Recounting the plagues reminds us of the pain and suffering that exists throughout the world around us, and our imperative to do what we can to diminish that pain. It also calls us to take responsibility for our part in causing suffering for those around us.
Traditionally we remove one drop of wine from our glass for each plague, symbolizing that our joy is diminished by the suffering of others.
Dam, the river turned to blood
the blood of devastating wars, choking the lifesprings that could nurture the world
the extinction of many species – as many as 30,000 per year, rivaling the Great Extinctions of the past
the horror of great poverty
Arov, wild beasts
humans acting like beasts, animal passions inflamed in a hyper-sexualized world
The blight of the cities that are mismanaged by corrupt politicians
Sh’hin, boils additives in our food, unnaturally fattening cows and unhealthfully fattening us
polution that threatens the health of so many people
Financial hardships, lack of jobs and hopelessness for millions of people
Hosheh, night instead of day
long before the plagues, the Egyptians had trouble seeing what was going on around them—they refused to see the humanity of the slaves around them. We, too, often choose to not see. We scoop up cheap consumer goods without asking by whom they are made, in what conditions. We close our eyes to the tens of millions of people living in conditions of slavery in our world today
Makat B’horot, death of the first-born
our children’s future hangs in the balance
Following the slaying of the first born, Pharaoh allowed the Jewish people to leave. The Jews left Egypt in such haste that their dough did not rise, so they ate matzah. When Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the Israelites, God miraculously caused the Red Sea to split, allowing the Israelites to cross safely. When the Egyptians entered the Sea, it returned to its natural state and the mighty Egyptian army drowned. Diminishing our cup is also a reminder of God’s tears when the Egyptian soldiers drowned as the sea closed.
Note: We do not drink the second cup of wine at this time.