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One of the greatest lessons of the story of Passover: the importance of unity in the face of a disaster.

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Chagall's 1931 hand-colored etching of Moses ordering the plague of darkness over Egypt (Image: Chagall, Darkness over Egypt from the series La Bible [1931])

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Passover is fast approaching. Given the fact that the world for over a year has been plagued by the coronavirus pandemic, there are those who argue that there are many parallels between the coronavirus pandemic that we are experiencing today and the ten plagues of ancient Egypt. After all, the coronavirus, like a plague, has caused much pain, affliction, torment, distress, and loss of life. In fact, last Passover, one of the most common statuses on social media was: “Jewish irony: Passover canceled because of a plague.”

As of today, 22,679 Canadians and over 2.7 million people worldwide have perished due to the coronavirus pandemic. So many people across the globe either know someone who perished or got sick due to this horrific pandemic, making the humanitarian suffering en par with what the ancient Egyptians experienced. 

In fact, in the United States and Italy, there have been so many fatalities that they were forced to cremate the bodies. In Iran, many unfortunate souls have been buried in mass graves.  The hospital system in many countries has collapsed, which is a reality that causes even a greater number of deaths that could have been prevented. Such a reality makes us feel for every Egyptian who lost their first-born child, for so many of us have also either lost someone that we love and cherish or watch someone close to us suffer the after effects of getting the coronavirus.  

However, the disaster that this pandemic caused is greater than merely the number of sick and vast loss of human life. Since the pandemic began, peoples across the world have been plunged into darkness. Theaters, cinemas, restaurants, and shopping malls have been shut down. Schools, universities, churches, synagogues, and mosques have been shuttered. Even the production of TV series has been delayed due to the pandemic. For a great part of the past year, people were locked down at home, without the ability to travel between cities, much less internationally. 

The fortunate were working from home or were given special permission to work in an essential business. The less fortunate sit alone and mope, sinking into a grave psychological depression. Living such a reality thus makes us understand what the ancient Egyptians must have felt when they were plunged into darkness. 

Furthermore, many of the plagues of ancient Egypt were somehow caused by animals: frogs, lice, wild beasts, cattle disease, and locusts.  Similarly, there is reason to believe that the coronavirus was caused by bats. 

“Coronaviruses are under our feet in rodents. They are above our heads in bats. We live in a kind of coronavirus world,” virologist Edward Holmes at the University of Sydney told NPR. 

Holmes and his team found that the bats harbored 24 new coronaviruses, including four closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, and three viruses closely related to SARS-CoV, which caused a smaller outbreak back in 2003. Indeed, the coronavirus would not be the first instance that a grave disaster was caused by an animal-to-human transmission. After all, we also had bird flu, swine flu and mad cow disease.  

This horrible situation, where the bat-to-human transmission of a horrible virus caused a global pandemic that plunged our work into darkness and caused massive death and destruction globally, has caused many people to reflect upon our history and to study potential historic parallels for our time. 

However, Congregation Or Chadash cautioned against drawing parallels between the ten plagues of Egypt and the coronavirus pandemic, noting that the plagues of Egypt happened one after another instantly rather than growing progressively over time like the coronavirus pandemic did. 

There is another reason they are opposed to such comparisons: “Do you know the main reason that in our time of crisis and uncertainty we should choose our words carefully and sensitively and not compare COVID-19 to a biblical plague on Passover?  Because all of us have within us the power to flatten the curve, reduce the infection rate, and most importantly, help those in our neighborhoods who need our help.”

“You see, my friends, during the plagues in Egypt, no one helped their neighbor,” the statement continued.  “No one reached out to help a friend. Everyone turned inward to protect themselves. By the way, this has been true of every plague and pandemic in human history. During the Black Death (1331-1353), where 75-200 million died, they turned on the Jews. The smallpox epidemic in the 1780s killed the Plains and Pueblo Indians. Yellow Fever (1793-1798) in the US. The Spanish Flu (1918-1920, killing 17-100 million). The list goes on. No one helped anyone but themselves. But today is different.”

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Indeed, governments across the globe have been delivering financial aid packages to their citizens who are struggling during the pandemic. There are also numerous charities that are doing likewise. Simultaneously, a vaccine has been developed and nations across the world are presently in the process of distributing it, so that the pandemic can end. 

In contrast, there was no vaccine that could end the ten plagues of ancient Egypt. People back then were not innovative like they are today. Furthermore, the medicine of ancient Egypt was not as advanced as our medicine today: they had zero means of studying the plagues and figuring out the best way to help the infected, like we are doing today with the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, just because the ten plagues of ancient Egypt are not identical to the coronavirus pandemic does not mean that there are not lessons that we can learn from our ancestors.  

After all, Rabbi Gamliel once stated in the Passover Hagaddah, “In every generation, a person must regard himself as though he had personally gone out of Egypt, as it is said: ‘And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me that I went out of Egypt.’ Therefore, it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol him who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and us: He who brought forth from bondage to freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning into festivity and from sorrow into great light.”

Indeed, one of the greatest lessons that the ten plagues of ancient Egypt teach us is the importance of unity in the face of a disaster. 

Just because the ten plagues of ancient Egypt are not identical to the coronavirus pandemic does not mean that there are not lessons that we can learn from our ancestors. (Photo: eaglesinleadership.org)

While the Egyptians turned inwardly and did not help each other as they faced the plagues, the ancient Israelites behaved differently. They all united and placed lambs’ blood on the door posts of their homes, so the Angel of Death will pass them over and spare them what the Egyptians suffered.  

They held onto their faith in the face of adversity, made sacrifices to the one true G-d and stood together against the Egyptian bondage, trusting that G-d will rescue them. 

When it was time for them to depart from Egypt, they placed matzah bread on their back and journeyed into the desert, surviving mainly on the manna from heaven that G-d provided them with. They were forced to have faith that G-d will bring them a better tomorrow and to live off that faith. 

Similarly, as we face the coronavirus together, we should also stand united against this disaster, pray and trust that G-d has not forgotten us and that he will one day rescue us from this pandemic. Indeed, it is our faith in the one true G-d that will help us to prevail during these trying times. 

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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