Talking about the 10 Plagues

By Laura Seymour

Passover is a wonderful holiday with a GREAT (and important) story, yet there are parts of the Seder that are difficult, especially for children. We talk about the mean Pharaoh and make sure they know he is no longer around. The 10 Plagues add a different challenge, yet we sing silly songs and make pictures to take the fear away. Should we eliminate all the bad and scary? This is a question in so many areas of parenting and each family must make these decisions.

Our stories and our memories are for passing on and fortunately we get many years as our children grow older to guide the questions and understanding. Play with the toy plagues, sing the songs and with the adults talk about the plagues today so that we can learn to master our fears and overcome the challenges of today as we continue to grow.

“Then G-d took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, with awesome power, with signs and wonders.” (Deuteronomy 26:8)

The “wonders” are the terrible 10 Plagues — in the traditional Haggadah, we simply recite the plagues without discussion, yet our fascination leads us to question the meaning! Today, we have creative ways to remember those horrible experiences and as we play and laugh, let us continue to question. What is the meaning? Why do we repeat and pour a drop of wine? What are we to remember?

At Passover, we are told to REMEMBER and to TELL the story. “Remembering” is a personal act — “telling” lets us share the story through the generations. These actions give us the opportunity to take part in guaranteeing the future of the Jewish people. This Passover: Question, learn, laugh, remember and tell!

  • BLOOD: All the water was turned to blood — there was nothing to drink!
  • FROGS: The frogs filled the streets and the homes — there was no escape!
  • LICE: These tiny creatures covered the land and everybody — they could not wash them off!
  • WILD BEASTS: All kinds of wild animals walked the streets and entered the homes.
  • CATTLE DISEASE: Even the animals suffered because Pharaoh would not listen.
  • BOILS: All were in pain but Pharaoh’s heart was hard.
  • HAIL: Not just ice but fire within the ice crashing down to earth.
  • LOCUSTS: Swarms of grasshoppers covered the ground.
  • DARKNESS: Not even a candle would help this darkness!
  • SLAYING OF THE FIRSTBORN: Of all the plagues, this one cannot be taken lightly — there is no picture or toy to show this.

A famous Midrash makes the point:

When the Egyptians were drowning in the Sea of Reeds, the ministering angels began to sing G-d’s praises. But G-d silenced them, saying: “How can you sing while my children perish?” (Megillah 10b)

Even as we celebrate our freedom, we remember the terrible cost. We may rejoice in what we have — but we may not celebrate the death of our foes.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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