Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pesachdik Meanderings: The Tenth Plague

It is something we say twice every year when we retell the story in the Haggadah Shel Pesach[1] of our redemption from Egyptian bondage. I refer here to the "ma kas b'choros".[2] It was the last in a series of ten, as if God were saving the 'best' (read: the very WORST!) for last. By the time of the tenth plague, there should have been no doubters as to the identity of the Master of the Universe!

Though uncertain about the reason(s) for which God chose the firstborn of Egypt, it is clear that He did so with purpose- for what does He do without ... ? Perhaps the demonstration that He could take certain lives with "surgical precision" rather than indiscriminately slaying everyone ... would be the final proof to Pharoah that he was like anyone else, merely 'basar v' dam', flesh and blood! Was his son not smitten too?

Our first-born possesses a unique quality that distinguishes him from his siblings. While there must have been some Egyptian families with one child only, the inference that there were typically others seems clear by the use of the adjective "first", an ordinal number denoting rank of birth. The second child, the third ... were not slain!

Our first-born child arrives at a time in our lives when we are still young (er) ourselves, nearer the point in time when we were once the "children" of parents. Our “bechor”[3] is often born to us in our youth. Should that child die before we do, it is as if a part of ourselves dies too ... the remnant of our youth, our own childhood.

[1] Story of the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt

[2] the slaying of the first born

[3] first-born child

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