Torah and Veda are two ancient sources of spirituality still vibrant today. Torah is conveyed through the sacred language of Hebrew and Veda is conveyed through the sacred language of Sanskrit. The focus here is on meditation, mysticism, philosophy, psychology and the underlying spirituality that has been incorporated into religions, and not as much on the religions themselves. Your comments and posts are welcome.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Ten Plagues Passover Thoughts

On this eve of the beginning of Passover, I’d like to share these somewhat novel (though not entirely original) thoughts about looking at the ten plagues from a different perspective.

As we know, the traditional Seder includes a description of the ten plagues that were inflicted on the Egyptian oppressors prior to the release/escape of the Israelites from their bondage. I have not found much discussion about the significance of each particular plague either in the Haggadah or in traditional sources, and usually, what discussion there is focuses on the suffering endured by the Egyptians caused by the plagues.

During a group study of these events a few years back, it suddenly dawned upon me that we are possibly missing an important lesson by not focusing on the impact on the consciousness of the Israelite slaves who witnessed these events. Were these events merely to inflict suffering on the Egyptians and illustrate to them the superiority of the Hebrew God and the protection God afforded to His People? What about the effect on the consciousness of these people? Perhaps witnessing these events was important as a preparation for this people which was about to emerge as a newly independent nation. Perhaps the forty years of wandering in the dessert was necessary in order for this people to adequately digest and absorb the inner significance of these events into their collective and individual psyches before they would be ready to enter the Promised Land. What was the significance and nature of each of these plagues? How were they intended to impact and impress the people witnessing them? How are they intended to impact and impress the consciousness of the people reciting them in subsequent Seders year-in-and-year-out? They involve water turning into blood, pestilence in the form of amphibians, insects, land animals, disease affecting livestock, boils affecting humans and livestock, hail with thunder and lightning, locust swarms, darkness, and finally, the death of all first-borns.

Traditional sources claim that each plague took a total of four weeks. There was first a warning issued by Moses, with the actual plague starting three weeks after the warning, and generally lasting for one week. The first nine are noted by traditional authorities to run in cycles of three. The first two of each group of three are preceded by a warning from Moses, giving Pharaoh a chance to comply with Moses’ request to let the people go and thus avoid the plague, while the third one commences without warning as punishment for Pharaoh breaking earlier promises. This parallels the time of the human gestational period of nine months, divided into three trimesters, so perhaps these can be seen as figurative stages of development in the womb in preparation for birth.

Why ten plagues? Any correlation with the ten sephirot and the ten commandments?

There is much food for thought and pondering here. So think about these things as you’re munching on your matzos, marror, charoset, and downing your kosher for Passover wine!

Happy Passover!

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