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10 Modern-Day Plagues: Are You Afflicted?

10 Modern-Day Plagues: Are You Afflicted?

Row of young people on various personal electronic devices

The third cup of wine always does me in. I usually don’t drink that much, and given that Manischewitz sits heavy on the stomach, after a meal of matzah and brisket and tzimmes, it was I who was, indeed, gefiltehed (stuffed)! And thus my head began to nod, which would not have been a problem, but for the fact that I was leading the seder.

It was then that I had my vision, my hazon, of Moses, but it wasn’t Moses. It was a modern-day Moses, who walked into the throne room of Pharaoh, but it wasn’t a throne room and it wasn’t Pharaoh. It was a modern-day taskmaster, and Moses had come to deliver the message of the Eternal One.

“Let my people go,” Moses cried, “for if you do not, God will bring down extraordinary chastisements.”

And with those words, the Wifi dropped out.

The courtiers checked the servers, they called the cable company, and though they unplugged and re-plugged the router, there was no signal to be had. “No matter,” they said, “We will log onto our 4G networks,” but no bars were to be had throughout the land. When work could not be done nor cat videos shared, the master relented. But, when the signal was restored, his heart hardened once again.

And so Moses went to Pharaoh a second time, warning this time that employees’ computers would be clogged. Indeed, try as they might, no one could click fast enough to cycle through endless pop-up ads. Even when they did, they were distracted by an infinite list of articles, none of which offered the information promised in the fascinating titles.

With work once again halted,  the master told the workers to go, but when the flow of information was restored, his heart was hardened and the laborers returned to their tasks.

This cycle continued as Moses brought the rest of the plagues upon Pharaoh’s kingdom.

You will have too many bills; each will be unexpected and unanticipated, throwing your carefully crafted budget into chaos.  

Your children will have soccer games and recitals and karate tournaments and scouting and chess club, and though these events will not occur every day, it will seem that they do.

At last, you will finish the project you’ve been working on for four months only to find assignments for two more were made in the interim.

You will spend hard-earned money on the tokens and trinkets the modern world craves, only to find them cheaply made and easily broken. Your kids, however, will have great fun playing with the trinkets’ shipping boxes – more fun, in fact, than they’ve ever had with any of the toys and games in the playroom.

You will gain weight. If you eat a lot, the number on the scale will go up. If you eat a little, the number on the scale will go up. The fad diet results that seem to work for everyone else will elude you, and even then, the number on the scale will go up.

No matter what the topic, someone will take issue with whatever you say. You will find offense lurking beneath every vine and every fig tree, and all will make you afraid.

You will never get enough sleep. Though you will lay your head down each night, the siren call of media and technology at your bedside will thwart your circadian rhythms. Try as you might, sleep will elude you, until morning dawns and you find yourself exhausted.

After every plague, the boss was chastened, but in the end, the master was unrelenting, and the workers returned to their feverish pace.

And then Moses brought the 10th and final plague, “You shall have 24-hour workdays, and seven-day work weeks. With the ability to take your work anywhere, you will take your work everywhere. From the boss in his big chair, to the lowly intern in the basement cubicle, neither you nor your people nor anyone in the land shall know rest or retreat or refreshment from your labors. And there shall be no end.”

Suddenly, I was startled awake. The seder was over and the clean-up crew was vacuuming the carpet.

“Funny,” I think, “it’s the Haggadot that need vacuuming; that’s where the crumbs collect.”

Moses and the boss were gone, but the memory of those plagues haunted me. Ten new soul-crushing punishments brought down from heaven to chastise the taskmasters. “Thank goodness it was only a nightmare,” I tell myself. “Or was it?”

Rabbi Anthony Fratello is a 1994 graduate of Pomona College and was ordained at the Cincinnati Campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1999. Since 2000, he has been the rabbi of Temple Shaarei Shalom, a 560-family congregation in Boynton Beach, FL. He has served as a board and executive board member of numerous community agencies and is a highly sought and well-regarded speaker, teacher, and lecturer.

Rabbi Anthony Fratello

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