In most Jewish ceremonies, wine or grape juice is a part of the ritual. For the Passover seder this Monday evening, a cup of sweet wine will be placed at each setting. During the service, at the mention of the 10 plagues, the celebrants will dip off a drop of their wine for each plague. Since wine symbolizes happiness, we do this to show that our happiness is incomplete. Thus Jewish people express sadness that some Egyptians had to suffer before freedom was granted to the Hebrew slaves.
What are the Ten Plagues endangering the earth and human life today? Who are the Pharaohs of today? What are the Ten Blessings we can bring to heal the earth? Each of the Biblical “plagues” (undrinkable water, unprecedented hailstorms, mad cow disease, etc.) was an ecological disaster caused by Pharaoh’s greed for wealth and power, his hard-heartedness, his arrogance. Today there are similar pyramidal powers – Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Banking – that are motivated by their own enormous wealth and power.
When rulers ignore human needs and destroy human lives, the earth itself writhes and rebels in agony.
The Shalom Center has created an Interfaith Seder for the Earth to help us free ourselves from the greatest dangers of our time. Below are listed each of the Ten Ancient Plagues, followed in brackets by the corresponding plague of today:
n Water into Blood (Pollution and privatization of water; the flood that destroyed New Orleans)
n Frogs (Frogs – dead and maimed by chemicals)
n Vermin (Poverty)
n Beasts (Extinction of thousands of species)
n Mad Cow Disease
n Boils / Pestilence (Collapse of health system; disappearance of health insurance; asthma epidemic; environmental cancer; neglect of people with HIV and AIDS)
n Hail (Radical climate change; global scorching)
n Locusts (Famine, genetically modified foods, patented seeds)
n Endless night (Plague of blindness to each other, failure of empathy: no one can see us, we cannot see others. Prison system. Collapse of educational system)
n Slaying of the first born (War, terrorism, torture, gun-violence dead, especially children)
The Prophet Malachi taught that Elijah the Prophet “will turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents, lest the earth be utterly destroyed.”
The blessing is turning to solar and wind power – honoring and healing the Breath of Life. The breathing of oxygen and carbon dioxide, through which what we breathe in is what the trees breathe out; what the trees breathe in is what we breathe out.
There is a remedy and a healing from the Pharaohs of the plagues that afflict us today.
Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd Street West, Bradenton. Shabbat services are held 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call (941) 755-4900 or visit www.templebethelbradenton.com