Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Ten Plagues, A lesson in Repentance

The Midrash Tanchuma in Parshas Vaera can teach us a quite powerful lesson. It quotes a verse in Iyov, "Behold, G-D, in His omnipotence, will raise up. Who can instruct as He does?" (Iyov 36:22) The Medrash tells us that this means that G-D instructs the wicked how to repent their evil ways. This is done through G-D giving the wicked a certain illness or other hardship that relates to their misdeed. The ten plagues are the paradigm for this idea.

Blood: The reason for this plague was because the Egyptians did not allow the daughters of Israel to use the mikvah and purify themselves from their menstrual impurity. Thus, they effectively were prohibiting the Jews from procreating since a man can not lie with his wife unless she cleanses herself in the mikva. Therefore, the Egyptians were reminded of this sin by being punished with blood.

Frogs/Crocodiles: The Egyptians would force the Jews to chase after these creatures and bring them to the Egyptians. Therefore, the Egyptians were punished with the very thing that they forced the Jews to do.

Lice: The Egyptians would force the Jews to sweep the streets and market places (a pointless task as well) therefore the dust that the Jews were forced to sweep turned to lice.

Wild Beasts: The Egyptians would force the Jews to capture wild beasts for them just to torture the Jews. Therefore, the Egyptians were tortured with wild beasts.

Pestilence (for the animals): The Egyptians forced the Jews to watch after their animals in the desert, the mountains and the valleys in order that the Jews should not procreate by being allowed to return home. Therefore, all of the animals that the Jews had to watch were killed.

Boils: The Egyptians would force the Jews to get hot water for their baths and cold water if it was too hot. They tortured the Jews in order to take care of their bodies so their bodies were punished by being covered in boils.

Hail: The Egyptians made the Jews plant gardens and orchards. Therefore, G-D brought the hail to destroy these plantations.

Locusts: The Egyptians made the Jews plant wheat and barely. Therefore, G-D made the locusts come and destroy these crops.

Darkness: The reason for this plague was in order to get rid of the Jews that were wicked. G-D could not bring a plague on them while the Egyptians could see because then the Egyptians would say that just like we are plagued so too are the Jews. Then the Jews would not be freed. Therefore, G-D cast darkness over the land of Egypt to punish the wicked Jews.

Death of the firstborn: The Eitz Yosef says that it was because the Egyptians killed many Jews.

Going into Pesach we can learn many important things from the ten plagues. However, I think that the most important aspect is that of reflection. This is a time of year where we can reflect and think about G-D's influence in our lives. What types of messages has He been sending to us. Should I be repenting for certain things? Have I made the wrong choices? Little signs, or big signs, can help guide us in the right direction, all we have to do is look.

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