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Rabbi Samuel April Headshot

Today's 10 Plagues

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Two earth-shaking events have dominated the headlines lately. First, the riots and rebellions in the Arab world, starting with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and now, unrest growing in Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia -- man-made disasters. Second, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan -- catastrophes of nature. Both have claimed a tremendous death toll. In Japan alone, more than 11,000 deaths have been confirmed so far; the new estimated total has been placed at 30,000 or more. There is no accurate count of Arab protesters and loyalists killed, but hundreds of thousands of casualties are at risk for massive slaughter on both sides.

Ironically and metaphorically, both calamities may have emanated from cumulative volcanic eruptions culminating in violent eruptions. The suppressed anger of the oppressed people in the Arab countries finally exploded with rage and rebellion spurred on to revolt by the innate demand for individual freedom and liberty, as in the case of the Hebrew slaves under Pharaoh Ramses II 3,041 years ago. In Japan, some theorize that the initial cause of the tectonic plate shift that resulted in the severe earthquake that, in turn, churned the ocean into a powerful tsunami that shook the nuclear reactors that spewed streams of radiation steam that polluted the water and food supplies was the underground lava of a rumbling volcano. The burning question is were these isolated incidents or links in a chain that caused one cataclysm after another?

Opting for the latter alternative, I would compare the above scenarios with the biblical 10 plagues. No coincidence! They begin with (#1) blood. Naturally, the fish died, the (#2) frogs swarmed the dry land, (#3) lice (also translated as vermin, sand flies or gnats) afflicted the suffering populace, preceding a (#4) mixture of noxious beasts, thought to be beetles, or scarabs, that inevitably brought (#5) murrain, or cattle disease to the animals and (#6) boils to the humans.

If we were to theorize satirically the reactions of the ancient Biblical King in the light of our contemporary experiences, we might summarize as follows. Pharaoh consults his royal advisors and astrologers. His chief Spin-Meister, Al Rushmo, tells his loyal "dodo" (head) followers, "Worry not. It's nothing. It's only the Red Tide. It is simply the blue-green alga trichodesmus that imparts a red color to water! Hey, I can smoke my hashish (or swallow my oxycontin) -- no pain! I'm good. We're all fine." Who better to explain the (#7) hailstones, (#8) locusts, (#9) darkness and (#10) death of the first born than the second High Priestess of the party, ME-Shell Front Woman? (So-called for banning the burkah.) "There is no danger to our land," she says. "There is no global warming -- it is all a hoax! There is no Cairo, Egypt --Cairo is in Georgia. There are no slaves in any land -- our founding fathers emancipated them all." [The first High Priestess was unavailable for comment. She was getting her eyes (I's, India and Israel) checked.]

Isn't that precisely what Muammar Khadafi was screaming from his presidential balcony to his non-existent listeners? "All my subjects love me, from the shores of burned-out Benghazi to the bombed-out Halls of Tripoli!" After much deliberation, the Arab council (together with the French and English) advised the global supreme commander, "(G)O-bomb-a-nation, already." And so he did. (Obama moved "decisively" after vacillating for 31 long days.)

What is our conclusion? Man's march to freedom is inevitable, inexorable. It does not proceed in a straight line, but by fits and starts. Whether it took Moses, Miriam and Aaron then, or YouTube, Twitter and bloggers today, all downtrodden masses feel compelled to overthrow their oppressors. They can suffer in silent servitude only for a limited time. The pressure to protest builds to a crushing climax just as the underground lava, if unreleased, results in violent volcanic eruptions. Millions of years ago, volcanic ash may have destroyed the dinosaurs, just as nuclear radiation spread by air and water today may threaten man's very existence on earth. Our moral imperative is to provide relief now for the afflicted and protect our fragile future. The Biblical story of Passover warns us to preserve our planet, its environment and its inhabitants. The eternal message of the Festival of Freedom is peace, liberty and freedom for all men.

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