Liberation & Violence: Passover’s Queer Lesson of Empathy

Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi (she/her)
6 min readApr 4, 2023

Passover tells the story of the Jewish people’s enslavement in Egypt and liberation into the wildnerness. Often told as a tale of miracles and singular, epic moments, the way we celebrate the holiday contains many lessons for those of us committed to queer liberation.

Red-lit marquis with neon text “LOVE & RESISTANCE” over white text reading “Stonewall 50”
Photo by Jennifer Bonauer on Unsplash

Perhaps you’ve seen Dreamworks Studio’s 1998 animated feature The Prince of Egypt, with its unforgettable splitting-of-the-sea scene featuring whale silhouettes backlit by lightning, or its rousing rendition of “When You Believe” including Hebrew text from the Torah itself.

There are many things I love about the film, especially its occasionally masterful representations of sacred Jewish texts, but one dramatic scene that stands out is the depiction of the Ten Plagues.

With staccato choral singing, the music builds in intensity, with an imbroglio of the voices of Pharaoh and of Moses and the word of Israel’s God detailing the ten increasingly devastating manifestations of “pestilence and plague.” Throughout the song, we see visual representations of swarming frogs, relentless lice, fiery hail, and all the rest.

When I read of the plagues, it is difficult for me to imagine anything but the relentless attacks on the bodies and the dignity and the very existence of trans, nonbinary, and gender “nonconforming”…



Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi (she/her)

queer belonging. sex positivity. creative ritual. inclusive judaism.