Coming to the ten plagues this year is certainly different than every other year. Many of us have been wondering about adding an eleventh plague (coronavirus) to the list. As I was considering this, the following occurred to me.
In the Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc). story, the Israelites, by virtue of being Israelites, were kept safe from the nine plagues. As the tenth plague, the killing of all the first born, was on the verge of being inflicted, they were told to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on the doorpost as a way of ensuring their protection. As the story tells us, the plague passed over their homes and the horror was only inflicted on the homes of the Egyptians. We dip for each plague; mindful that we were saved while others suffered.
Covid-19 is not the plague of the biblical narrative. It is indiscriminate and seeks out anyone, regardless of identity, race, religion or nationality. Covid-19 is not an act from an anthropomorphic God. Let’s be careful not to categorize it in this way, but rather to explore what we are experiencing and learning.
This is a time of such extreme paradox. In order to protect ourselves and each other, we need to keep ourselves separate. We need to maintain distance and stay within our own walls. And at the very same time it is vital that we maintain the awareness of our absolute interdependence. To know that we are intricately connected with all life, and the well being of all depends on every one of us.
As we wisely separate ourselves right now and stay in our own homes, we need to remember that ultimately safety, protection and well-being will not come from building and maintaining walls between us. It will not come through blame, punishment or banishment.
Well-being, harmony, safety is only possible if we are able to live into the truth of our interdependence and make choices based on caring well for each other and the earth.
We are here together.
We do not know what the world will look like on the other side of this experience.
Let us make an all-out effort, with every word and every choice, to turn the world toward healing.
10 Plagues Ritual
Place a bowl of warm water and a drying cloth on the table. We recite each of the 10 plagues and dip to diminish our cups. We then wash our hands and afterward recite this prayer:
N’varech et Havayah, makor mayyim hayyim
We bless the Infinite Life Force, source of living waters
Honoring our interdependence, we offer gratitude.
Each of in turn says:
I am thankful for….
Honoring our interdependence, we offer gifts.
Each of us in turn says something we offer through who we are and the ways we live our lives.
We close this ritual with this verse from psalms:
“I will walk in the Presence of the One in the lands of life.”
We will walk in the Presence of the One in the lands of life.