Ten Modern Plagues
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Ten Modern Plagues
The traditional Haggadah lists ten plagues that afflicted the Egyptians. We live in a very different world, but Passover is a good time to remember that, even after our liberation from slavery in Egypt, there are still many challenges for us to meet. Here are ten “modern plagues”:
Inequity - Access to affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutritious food, good schools, and higher education is far from equal. The disparity between rich and poor is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are limited.
Entitlement - Too many people consider themselves entitled to material comfort, economic security, and other privileges of middle-class life without hard work.
Fear - Fear of “the other” produces and reinforces xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, antisemitism, homophobia, and transphobia.
Greed - Profits are a higher priority than the safety of workers or the health of the environment. The top one percent of the American population controls 42% of the country’s financial wealth, while corporations send jobs off-shore and American workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively is threatened.
Distraction - In this age of constant connectedness, we are easily distracted by an unending barrage of information, much of it meaningless, with no way to discern what is important.
Distortion of reality - The media constructs and society accepts unrealistic expectations, leading to eating disorders and an unhealthy obsession with appearance for both men and women.
Unawareness - It is easy to be unaware of the consequences our consumer choices have for the environment and for workers at home and abroad. Do we know where or how our clothes are made? Where or how our food is produced? The working conditions? The impact on the environment?
Discrimination - While we celebrate our liberation from bondage in Egypt, too many people still suffer from discrimination. For example, blacks in the United States are imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites, and Hispanics are locked up at nearly double the white rate. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. At 61 cents to the dollar, the disparity is even more shocking in Jewish communal organization.
Silence - Every year, 4.8 million cases of domestic violence against American women are reported. We do not talk about things that are disturbing, such as rape, sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse, even though they happen every day in our own communities.
Feeling overwhelmed and disempowered - When faced with these modern “plagues,” how often do we doubt or question our own ability to make a difference? How often do we feel paralyzed because we do not know what to do to bring about change?
ALL: Tonight we might have put an oyster on our Seder plate.
While I didn’t particularly want to put something traif atop that most kosher of dishes, this Passover falls on the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. And since BP, the leaseholder of the failed well, seems intent with its new television ads...
by Stanley Kunitz
Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
From singing Dayenu we learn to celebrate each landmark on our people's journey. Yet we must never confuse these way stations with the goal. Because it is not yet Dayenu. There is still so much to do in our work of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
When governments end the escalating production of devastating weapons, secure in the knowledge that they will not be necessary, Dayenu.
When all women and men...
The Leader of the Seder only, now washes his/her hands from an ewer into a bowl held
by another celebrant, wiping them dry on a hand towel. We have accepted the need for
leadership, we wash the leaders's hands. This small, formal act of service is a symbol of
our recognition of their leadership. This is an ancient Jewish...
The Passover Haggadah recounts ten plagues that afflicted Egyptian society. In our tradition, Passover is the season in which we imagine our own lives within the story and the story within our lives. Accordingly, we turn our thoughts to the many plagues affecting our society today. Our journey from slavery to redemption is ongoing, demanding the work of our hearts and hands. Here are ten “modern plagues”:
1. God, have You forgotten me?
I have forgotten how to breathe.
The air here is tight around me
Each day presses in and tomorrow feels impossibly far away
I long to feel Your wide, wide love
To feel hard earth beneath my cracked feet, shade on my bent back, cool mist on my sun-scorched skin
I long to hear sweet words
For respite from the sting that forces...
The olive branch is a universal symbol of peace, associated with the dove in the story of Noah's Ark and the Flood.
Olive trees mature slowly, so only when there was an extended time of peace, with agriculture left undisturbed, could the olive tree produce its fruit. In 2008, Jewish Voice for Peace promoted putting an olive on the seder plate as part of its Trees of Reconciliation project, which sought to donate...
Kafka once wrote in his journal: "You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world. That is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature. But perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid."
The "you" that Kafka is addressing might be himself, or it might be each of us. But it also could be -- and here's the stunner -- the God of Exodus Himself. It accords with His...
We all know about Passover, that holiday when we Jews whip out our flat, cracker-like matzah, talk about the massive exodus from Egypt, and drink a whole lot of Manischewitz wine. As it happens, though, there are a few other things you might want to know about Passover! Here are some facts about the holiday that you probably never knew:
Passover is an...
It’s eight o’clock on a festive eve
The Haggadah sons shuffle past
They are wise, and wicked, and simpleton And one who doesn’t know how to ask
The wise son says “Dad, wontcha call on me.” I know the Torah and the codes
They’re good and they’re sweet
And I know ‘em complete
The others might as well take a doze. La-di-die-diddy-die. . .
Sing us a song you’re...
– Jen Stein
This year, on the seder plate
instead of the bloodied shank bone
we place a cluster of sweet grapes
which serve as a symbol of fertility,
of new life and abundance.
We choose this, life, and not death:
for before us is set life and death
the blessing and the curse.
Therefore, we choose life
that we may invite...
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS AS A JEW?
The Jewish people has been a refugee people since biblical times. In the United States, we know the devastating consequences of turning away refugees. Less than a century ago, refugees fleeing the Holocaust were marked as security threats to the U.S., denied entry, and sent back to Europe to be brutally murdered. Furthermore, the value of welcoming, protecting, and loving the...
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The Passover Symbols
We have now told the story of Passover… but wait! We’re not quite done. There are still some symbols on our seder plate we haven’t talked about yet. Rabban Gamliel would say that whoever didn’t explain the shank bone, matzah, and marror (or bitter herbs) hasn’t done Passover justice.
The shank bone represents the...
Our story starts in ancient times, with Abraham, the first person to have the idea that maybe all those little statues his contemporaries worshiped as gods were just statues. The idea of one God, invisible and all-powerful, inspired him to leave his family and begin a new people in Canaan, the land that would one day bear his grandson Jacob’s adopted name, Israel.
Around our tables sit four daughters.
The Wise daughter understands that not everything is as it appears.
She is the one who speaks up, confident that her opinion counts. She is the one who can take the tradition and ritual that is placed before her, turn it over and over, and find personal meaning...