Plagues & Prophets
At the beginning of the pandemic, right around Passover, my estranged father began eating only matzah, feeling that these are biblical times.
He is not wrong. These are biblical times. I now understand the ten plagues as catalysts for upheaval, destabilization, and ultimately transformation. After each plague, Moses asks Pharoah to let his people go. Each time he says no. Each ensuing plague is a further test of Pharaoh’s appetite for cruelty. The question before Pharaoh is what will he endure to maintain slavery, what will he put even his own people through, what will he sacrifice before his heart breaks open?
Moses is teaching Pharaoh that slavery is untenable, and each ensuing plague is further proof of a decaying, collapsing empire.
Among the ten plagues is the death of the first born. Finally Pharoah acquiesces, before hardening his heart again. In his grief, Pharoah’s resolve is shaken for a moment, but he hardens his heart in response. Some of us may find ourselves becoming numb in these times, allowing our hearts to harden. I promise, our hearts will break tomorrow, we will feel we can take no more, and still our hearts will break again the day after. We must let our hearts break open for each other.
During the Seder, we dip our finger in the wine to mark the drowned Egyptians, to remember that even our freedom is still tempered by the knowledge of the suffering of others. In hardening his heart, Pharoah sacrificed his own child, and innocent lives were lost. We can free all of us, including the oppressor, from the cycle of violence.
This government is again hardening its heart, when the plague this time is the death of children. What it will it take for our hearts to break open?