The ten plagues have always been an embarrassment for Jewish liberals and leftists. Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart when he could have softened it, set the Israelites on their march much sooner, and avoided the terrible suffering of the Egyptian people? So we dip a finger and spill the wine in order to reduce our pleasure in Egyptian pain.

But it would be better to focus on the pain and think about the possibility of a different deliverance.

History is not determined. Imagine a God who directed his plagues only against Pharaoh and his officials. Imagine a Pharaoh who fell under the influence of his adopted son Moses. Imagine a general strike of the Israelites, joined, perhaps, by other inhabitants of the “house of bondage.” There are many ways out of a bad situation, many alternatives for both the oppressed and the oppressors to think about.

– Michael Walzer

haggadah Section: -- Ten Plagues