On the Jewish holiday of Pesach — Passover — we tell the story of the exodus from slavery to freedom over the Seder. But that celebration of freedom must be diminished by its cost in the suffering of others, even our enemies. So we symbolically take out a drop of the wine of celebration for each of the Ten Plagues. Here, I offer Ten lessons for these times to take from the Seder, one for each of the Ten Plagues.
Like the Nile turned red, the flow of social life we depend on has become polluted — something to avoid.
Let us practice physical distancing, but social connectedness.
Frogs jumped out of the polluted Nile, spreading confusion in their wake, just as misinformation spreads confusion today.
Look to our true scientists for correct information today — those who know what questions to ask, not those who claim to have the answers.
Vermin are parasites, spread by the confusion of the Frogs.
Beware of the parasites who seek to take advantage of others.
In this confusion, many humans turn into beasts, running amok without the reason of humanity, without the responsibility of society.
Let us not act like beasts, but like humans.
5. Cattle Disease
This disease began with animals. We must watch the other creatures carefully to protect ourselves. Sacrificing the environment will not save us, it will only make us worse, because we are all connected.
God gave us “dominion” over the Earth, not to “rule” it, but to be responsible for it.
Boils are disease caused by bacteria. Even though we face a pandemic of a virus, we cannot ignore these other diseases. Indeed, many may die of these secondary infections.
We cannot face this pandemic of a particular disease unless we take care of our health in general.
Hail falling in the desert? Climate change does not stop for a pandemic, and we cannot avoid addressing it. This is one plague which we must still face long after this pandemic passes.
Let us learn from this short-term disaster, how to deal with the longer-term problems we face.
Locusts are mindless creatures who consume all in their path, like those today who mindlessly hoard what they do not need. Instead of acting like locusts, let us take to heart this simple razor:
From each according to ability; To each according to need.
Darkness is the fear that is being spread among us. As Yoda told us: Fear leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side. Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to racism based on irrational fear.
Only the light of knowledge can break the darkness of fear; only the light of Love can break the darkness of hate.
10. Slaying of the First Born
Whether the first-born, or the oldest, or the most vulnerable, we have lost too many to this worst of all plagues. These deaths are not a sacrifice of some individuals to save others, but rather, each life is precious, and each death a loss. To paraphrase the poem of the Rev. John Donne:
No one is an Island, entire of itself . . .
each is a part of the whole, a piece of the main.
The death of any human diminishes me,
because I am involved in Humanity;
Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
The usual conclusion to the Seder is to say “Next Year in Jerusalem.” This year, the more appropriate conclusion is to say:
Next Year In Person!