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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Month of Nissan

THE 10 PLAGUES – OR PRESENTS?

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It’s almost Pesach and you know that that means: Four Questions! So let’s ask them:

1) What is THE central message of Passover?

2) 10 is a nice round number, but why so many Plagues? Why not one, huge BOOM from Above, and we’re out?

3) For whose benefit or detriment were these Plagues?

4) What relevance, if any, do the plagues have for all of us today?

There are lots of themes and approaches to Pesach, but I suggest that the Number 1 idea we are meant to take away from this Chag is Hakarat HaTov – gratitude and appreciation for the countless things which Hashem did,
does and will do for us. An acknowledgment that G-d cares for us – because He cares about us - and always will.

How do we connect to others? There are two ways: One way is to give to them; the other is to accept what they give to US - and be thankful to them for it. If you realize what the other does for you, you cannot but feel close to them, as love and gratitude are inextricably tied to each other.

Clearly, Hashem gives to us in so many ways. But how do we give to Hashem? It is by following the path He lays out for us - doing Mitzvot, performing acts of Chesed, praying, sacrificing, and living as a proud and loyal Jew.
That is precisely why there were multiple Makot. Each one was another reminder of the manifold blessings we are given: Water to drink (not blood); serenity (not frogs or lice); health (not boils); light (not darkness) and so on.

True, the plagues also were designed to punish Paro and the Egyptians, repaying them measure for measure, Mida K’Neged Mida, for the horrendous way they treated us during the slavery period. And certainly they needed to
reap the result of their evil actions. But the primary focus of the 10 Plagues – and of the Exodus in all its fullness – was us - Bnei Yisrael, the Jewish People eternally.

Here’s an idea: Each day, after reciting the 15 general morning Brachot, stop and thank G-d for all the personal things in our life with which we are blessed. It could be our kids, our home, our health, our ability to walk or enjoy
food, etc. This makes our Tefila real and relevant, and brings home just how much we have to be grateful for from Hashem, deepening our love for Him.

So instead of always calling it the 10 Plagues, once in a while think of it as the 10 Presents which G-d gave – and continues to give to us. Chag Kasher V’Sameach!
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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