The year 2020 will forever be remembered as a year of global chaos and turmoil. The new year was welcomed by all with a renewed sense of hope, but with an underlying insecurity as to whether 2021 will really be any different.
As Passover approaches, it is befitting that we look towards the story of the Exodus for direction and perspective. In so many ways we can draw a parallel between what we are experiencing in our own times and what God put the Egyptians through in the hope that they would change. Pharaoh and the Egyptians did not get the message, which led to the country’s downfall. But with our eyes open, we can take the message to heart, and use these uncertain times as the impetus to grow and become even greater.
The classic reading of the Torah’s account of the 10 plagues might not seem like the most relevant story to our modern day era. When was the last time God took down a mighty empire by unleashing a host of open miracles and wonders, anyhow? But when we look a little deeper at what the actual plagues represented, and what message they contained, one can see how relevant they are to our times.
The plague of blood was an attack on the Nile river, the source of Egypt’s endless abundance and prosperity. Without the need for rain they felt completely independent of needing God, giving them license to view themselves as deities. The visual of blood, a symbol of blessing, turning to blood, a symbol of pain, was meant to capture their attention and make them realize that prosperity can be a source of blessing or a source of misery. Put in this context, one might argue that our generation can very much relate to this plague, as we see the most affluent generation in the history of mankind suffering from crumbling morals and widespread sadness. Observing the lifestyles of the rich and famous- so many of whom seem to be living very dysfunctional lifestyles- just confirms that “water”, or abundance, without recognition of God, eventually turns to “blood” or misery.
The constant croaking of the second plague of frogs gave the Egyptians no respite from the terrible noise, just as we are suffering from an endless stream of terrible noise from our media and social media, and its constant spread of slander and hate. The plague of lice were meant to show the Egyptians that God can cripple the mightiest of empires through the most miniscule of messengers, a very relatable plague in a world that is only beginning to recover from an almost invisible virus.
Though we might not see lions and bears running through our streets as what occurred in the fourth plague of mixed wild animals, who cannot say that when we see the shattering glass, graffitied storefronts, and scorched buildings after yet another riot, it doesn’t feel that we were not attacked by a herd of wild animals?
The fifth plague of pestilence was an attack on the domestic animals who were worshipped as Gods by the pagan Egyptians. Though pagan worship is fairly uncommon today, one does wonder whether our society's obsession with celebrities, movie stars and sports figures borderlines on idol worship. And, perhaps, this is why our initial wake up call that Covid-19 should be taken seriously was when professional sports and the entertainment industry closed up shop, a very similar message, perhaps, to what God was communicating to Egypt in this fifth plague.
The sixth plague of boils was the punishment for the Egyptians obsession with their sexuality. As a result the boils made them embarrassed about how they looked. This can be taken as a wake-up call to a culture that has put so much emphasis on looking a certain way, that we have produced a generation of young people who feel ashamed about their looks as if they possess some sort of defect, even though there is nothing wrong with them at all!
And while we are not getting attacked with hailstorms of fire and ice crashinging through the atmosphere, as how it occurred during the seventh plague, we are struggling with the heated debate of whether we are damaging that atmosphere to a point that it will be beyond repair.
Surely, the millions of business owners who saw their businesses fall apart this past year by the coronavirus can certainly relate to the eighth plague that saw locusts devour whatever was left of the Egyptian crops, completely crippled their economy.
Perhaps, none of the plagues are more relatable to our society today than the final two. The ninth plague featured a darkness that was more than just a dimming of the sun. It was described as a heavy and thick darkness that completely paralyzed Egypt so that they could not get up or sit down. This brings to mind the overall mental and emotional health of our generation, with so many whose anxiety and depression feel like a dark cloud that makes even the simplest of tasks difficult.
And finally, the final plague that targeted the Eguptian firstborns who were considered the leaders in Egypt. The firstborn were attacked because of their failure to lead Egypt in a way that was honorable. This collapse of leadership is something that we are being plagued with in modern day society as well, as many of our politicians and world leaders certainly fall short of being considered reputable and often lack even the basic decency.
But there is good news in all this. The ten plagues was God’s way of saying that it was time to usher in a new reality. It was the birthing of the Jewish people who would go on to receive the Torah and bring new values and enlightenment to the world. We can only hope and pray that the ten plagues of today are once again the Almighty’s way of waking us up and calling on us to take notice of Him, to be ambassadors of a higher system of values, and to be ready to welcome in a new dawn and a much brighter future.