BY JOEL ALTER, JTS
Miracles of Biblical and Everyday Proportions
Last week, God pummeled Egypt unprecedentedly with hail:
The LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire streamed down to the ground, as the LORD rained down hail upon the land of Egypt. The hail was very heavy—fire flashing in the midst of the hail—such as had not fallen on the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. (Exod. 9:23–24)
On the combination of fire and ice, Ibn Ezra comments that this was “a wonder within a wonder.”
As this week’s portion opens, Moses and Aaron announce:
BY MIRIAM LIEBMAN for JTS
REDEEMING THE PLAGUES
Every year at the Passover seder, there is a brief pause in the chaos when everyone dips a finger in their cup of wine and spills a single drop for each of the ten plagues. We are spilling wine to remind ourselves that although the plagues served as miracles for us, those miracles came at the expense of others. That moment of reflection comes to a quick end when so many seder tables begin to sing upbeat melodies listing each of the plagues and reminding ourselves of our own redemption and the miraculous acts God performed in order to take us out of Egypt. But what does it really mean for us that our redemption comes at the expense of others’ suffering?
BY ARNOLD M. EISEN, JTS
Summoning a People
Two very different stories about who we are as Jews are forcefully presented in the opening chapters of the Book of Exodus. One of them—captured in the Hebrew title of the book, Shemot or “Names”—declares that we are the Children of Israel: a nation, a people, defined in the first instance and forever after by our ancestors and the paths they travelled. The other story teaches that we are disciples of Moses, the human protagonist of the book, and, like him, are servants of the God Who called to Moses out of the Burning Bush and bound us in covenant at Sinai.