The Magic of the Plagues

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Vaera Magic Unexpected

“Do you believe in magic?” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

The plagues were a big deal. Each plague bent the will of the Egyptian leaders and citizens. God did not even allow the Egyptians to free the Israelites but clearly the plagues were enough to convince the Pharaoh to yield his authority before God.

Obviously the plagues made the Egyptians uncomfortable. They would make anyone uncomfortable. But I think there is a broader message we can learn from the tension between Egypt and the plagues.

All of the plagues could have been natural events. These things happen. Yet, the Egyptians could not deal with these naturally occurring events. The plagues were all unpredictable and anomalous. Egypt was built on the predictability of the Nile, the permanence of the after-life, construction of eternal monuments, and their own ancient and future legacy. This kind of rigidity locks people into patterns of predictable behavior. In life, without surprises there is no magic. The special moments of life, in good times and bad, do not flow from regular cycles of predictable activity. Magical moments happen when something unexpected happens.

The Israelites were to become the opposite of Egypt. Every special occasion would become a holiday and every disaster would become sad day. We love the surprises of life. We embrace the impossible to predict moment. We celebrate it!

Egypt did not understand this magic. This is explains why the plagues were so disconcerting to the Egyptians. It was not just the discomfort of the plague. It was also their discomfort with surprise that made them uncomfortable.

We also tend to yearn for predictable and stable lives. That is important. But whenever you notice even a little chaos amongst all the order, embrace the surprise and find the magic.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink is the founder of
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