall remain nameless, which I was scrolling through, and I was registering for, and it seemed cool, but they were asking for more information than I thought they should need, like, my physical address for this online thing. And then I came to their gender option, and… So, you know how there are many ways to set up gender questions, and like, a few of them are, like, possible right ways to do it, but there's a lot more ways to do it badly?
Lulav: Oh no.
Jaz: This has, I believe, 14 possible —
Lulav: Oh G-d. Here we go.
Jaz: — radio buttons.
Lulav: RADIO bu— mm. 'Kay.
Jaz: Which means you can only click one of them. So, would you like me to read this list?
Lulav: Well, first, I have to pour some water to cool myself off. (pouring water sound) And now you can read the list.
Jaz: Okay, it's labeled gender, parentheses, (for demographic purposes). The first two options are the “CIS female” — it's in all caps.
Lulav: Ah, Comfortable In Skin, of course. The thing that that definitely means.
Jaz: And “CIS male.” And then the next one is “Trans-Male.”
Lulav: Sorry, and not in all caps, to be clear.
Jaz: No, just the T for trans and the M for male. Unless otherwise specified, every single word, or every single thing after a hyphen is capitalized.
Jaz: So we have “Trans-Female, Trans-Gender-Nonconforming, Gender Non-Binary, Intersex, Intersex-Male Identifying, Intersex-Female Identifying, Prefer Not To Say At This Time, Unsure/Figuring It Out, Gender Fluid, Prefer Not To Answer,” and “Other.”
Lulav: The — so. The. (Jaz laughs) Mmm. So… (laughs) While I think there are a lot of commonalities between transgender issues and intersex issues, uhh, that doesn't extend to intersex being a trans identit — what the hell? What are you doing? RADIO BUTTONS? Also, you don't need to know this!
Jaz: Also, you don't need to know this. It's really not relevant. None of this information is relevant for them to know. But also, the idea that these are non-overlapping categories, also the idea that this is the right terminology to use?
Lulav: Uh huh.
Jaz: Also, the incredible humor of one button that says "Prefer Not To Say At This Time," and one button that says "Prefer Not To Answer."
Lulav: And also "Gender Fluid" in between them?
Jaz: And also "Unsure/Figuring It Out" in between them.
Lulav: (sighs) Yeah. Anyway. So are you going to this?
Jaz: I don't know. (Lulav laughs) I have not decided.
Lulav: Is the gender section on their signup form a deciding factor?
Jaz: Maybe. (both laugh) I really was much more inclined to go before I saw it.
Jaz: If they had given me three options, and they were like, man, woman, nonbinary, I still have been like, it's not amazing, you know, ehh, can do better, but—
Lulav: But it's fine and probably relevant for demographic purposes.
Jaz: Right. Also, I would have assumed that there would have been another one that was like, prefer not to answer, you know?
Jaz: And then I would have been like, not perfect, but that seems fine to collect that kind of like, broad basic data, and I don't know what on earth is happening here.
Lulav: (laughs) What demographic— (Jaz laughs) Okay. Anyway. Would you like to continue asking the question, "Is this the blessing?"
Jaz: I would. Take us into the episode?
Lulav: Welcome to Kosher Queers, a podcast with at least two Jews and generally more than three opinions. Each week we've brought 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 V'Zot HaBerachah — oh, oh, okay, they're answering the question for me, okay — which is Yechezkel 38:18 to 39:16. And listener, you may be like, "Oh, there are so many prophets that begin with "Ye" and have some "ch"s in them. Which one is this?" It's Ezekiel, if you are looking through things in English, which most times you are.
Jaz: (laughs) That is absolutely true.
Lulav: (laughs) So, Jaz, can you tell us, is this the blessing?
Jaz: Well, it sure is a blessing. (Lulav laughs) Can you give me 75 seconds to summarize this final parsha?
Lulav: Sure thing, that seems reasonable. One minute, 15 seconds, aaand go.
Jaz: Moses has a long deathbed poem about the future of each of the 12 tribes, which the text calls a blessing, but it is definitely not an equal blessing. He says it to the whole community, so I picture him propped up on a hospital bed, but also at a podium. First (Lulav laughs) here's some stuff about how G-d appeared to people with lightning and was awesome, so people followed, and then, Moses talks about himself in the third person. Ruben's whole blessing is may you survive even though they'll never be many of you, and Judah's is like, help him out and get home, even though he's constantly being self destructive. About Levi, the deal is, he's an okay kid, let him have the tools to do prophecy. He's so loyal, he ignored everyone, even family, to focus on G-d, which means he's totally suited to being a teacher. Editor's note: this is not how it works. (Lulav laughs) Benjamin's going to be carried on G-d's shoulders like a toddler, and Joseph gets lush, luxurious descriptions about how cool he is, and by extension, how many people there will be in Ephraim and Menashe. Zebulon and Issachar get grouped together, and try and get resources from sand and sea. Gad is a vicious lion and judge, and Dan is a baby lion kitten. Naphtali is fully satiated, living in the west coast best coast, and also in the south. Asher gets blessed with basic home security and seasonings, plus being friends with everyone. Moses wraps up with G-d being amazing, driving out enemies, giving grain and wine and dew and victory. Finally done talking, Moses goes up Mount Pisgah and sees a gorgeous view, which G-d tells him, it is where the Jewish people will live but not him. And Moses dies alone at age 120, and G-d buries him in an unmarked grave. The people mourn for a whole month, and then Joshua tells them all to move on, but no one was ever as cool as Moses ever again.
Lulav: (laughs) So that went on for about as many seconds as Moshe did years.
Jaz: (laughs) Oh, no.
Lulav: Bless you. (Jaz laughs) I like how that worked out. Symbolically. (both laugh) For instance, this is supposed to be, you know, particularly a blessing, and it doesn't quite live up to that.
Jaz: It's something.
Lulav: A blessing.
Jaz: Yeah. Yeah.
Lulav: It's something. I don't know if it's HaBracha.
Jaz: They do say that it's HaBracha because it's the blessing that Moses delivered at this particular time. (Lulav laughs) Which… sure.
Lulav: Mm hmm. Yeah, so how does that connect to the haftarah that we have for today?
Jaz: I mean, I think there's stuff in the haftarah as well, about, like, this is what the future is gonna be like for the people of Yisrael, and here's how we will have victory from G-d, and what will happen ultimately in the span of Jewish history.
Lulav: Yeah, that's fair. Okay. Lovin' that. So, I reckon I should give a little bit of context, because it's been a while since we had anybody but Yeshayahu.
Jaz: Yeah, tell us about Ezekiel, who we have not heard from in a minute.
Lulav: This is, famously, the smarmy goth kid.
Jaz: Oh, yeah.
Lulav: (laughs) Yechezkel does a lot of performance art, some of which is very obvious, and I think we can maybe conceive of this chapter in that context. It's not necessarily, like, prophesying a specific thing that's gonna happen. It is, like, constructing a play that is a metaphor for the future of Judaism and of people generally.
Lulav: Does that seem fair?
Jaz: Can you spin me another couple of sentences on that one? What do you mean it's constructing a play?
Lulav: Well, Gog is not a specific person, I don't think.
Jaz: Right, yes.
Lulav: I've been looking into this, and I'm not really coming up with much other than that Gog equals mountain. And the prophetic prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal and Magog, which like, thanks, yes, I know what I'm reading.
Jaz: This is where the concept of Gog and Magog come from as far as we know. It's not like —
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: — they existed (Lulav laughs) previously. Ezekiel just, like, made them up, and then other people occasionally continued to run with it, but honestly, not very often, because we just don't really talk about the end of days all that much.
Lulav: So, if you imagine a different America, where there was, like, the big Red Scares, but there wasn't this specific Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. It's like Arthur Miller, coming up on stage with a baseball bat that has McCarthyism written on it and hitting you all over the heads with it.
Lulav: Which is to say, like many of Yechezkel's bits, it is very heavy-handed.
Lulav: But also, artful. I dunno. I liked being in The Crucible. (laughs) It was fun.
Lulav: Sorry, in the first episode where we talked about Yechezkel brought up some theater kid past stuff and compared him to Arthur Miller. It makes sense that you would maybe not remember that because it's been almost a year.
Lulav: (laughs) So, do you mind if I walk us through it?
Jaz: Please do.
Lulav: So, Yechezkel, up to this point, has been setting up, like, there's gonna be this Gog from Magog who musters all of the armies against you, like, all the people who have ever painted you and wanted to destroy you, and it's gonna be a really big one. Literally everybody's gonna be there. And when Gog sets foot on the soil of Yisrael, G-d's gonna get angry, and there's gonna be a terrible earthquake, and the fish and birds and beasts and creepy crawlies and humans are all gonna quake, mountains, which may here be related to Gog, shall be overthrown, cliffs shall topple. And then, interesting thing here, I will then summon the sword against him throughout my mountains, and every man's sword shall be turned against his brother.
Jaz: That seems not ideal.
Lulav: No, not ideal. Mostly for the invading army, is what I'm getting—
Lulav: —but also, potentially for the ones being invaded.
Jaz: The texts seem a little ambiguous on that to me, but...
Lulav: Right? And I think the thing with empires, and especially, like, North Atlantic Treaty organizations and such, is that the bigger and more inertial they get, the harder they fall, and the more creaky they are, and like, ineffective.
Jaz: Are you positing Gog and Magog as, I suppose, the land and Gog as the person, as one of those empires, or being symbolic of those empires?
Lulav: Yeah, I think so, because the idea here is that everybody's being brought together to go crush Yisrael.
Lulav: And I'm trying to think of, like, entities that do that stuff for, you know, such spurious and self-serving, ridiculous reasons and basically I got NATO.
Jaz: Okay. Why?
Lulav: What do you mean?
Jaz: I feel like I'm missing a connection here.
Lulav: I mean, the United States just got out of a two-decades-long war in Afghanistan.
Lulav: And is basically back to square zero. Except for the slaughter of millions of people, sooo, like... And we got the whole world to join us on that one.
Jaz: Mmm. Sure.
Lulav: So, I think it's a similar thing here, where, like, the individual people who make up this coalition of greedy major powers all have their self-serving desires, and they end up crumbling apart. Every man's sword is turned against his brother, he's punished with pestilence and with bloodshed and rain hailstones and sulfurous—okay maybe not the su—well... Anyway. Yeah. Like, his hordes and the many peoples with him just kind of fall apart. So, a mortal here, I think it's Yechezkel, is being told to prophesy against Gog and say, hey, Gog. Hashem is gonna deal with you, and you're gonna be turned around and driven on, which is like, maybe drawn out by guerrilla tactics. Your bow will be stricken from your left hand, and I will loosen the arrows from your right hand. So basically, like, no matter the weapons you have, you'll be disarmed.
Lulav: And you shall fall on the mountains, and I will give you as food to carrion birds of every sort and to the beasts of the field, which...Yechezkel is a goth kid.
Lulav: Are you having different readings on this sort of stuff? Were other things coming up for you?
Jaz: You know, one of the things that I was puzzling through is the significance of this earthquake in particular.
Jaz: I don't believe that, like, this part of the world is generally very prone to earthquakes, (Lulav laughs) but I grew up in a place that was designed for earthquakes—
Lulav: Oh, yeah.
Jaz: —because there were more earthquakes. And so one of the things I was thinking about is the ways in which, like, earthquakes are terrible, absolutely, you know, when they're bad, but how harmful an earthquake is mostly not directly proportionate to how high on the Richter scale an earthquake is, right?
Jaz: But to how much the infrastructure is built for earthquakes.
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, that makes sense.
Jaz: So like, in recent years, Haiti has been really hurt by earthquakes, in a way that California has not been, even though Haiti has not gotten significantly worse earthquakes.
Jaz: It just is a place that has been much more historically devastated by colonialism, and has fewer resources, and, you know, where I grew up, I remember learning about, like, when they build skyscrapers in California, like, they built them with counterweights at the top of them, so that when that earthquake hits, something swings in the opposite direction.
Jaz: And, still, like, the type of earthquake that is happening here, where literal mountains are overthrown, as it said, like, even your relatively earthquake-resilient building tactics can't necessarily make you immune to that. So, I'm thinking about, as we live in a world of climate apocalypse, also.
Jaz: And as this is really explicitly a thing describing the end of days—Jews don't have to think about the end of days all that much, like, it's not our focus, and we don't talk about Gog and Magog and all that much. But, you know, like, we live in a world of climate apocalypse—
Jaz: —that people are talking about more explicitly. So to me, it feels like both a reminder that, like, we can build for disaster, and like, building for disaster really does change the human cost of disaster—
Jaz: —and we can only build for disaster so much, if the disaster is really overpowering.
Jaz: So to hold both of those truths at once, of like, as climate change continues to happen, like, it's on us to both build things that are really able to deal with the reality of the world we live in, and to know that, like, we'll also have to deal with disasters that we can't quite fully control for. So I guess that's a thing that I was thinking about, as, you know, people have thought lots of times through history that this is Gog and Magog now, for real this time. And so, like, I don't want to say, like, it's climate change, but I do want to say that there is maybe an offering and possibility to think about, like, what would it mean to treat it as if it was climate change, and then, if it wasn't, like, well, at least we built things that were more earthquake-safe than we would have otherwise.
Lulav: Right? (Jaz laughs) Also, I will note that the Arabia plate and Africa plate come together with a transform boundary in Eretz Yisrael.
Jaz: Oh, cool.
Lulav: So, probably there are earthquakes.
Jaz: Cool. That's not a thing I knew about. Thank you for telling me.
Lulav: Yes. I also don't know to what extent there are earthquakes in that part of the Middle East, so if anybody is a tectonic expert, do let us know.
Jaz: We won't put it on an episode, but we will tweet it out.
Lulav: Ooh, hell yeah. I mean, ooh, absolutely. So yeah, this, like, broken army is lying in an open field. There's a fire against Magog and against those who dwells secure in the coastlands. And there's a bit about, like, making my holy name known among my people Yisrael, which is a thing that has come up a lot, I think especially in Torah, but we've seen it a couple times in Nevi'im as well, just, the idea of saving face amongst the peoples of the world.
Lulav: And making sure that the quote "chosen people" end quote aren't left high and dry.
Lulav: The one that comes to mind is...the people are complaining in the wilderness about like, "Oh, why were we brought here to die when we could have just died back in Egypt, and not had to do all this running?" And Moshe's like, "G-d, I do just want to point out that everybody's gonna totally clown on you if you let everybody die, so, please don't." That is to say, Yechezkel 39:7 is very much in a long Jewish tradition. And then, the inhabitants of the cities of Yisrael will go out and make fires and feed them with the weapons. That is, the weapons carried by the, like, ridiculously huge coalition army. And so, shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, clubs and spears, they shall use them as fuel for seven years.
Jaz: Which is so long.
Lulav: So long, yes. Which really, like, puts into context the ecological devastation wrought by military preparedness. Like, so many resources are put into making it possible for people to kill other people slightly more efficiently, and all of those resources are just there. Their swords that—you can beat them into ploughshares, but for now they're swords, and it takes so much effort to beat them into plowshares.
Jaz: Yeah. And it took so much effort to make them into swords in the first place.
Lulav: Uh-huh. Effort that could have been put into making ploughshares!
Jaz: It's one of those things about like, actually, rather than, like, being like, "I recycled it, it's fine!" What if you just consumed fewer things in the first place?
Jaz: Which I say mostly to mean as, like, large scale, not to be like, individual people, it is your fault.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. I've talked about how a lot of my formative media references are tactical games.
Lulav: And I'm thinking of Civilization 2 where one of the mechanics is global warming. Like, as your cities get bigger and involve more high technology consumers, the planet just starts, like, turning forests into jungle and plains into swamps.
Lulav: It's harder to live in that world. And so, usually what I do is build a gigantic army of engineers. Also, this is a game where most of the victories are military, so like—
Lulav: I do have a huge army, and I feel bad about that, but even more so, you need to invest in the people to turn things back, shore things up, make sure that the greenhouse gas levels in the world are decreased, and we just don't do that.
Lulav: Worst timeline. I also think about this one forever war scenario that somebody accidentally or on purpose set up in Civ 2, where there were just these three nations that were forever at war with each other, and like, the planet is continuing to fall apart, and every turn is devoted to making stealth bombers that get blown up by stealth fighters, and all of the resources of the world get put into war, and nothing ever changes.
Jaz: Yeah. Brutal.
Lulav: Yeah. And so, this is envisioning a future where things do change, where all these armies fall apart and they leave behind their things that can be turned into fuel, or, I dunno, their Humvees that you can live inside of, or whatever. And, like, instead of gathering firewood in the fields, or cutting any in the forests, you use the weapons as fuel for your fires, you recycle the things that were wasted in the first place.
Jaz: Right. It's almost a, hey, take that money that you're sending every year constantly to the military and to ICE and to the police, and just put it into useful things for your communities instead of things that hurt your communities, and uh, maybe good things would happen.
Lulav: Yeah. So on that day, Hashem will assign to Gog a burial site there in Yisrael, and all of these people who came and tried to conquer and died, they're just gonna be buried in a valley of, like, dead soldiers. And it says, it shall block the path of travelers?
Lulav: Which is interesting. I don't know if that's a specific thing about the valley of the travelers, or if it's like, people won't be able to come here without remembering there were great battles fought here, but it wasn't the battles that were great, it was the extent of the devastation that was great. I'm thinking about like, designing nuclear storage facilities for thousands of years in the future, just like, this is not a place of honor.
Lulav: And you should know that and not want to go exploring here. Do you think that's a fair reading and reference and stuff, or...?
Jaz: Yeah. I was double checking this, and it's Rashi who says, it'll stop because there'll be corpses, and so people who see them will have to stop and bury them—
Jaz: —and also because they'll smell it. And I think that goes along well with what you were saying, in terms of like, if a place has been a battlefield really recently, you gotta honor that. It's like, you know, even just in small things, like when I was in New York, the first time I went to Stonewall, I stumbled upon it really accidentally, and I just kind of looked up and I was like, that's a place with a lotta rainbows. (Lulav laughs) And only after realized where I was, and I just like the idea that we mark the places where things have happened—
Jaz: —that are key to understanding the recent past and that affects the progress of anybody who goes through that area.
Lulav: Yeah. Love that. So, everybody's gonna spend seven months burying all the dead people in order to cleanse the land. You know, you've already got all your firewood taken care of, presumably there were huge supply trains in order to feed all these people, so you've probably got food taken care of, and you're just gonna spend seven months working to make sure that, you know, this isn't a devastated wasteland, that everybody is put to rest where we don't have to touch dead bodies just walking around, where, you know, people can walk through fields without mines going off.
Jaz: Yeah. Good and important. (laughs)
Lulav: Yeah. And, in fact, there shall be men appointed to serve permanently to traverse the land and bury any invaders who remain above ground in order to cleanse it. So like, even after everybody has, you know, gone through that path of travelers and buried all of the soldiers, like, still, you'll have to send people out to make sure that none of these corpses remain above ground, everything is put where it should be, we diffuse all of the (??) that is, you know, someday going to blow someone up.
Jaz: What do you make of instructions that that area will be called the Valley of Gog's Multitude?
Lulav: There was something really smart that I had to say, but... Oh, here we go. The last line here is, "There shall also be a city named Multitude, and thus, the land shall be cleansed."
Lulav: And that city is Hamonah, and the Valley of Gog's Multitude is Gei-Hamon-Gog.
Jaz: Okay. What does that signify to you?
Lulav: So, there's a sense where, like, Gog's Multitude is this horrifying horde of people who come together for all their selfish reasons just to dunk on some folks, and where reclaiming that, we're saying there's gonna be a city named Multitude, a city called Abundance, Wealth, Crowd, just like, a lot. And so, it's changing this thing of horror into this thing of a future.
Jaz: And we know that there's precedent for something that "a lot" is a sign of honor, right? Because we had it, even in the parsha of V'Zot HaBracha, that Ephraim and Menashe will have many people—
Jaz: —and that's a sign that they're especially valued.
Lulav: Yeah. I think I would like to posit that there can be a city named Multitude, and it can be surrounded by the graves of soldiers who died fighting each other and from being sick and overheated in a foreign land—
Lulav: —and those two things can be, in the minds of the people, unrelated. There can be the idea that, oh, there were all of these armies that died when they tried to do a conquering, we should remember that, but also, the city's name can be Multitude, and it becomes more the name of the city than the name of the graves.
Jaz: Are you suggesting, in essence, that all of these people died, and they were like, well, that's terrible, and then they named their city Pluralism?
Lulav: Wooooww. (Jaz laughs) How dare you. (laughs)
Jaz: I mean...
Lulav: Okay. When you think of New York City, do you think of the county, York, in England?
Jaz: Not usually.
Lulav: No, it's completely unrelated. New York has become its own thing. And similarly, you can have a city named Multitude after, like, this big tumult of a grave, and eventually it becomes a different meaning of Hamon. Abundance, wealth, or great number.
Lulav: Eventually it becomes the city itself.
Jaz: Okay. Alright.
Lulav: And I think we can do both of those. Remember that there is nuclear waste buried here, but also, build a future that doesn't rely on the same wastefulness of the past.
Jaz: I'm still hearing the "we named our city Pluralism" but that's okay!
Lulav: FINE. (both laugh) You know what, we named our city Pluralism, and you know, in a hundred years, people are gonna forget that pluralism meant facile inclusion that makes people feel tokenized, and instead, it means a place where everybody lives together and honors each other. (Jaz laughs) Boom.
Jaz: Wow. (Lulav laughs) Some strong opinions here in our concluding episode. Okay.
Lulav: So, I think we should do two segments from here on out, right?
Jaz: I believe so.
Lulav: We should do Rating G-d's Writing, in which we traverse the country making our rounds and come back with some scale to erect a marker upon this haftarah. And then—
Jaz: Finally, we'll conclude with some wrap-up reflections and memories of our last two years?
Lulav: Yeah. We'd love that. Jaz, what are you naming the city of this haftarah?
Lulav: And will it mean the same thing in a hundred years?
Jaz: Nothing means the same thing in a hundred years. (Lulav laughs) I would like to name the city of this haftarah...
Lulav: I did give you a really difficult one.
Jaz: Yeah. Well, I vote, that we name it "High Tide"—
Jaz: —because it is about being overwhelmed by waves, but not so much that you can't get through it, but also that, in some respects, things come in cycles, and in some respects, there are also things you can't really feasibly fight.
Lulav: Mmm. Mm-hmm. Okay.
Jaz: In this haftarah, the house of Israel spends seven months of burying in order to cleanse the land, and for this haftarah, what does this land cleanse and how long does it take to cleanse it?
Lulav: Hm. I think it cleanses preventable disease, by making sure that there's a distribution network for food and shelter, and just shutting everything down for, like, two months, like, actually, so that you can get rid of all the things that we've just been living with for years, whether that's, you know, a novel coronavirus, or influenza, or measles, just all of the preventable things. Like, you need to gather up all of those shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, clubs and spears, and use them as fuel, because we have enough to make sure that everybody lives an okay life, and we don't have enough to keep going as we are. And I like how this parsha has kind of a radical vision of, you know, when something big happens, you stop and you deal with it.
Lulav: Life still does go on, but you do need to take seven years to just burn all the military equipment. You need to take seven months to just look for all of the people who have died.
Lulav: And to make sure that they're known about, I guess?
Lulav: So yeah, preventable disease is the thing that the nation is burying.
Lulav: So it's been two years.
Jaz: It's been two years since we started this show.
Lulav: This is the 101st episode that we've made, which is wild to me.
Jaz: It's the 100th in our regular cycle that wasn't a pilot.
Lulav: (laughs) Hey, our pilot stands up. I mean...yeah, you're right. It is our 100th weekly episode—
Lulav: —which is just wild. (laughs)
Lulav: Can't believe that we've done this for two years. Jaz, when you think about Torah—
Lulav: What's, like, one big thing that stands out to you that you've, like, taken away from us reading through it?
Jaz: One of the things I took away from it, which I think is so simple, but also is really super true for me, is that we really don't read most of it. (Lulav laughs) But in particular, we really don't read most of the Tanakh.
Jaz: Like, the communities I grew up in didn't teach me most of it. The communities I've been in as an adult mostly don't.
Jaz: And it is possible, definitely, there are some Jewish communities which do, but I've never been in them.
Lulav: Yeah. And like, we read selections from Nevi'im, we did not read the entirety of Prophets, and we didn't read anything from Ketuvim, all of the writings, like Shir haShirim, and Job, and like, a lot of things that people kind of vaguely know about but haven't actually, like, for the most part, dug deep into.
Jaz: Right. And so, part of what I feel like I really got out of this was, you can just do that? It's there for you, even if you weren't taught it, and look, I know that sounds simple, but the corollary to it—
Jaz: —is like, there's a lot, (Lulav laughs) and is hard to do on your own.
Jaz: Like, I wouldn't have been able to do it on my own.
Jaz: To, like, read it meaningfully and process it meaningfully, and so, on the one hand, like, there's so much, and there's so much richness and there's so much stuff to do, and you can look at commentaries and commentaries can really enhance things, and also, you can just do it on your own, and get started, like, there aren't real rules that you have to obey. There's no wrong way to read it. There are ways that are differently rooted in different kinds of traditions, and I care about those, but fundamentally, the thing I care about more is like, we get to read it and engage with it and it's ours.
Lulav: Yeah. And honestly, highly recommend getting a chevruta. Like, I form very strong opinions and then hold on to them until somebody gives me an argument that I like better, and then those are my strong opinions. And—
Lulav: If I didn't have Jaz being like, "Well, here's the Chasidic context, and like, here's a subversive way that we can read it that isn't Peshat, but it's actually really interesting," and I never would have that if I were just reading this on my own. If I just tried to plod through all of Tanakh alone.
Jaz: Also, it's more fun, and your engagement with Judaism, however you choose to do it, should be fun. And also meaningful, like, there's lots of different ways to engage with Judaism, but I hope that people can do so in a way that is, like, meaningful to them, like, I hope—
Jaz: —that that would be a takeaway for people who aren't us, that like, you have a lot of options, and a lot of them are good ones.
Jaz: Lulav, what's something that you learned or gained via the process of making this podcast?
Lulav: So, before having read Torah, and especially, like, growing up in a Christian-normative culture, I thought it was kind of funny that Perchik got a socialist reading from a story and was teaching that—uh, Perchik, for those who haven't listened to our entire podcast, the character from Fiddler on the Roof who is a scholar and also a socialist. And having read through all of this with you, and like, tried to find meanings centered around justice—
Jaz: They're there.
Lulav: They're there. Like, in the text sometimes? And right next to the text other times. Like, it's not a fluke that Perchik found socialist reading in the Yaakov, Leah, and Rachel story. Like, this is just how you can read things. The story of the Exodus from Mitzrayim is one of collective bargaining.
Jaz: Right. Is it also of other things? It's also many things.
Lulav: Oh yeah, right. (Jaz laughs) Torah is many things. (laughs) It doesn't get translated as just instruction, it's instructions.
Lulav: But yeah, the fact that there is justice baked into Torah, and also, really strident injustice. Like, there's still slavery—
Lulav: —you know every single Patriarch and Matriarch is kind of a douche. But there are also redeeming parts, and there is a tendency to strive for justice, even if that's not what's achieved in any one person's lifetime.
Lulav: Yeah. So, don't have heroes, do have ideals, and we can make a better world, are like, the three big things that I took from Torah. Do you have any big takeaways from Nevi'im, from the readings that we've done in the haftarah portions over this last year?
Jaz: I would say one of the cool things about engaging with Nevi'im, and I think I have a lot more to learn about Nevi'im, is that I gained a much deeper appreciation for prophets not as, like, people telling the future, (Lulav laughs) or whatever, but as fundamentally societal outcasts who nevertheless believed it was crucially important to speak truth to power, even if they didn't think it would work.
Jaz: And even if it made them sometimes unhappy and sometimes frustrated and sometimes really personally invested, that they were people whose lives we may or may not remember, but we do remember their words—
Jaz: —and that the thing they thought was important was to speak up about treating people well, about not relying on empire, about not prioritizing idols or wealth, and instead, about justice and love and loyalty and community, and I didn't always agree with the things that they said, but I saw that they were struggling to try and build a better world, and that is the things that I wanna strive for, is to strive to build a better world alongside comrades who I may or may not always agree with on everything, but who I know are also really in the process of trying.
Jaz: And I really also like the Prophets are organized around people who are not necessarily wealthy, are not necessarily centerpieces of the story. Like, it's so much easier to imagine writing yourself into history, to imagine, you know, your prophets as trans people and queer people and disabled people and people of color and, you know, all sorts of different marginalized groups—
Jaz: — to be prophets, speaking out for a better world, rather than imagining them as kings and judges and Patriarchs, or even Matriarchs sometimes.
Lulav: Mm-hmm. And like, the authority comes from the things that they're saying, I feel like, so we don't deify Yeshayahu or Yechezkel. It's not that their personality is making the things that they say true, it's that they are saying true things, and you can judge that as listeners.
Jaz: Yeah. And part of what makes a prophet a real prophet is that the things that they say are true, not in terms of, like, on the fourth day this literally came to pass, (Lulav laughs) you know, but in the like, yeah, there should be justice.
Jaz: Lulav, there any other takeaways that you had from Nevi'im that you'd like to lift up?
Lulav: Yeah. I am donning my David Byrne cosplay, which is a gigantic suit and I'm really sweating, and just saying, "Same as it ever was! Same as it ever was!" because what I've seen from Nevi'im, is that in generation after generation, there were these people saying, "Hey we messed up. We can do better. Let's do better." And in generation after generation, people keep messing up, but like...
Jaz: We sure do.
Lulav: You know, you've got to take the admonitions of that, but also, not give in to despair to take consolation and engage in teshuva, and really try this time, you know. Try for the heart of it, like, it's not that we're not sacrificing correctly, or it's not that we're not treating our slaves right, I guess? It's that we shouldn't have slaves. It's that when we sacrifice it should be because we mean it and not just because it's the done thing. We gotta try for a better world. So that's what I got from Nevi'im. (laughs)
Jaz: That's lovely.
Lulav: Thank you. Jaz, can you take us to the close?
Jaz: Yeah. Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers. I'm not gonna ask you to support us on Patreon at the moment, because I think we're done for the foreseeable future, but if you liked what you heard, you can still give us a tip on our Ko-fi which is at ko-fi.com/kosherqueers.
Lulav: That's not just going to pad out our wallets. We have annual domain renewal fees, monthly hosting fees for the audio... Like, really, if you give us tips, you will make sure that Kosher Queers continues to be accessible for years to come.
Jaz: Absolutely. Thank you for adding that. Also, we're now finished, and I hope that we're a resource for you, so please do continue to spread the word about Kosher Queers. Tell your friends, tell your people at shul, tell your Jewish listserv and discord server, and your rabbi, anybody you think would be interested.
Lulav: Use us as a flirtation technique, frankly.
Jaz: Oh, please. (Lulav laughs) We did? (Lulav laughs) Anyway. You can also find out more information about our podcast, including bios for our team and links to our social media at kosherqueers.gay, and as always, our artwork is by with 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: Could not have done it without you, Ezra. Thank you for getting us through two years of a podcast. And thanks also to Jaz Twersky and JJ Jensen, who 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 kosherqueers.gay, which will continue to be up for you, even if we don't make new episodes.
Jaz: Yeah, that's the plan. I'm Jaz Twersky, and I will probably be back, eventually, @wordnerdknitter on Twitter, occasionally, so if you'd like to find me there. I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Massachusett people.
Lulav: I'm Lulav Arnow, and you can send me questions that won't be read on air @palmliker on Twitter, I'm also @spacetrucksix for my personal account, but like, eh, it's a personal accounts, you know? And I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute Dakota, who are doing a lot of activity against Line 3. Stop Line 3.
Jaz: Yeah. 𝄆 Have a lovely queer Jewish day
Lulav: Lovely queer Jewish day.
Lulav: This week's gender is: 3.0 plus 1.0. Thrice upon a puberty.
Jaz: This week's pronouns are: 𝄇 (Audio repeats from the 𝄆 symbol)