Ten plagues or ten lessons?
The ten plagues. Hashems way of executing the justified punishment for the Egyptians. The several hundred years of intense and barbaric treatment that the Egyptian nation delivered unto the Jewish people would not go unnoticed. But why is it that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had to conduct his judgement in the way he chose to? 10 seperate and some rather unusual ways of making the Egyptians suffer. Why couldn’t Hashem just rid the nation in one swipe?
Egypt, being the most powerful nation, both economically and socially, installed into society the phenomenon that there are multiple G-ds: the G-d of the moon, the G-d of sun, the G-d of the water etc. There was no such thing as one omnipotent being that rules over everything, one ruler that decides the fate of every living thing that will ever exist. The idea that ‘One G-d is the proprietor of the world’ was a fairytale.
In ParashatVaera, Hashem tells Moshe that he is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart and deliver his wonders in Egypt. Rashi explains that Hashem wanted Pharaoh to stand his ground and not free the Jewish people causing Hashem to bring more plagues, so that everyone should see the oneness of G-d. Hashem wanted to show that He is the power that rules and dominates the entire world. That every organism in this world answers to him. The sun, moon, and waters are puppets in the hand of G-d.
If one were to take a deeper look into the plagues, it is evident that no force could have conjured up the power to perform these wonders other than Hashem. The hail that fell onto the Egyptians causing havok to property, fields and inhabitants was a phenomenal paradox. Fire and ice danced together until it crashed to the ground. The darkness that invaded the land of Egypt was not the darkness that we know of. During this plague the Egyptians were frozen still, they choked on the mere presence of the darkness and fear would tremble through their bones. The darkness was a new creation.
The death of the firstborn seems like any severe epidemic. However, with a moments thought, this plague is by far the biggest revelation of Hashem. The death of the firstborn was the only plague that Hashem himself descend to Egypt and executed the plague as opposed to using angels to carry out the plague. The Or HaChaim says this is because not even angels know who a firstborn is. For example, take a set of triplets that were separated from their mother from birth. There is no way of knowing who the firstborn is, even the triplets themselves don’t know. So Hashem gives the final blow to the Egyptians by showing them “I know what no one can ever know”.
We sit at our Seder table telling of the ‘beating’ that the Egyptians succumbed to as a result of their cruelty. Little do we know it’s a fundamental lesson even for us that there are no other powers or strengths besides those of our father in heaven.