The Passover holiday, which this year begins on Friday (April 6), celebrates the story of freedom of the ancient Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage. But more than just a compelling lesson about our legendary past, it is an urgent call for justice, equality and freedom for those who are still oppressed today.
According to the Exodus story, Pharaoh had an obstinate heart and refused to let the Hebrew slaves go free. As a consequence, he brought 10 plagues on his land, including blood and frogs, lice, gnats and flies, murrain and boils, hail and darkness, and finally, the death of the first-born Egyptians.
Pharaoh ultimately capitulated, but we are cautioned not to rejoice at his downfall or that Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea while attempting to catch the fleeing Israelites. Instead, during the Seder (service before the Passover meal) it is a custom to recite the plagues and spill a drop of wine at the mention of each plague, thereby diminishing our pleasure.
In recent years, many new modern Haggadahs have been created -- the books used to retell the Passover story -- and they are likely to incorporate a list of "Contemporary Afflictions," including AIDS, drugs, hunger, illiteracy, pollution, poverty and racism, modern plagues that continue to darken our lives today.
As we find ourselves in the midst of the latest presidential election cycle, an affliction unto itself, here is a set of 10 New Plagues for Passover 2012.
1. Out-of-control SuperPACs that are unaffiliated, uncoordinated, unassociated and secretly run by billionaires.
2. No-holds-barred political consultants who run unfettered, unrestrained, carpet-bombing smear campaigns.
3. Fear-mongering politicians who foster anxiety and anger rather than confidence and hope.
4. Arrogant candidates who sarcastically deflect important and legitimate questions with snide responses that scapegoat the "elite" media.
5. Puritanical religious crusaders who make outrageous attacks on contraception, freedom of choice, women, gays and lesbians, teachers and union members, as well as intellectuals and liberals and the colleges that "indoctrinate" them.
6. Rogue robocalls that are unleashed, unregistered and illegal.
7. Bloviating, bombastic, pompous and inflammatory talkshow hosts.
8. Crackpot conspiracy theorists who don't care about facts, evidence or truth.
9. All-powerful, self-interested banks and financial organizations that don't care about the client.
10. Otherwise reasonable, caring people who let them all get away with it.
Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer is the leader of The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (New York City) www.citycongregation.org. He is the author of "The Liberated Haggadah: A Passover Celebration for Cultural, Secular and Humanistic Jews." (secularhaggadah.com)