Near the conclusion of the Haggadah's lengthy account of the Israelites' suffering in Egypt, we arrive at the point in the Seder when we recount the ten plagues. We do so briefly, first reciting "blood and fire and pillars of smoke," a passage from the prophet Joel (3:3), then naming each plague, and concluding with Rabbi Yehuda's ten-letter acronym, " Detzakh, Adash, B'achav. " With each word, we spill a drop of wine from our cups. Traditional texts of the Haggadah follow this with a much longer elaboration of the number of plagues the Egyptians suffered in Egypt and at the Red Sea. Of note, this midrashic treatment of the plagues includes different methods of enumerating the plagues, but it does not actually mention what a single one of these plagues involved. And many modern Haggadot omit this elaboration entirely.

What's interesting about this is that in the Book of Exodus, the plague narrative occupies the bulk of the story, extending through more than five chapters, while details of the Israelites' suffering in Egypt involves relatively few verses. The Haggadah reverses this, expounding on suffering and skimming over the plagues. Why? 

Consider and discuss:

If you had the same amount of power that God displayed through the plagues, how might you have tried to bring about the Exodus?

Why did God's plan to redeem the Israelites require such a lengthy series of plagues? Why these kinds of plagues? Why didn't God just have Moses announce to Pharaoh that unless Pharaoh let the Israelites go, God would side with an invading army from some other country that woudl defeat Pharaoh and let the Israelites go?

Whom do the plagues seek to influence and why?


haggadah Section: -- Ten Plagues
Source: David Arnow