Parashat Bo: Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Amy Soule explains how coming out might be our very first, and perhaps greatest, mitzvah.

Creative Commons / Tom Magliery

Creative Commons / Tom Magliery

may have been designed as a secular movie but if you recall one of its (in)famous lines, you might also be reminded of God’s commandment to the Children of Israel before the final plague was visited on the Egyptians: “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

Exodus 12:21-23 gives our ancestors their first collective mitzvah. They are asked to slaughter a sheep and smear its blood on the lintels of their home to ensure their homes will be protected when the Angel of Death appears.

They are, in effect, asked to “come out” as Jews – to demonstrate to their neighbors a visible sign of their Jewishness – in order to save their lives and gain their freedom.

According to the parasha, all of them followed God’s ordinance. I have to assume it’s because the Torah can hardly fathom anyone making a different choice (since so many places implore us to “choose life”). However, I have to wonder if they were all obedient. What if someone didn’t want to perform the slaughter and mark their lintel because they objected to God’s bloody course of action? What if someone refused to visibly separate themselves from the Egyptians because they were born in Egypt and felt that they belonged equally to the Jewish people and to the Egyptians? What about fear of reprisal once the bloody deed was done? What if someone objected because God was asking the Children of Israel to accept far too much on the strength of an untested trust in an invisible entity?