Parshat Va'eira: The Ancient Plagues of Egypt

Uploaded by gdashdcast on 09.01.2010

At the beginning of Parshat Vaera
Moses spoke to the Israelites
of the promises God had made
to their ancestors, of the holy land
and their destiny, to go there.
But the children of Israel would not listen
to him at first
After 400 years of slavery,
they were skeptical.
It seemed, from their perspective,
like God had completely forgotten about them.
And that, is where the plagues really begin.
You might think that the plagues
were all about punishing the Egyptians,
or proving God’s might to Pharaoh.
And they were. But they were also
a powerful way for God to come alive again
in the lives of the Israelite slaves.
Moses and his brother, Aaron, went to Pharaoh
with a simple basic message.
You’ve heard it before – “Let my people go…”
Now, Pharaoh wasn’t used to people
telling him what to do.
And of all the many gods in Egypt,
he had never heard of the God of Moses,
so he demanded a sign.
Aaron cast down his staff
and it turned into a snake.
But Pharaoh's magicians were able
to do the same thing with their magic.
Even when Aaron’s snake ate the others
and turned back into a staff,
the Pharaoh was still not convinced,
his heart hardened,
and he would not let the Israelites go.
So God told Moses and Aaron to stretch out
the staff over the waters of the Nile and say,
“By this you shall know that I am the Lord!
See, I strike the waters in the Nile
and they will be turned to blood.
The fish will die and the water will stink
so that none may drink for seven days.”
And so the waters turned to blood.
Even waters in bowls and cups.
And Egypt suffered.
After seven days had passed,
Pharaoh would still not let them go.
So God told Aaron to stretch out his arm again
over the water again and bring up frogs
onto the land. And they came up onto the land
so that every surface swarmed
with their squishy, warty bodies.
Pharaoh couldn’t take it
and he promised to let the people go.
So God caused the frogs to die.
The Egyptians swept them up
into enormous piles till the land stank,
but there was relief. And with the relief,
Pharaoh’s heart hardened again,
and he took back his promise.
And so God sent more plagues,
one after another.
And each time, when it got really bad –
Pharaoh would promise again
to let the people go.
And each time the plague ended,
his heart would harden
and the promise would evaporate.
So it went with blood, and frogs,
and on and on for ten plagues.
Lice. Insects. Pestilence. Boils.
Hail which turned to fire when it struck the land.
And three more terrible plagues
which we'll hear about in next week’s parsha.
With every plague, the children of Israel
watched as their God fought on their behalf,
for their freedom.
With every new wonder,
they were more and more sure
that a terrible and awesome power
existed beyond themselves.
They began to remember who they were,
to have hope that Pharaoh could be defeated,
and to imagine that their lives
might serve some purpose beyond slavery.
And yet when we,
the descendents of these very slaves,
remember the plagues each year
at our Passover seder tables,
we still do not celebrate the plagues
themselves with joy.
They may have been the key
to our escape from slavery,
and the agent for our reawakening to God
in the world,
but they caused tremendous suffering.
And so, when we name the plagues each year,
we remove a drop from our glasses for each one –
a reminder, that we should never rejoice
in suffering – even the suffering
of our enemies.
Producer: Sarah Lefton
Animation Director: Nick Fox-Gieg
Animation: Jeanne Stern
Editorial Director: Matthue Roth
Sound Recording: Sarah Lefton