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Thought for the Day: Makkos in Mitzrayim as a Foundation of Emuna

I was talking to a recent ba'al t'shuva (this is only his second year of making Pesach properly); part of the discussion centered on how to keep the seder fresh and new every time; especially when we celebrate two s'darim back to back.  I think that's one of the reasons that new hagados come out every year with yet another angle.  However, at this point I have more than enough hagados to keep things fresh for decades; all I have to do is learn a paragraph or two starting from where I left off last year (or the year before or the year before...)

None the less, I did (of course) buy a new hadaga; Matnas Chaim.  It wasn't just my yeitzer harah, this hagada was published l'ilu'i nishmas (as an elevation for the soul of) Ita Rivka Zucker, ale'ha shalom.  This hagada is unique as it is not simply filled with divrei torah (from HaRav Matisyahu Chaim Solomon, shlita), but all the divrei torah are designed purposely as preparation for enhancement of the seder experience itself.  First there are 12 articles before the hagada starts to help one be in the correct frame of mind for the seder.  Interspersed and interleaved throughout the hagada are just enough instructions to guide, but unobtrusive enough allow to actually use this hagada during the seder.  Finally, at the back is "kuntrus eser makos"/notebook concerning the 10 makos to zero in on a few essential points that each makah is meant to teach -- including instructions for giving them over to the children (dance from foot to foot to impress on them how ridiculous Paroh looked in front of everyone when Moshe prevented him from attending to his daily needs in the morning while warning Paroh about the plagues).

There is one more thing I love about this hagada -- with every turn of the page comes a question that makes me think, "What an obvious question!  I wonder why I never thought of that before!"  Like this one: Why didn't Paroh just have Moshe killed and be done with it?  Bad enough Moshe and Aaron just walked in and out of Paroh's palace at will, but why not just order his guards, "Off with his head!"?  The answer is important to us in our daily life.

Mitzrayim was a the center and height of culture in a very civilized and cultured world.  (I know... not like the anthropologists told you in college; don't tell me you are still shocked that they lied!)  It was a world where sorcery and magic really happened.  Here comes Moshe Rabeinu claiming to have no special skills, not a sorcerer, nothing up his sleeve; he comes simply as the messenger of the Creator of the World, HaShem.  Paroh declares, "I don't know any HaShem"; meaning, "I don't recognize a power outside of my reality, and certainly no power exists that I cannot control."  The overarching message of the makos was to teach one lesson: HaShem creates the world anew each and every moment.  There is no nature, there are no real powers; the world is nothing but what HaShem says it is -- nothing more and nothing less.  Paroh therefore had only one thought, one single minded intention; prove Moshe wrong.  If Paroh can't prove that, then his whole way of life and world outlook become one colossal mistake.  Paroh time and time again goes to any extreme to find a hole in Moshe's arguments -- this must be the highest level of sorcery!  Moshe again and again demonstrates the opposite; nothing is what it is, everything is what HaShem says it is.

That, of course is our daily avoda; as we say in p'sukei d'zimra every morning: The gods/powers/physics of the nations of the world have no independent reality -- HaShem created everything, even the heavens.

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