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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Contemporary Plagues: Learning From Our Past


Very soon we will sit around the Seder table and tell the story of the Exodus. We have arrived at Z’man Cheiruseinu, the Season of our Freedom. The Children of Israel are about to leave Mitzraim.

What a story.

But it’s not a story. It’s reality.

I would like to suggest parallels between the Ten Plagues and contemporary events.

Blood: Worldwide hatred and violence. You don’t have to look far to see the pervasive hatred and anger in today’s world. People are ready to pounce on each other over nothing. You see it most clearly, of course, in the worldwide hatred toward Israel. The entire world is going crazy because we have returned to our homeland. This is pure hatred; there is no reason for it. Advertisement

Frogs: Worldwide pollution. Can you imagine the stench after the frogs died? Our world is filled with refuse and foul air. Plastic waste is floating even in the most distant and isolated oceans. Even on the moon.

Lice: Endless petty annoyances adding up to torture. Do you sometimes feel as if your life is so crammed with distractions that you can’t breathe? Not important things, but things you just have to get out of the way. They’re nothing – but you feel as if they’re driving you crazy.

Wild Beasts: Insane people. There are many people in the world who are totally cracked. Some are unknown and some are heads of state. They are out of control, and they are dangerous.

Plague on Animals: Animals in the ancient world represented wealth. This is the plague of economic collapse. Do you think the economy is improving? Perhaps, but one hears many stories of formerly comfortable people who are today without food on the table.

Boils: Serious illness and strange diseases. Every day we hear stories of people who are sick or injured, sometimes young mothers or fathers or small children struck down by exotic diseases or bizarre accidents.

Hail: Natural disasters: typhoons, floods, ice storms, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, landslides. Need I mention earthquakes in Haiti and Chile? What about the recent devastating windstorm in the Northeast? The foundations of the earth are shaking.

Locusts: Drought, hunger worldwide. By the mercy of God most of us have enough to eat, but countless human beings are hungry or starving. How secure is our food supply? We no longer pick our vegetables from the kitchen garden or collect eggs from the chickens. We depend upon vast and complex technology beyond our control and subject to disruption if one link is threatened.

Darkness: Psychological stress and anxiety. So many people slave in mental darkness and psychological depression, lost in a world of despair. The very pressures of the times we live in, when darkness seems to envelope the world and hope seems lost, increase the psychological stress.

Slaying of Firstborn: War and terrorism. We have lived through 9/11, although some did not. Many feel in our hearts that the second shoe is about to drop. Statements emanating from dark corners reinforce that feeling. Not long ago, a plane filled with passengers was saved by a miracle. Israel is threatened every day. What about the lunatic in Iran? What kind of world can we expect for our children?

Our Sages have a maxim: ma’ase avos siman l’banim – the events of our fathers’ lives are a sign for their children. This is a great kindness, because Hashem is giving us the ability to understand the events of our times and to see how our predecessors dealt with similar tests.

From this we can learn how to conduct our own lives.

Imagine you are an Egyptian in ancient Egypt. Your world is crumbling. With each successive plague, another aspect of your world falls apart. Everything on which you depend is collapsing.

But imagine, on the other hand, you are a Child of Israel in ancient Egypt. You are in the presence of Moses and Aaron. You are about to embark on the greatest epic in the history of the world. God is about to meet you at Sinai and present you with His Torah. You are about to experience the greatest moment in history. You are filled with exhilaration.

One place and one time: two totally different reactions.

The world seems to be collapsing only to those who cling to structures that are fallible, as King David says, “In darkness they walk; all foundations of the earth collapse” (Psalm 82). If we cling to the surrounding culture, we will be as vulnerable as it is.

But what happens if we bear in mind what our Prophets and Sages have told us, that at the time of our Final Redemption “He will let us hear, in His compassion, for a second time, in the presence of all the living ‘I am Hashem your God’ “?

If we keep that thought in mind, we will be like our ancestors in Egypt who clung to the guidance of Moshe and Aharon and who left crumbling Mitzraim to march in glory to receive the Eternal Torah directly from the Almighty.

As in Egypt, when the surrounding culture was falling apart, we have one recourse and one recourse alone: to cling with all our strength to our Eternal Structure, God and His Torah, and by doing that, we will live to see the glorious day when “Hashem echad u’shmo echad” – when the entire world acknowledges the Truth of God’s Existence. Then, Torah will emerge from Zion and the Word of God from the Rebuilt Jerusalem.

May we see it soon with our own eyes.

About the Author: Roy Neuberger's latest book, “2020 Vision” (Feldheim) is available in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Russian, and Georgian. An e-edition is available at www.feldheim.com. Roy is also the author of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul” (available in English, Hebrew and Russian, and Georgian) and “Worldstorm.” Roy and Leah Neuberger speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at roy@tosinai.com or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.


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