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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Before the Plague Struck

The second parsha of the book of Shemot, Parshat Vaeyra begins with a review of the tribes and ancestry and the chess board continues to be set for what is to come. In this Parsha it is God of determines the length and the extent of destruction of the plagues that are mentioned. The vice is squeezed again and again around the neck of the Egyptians and Pharaoh. Even the cattle cannot escape the plagues.

Over these past two years we have lived in the time of plagues. It is as familiar to us now

as the words Covid-19; as Delta and Omicron. We cannot know how long this plague will last and can we remember life before this plague afflicted us?

Before the Plague Struck

On those days before the plague struck

eyes barely noticed the sky.

The people walked about,

the weather was the same.

The ticking clock of the mundane

circled round again and again.

Movement, pause, movement, pause;

the day's pulse was even,

dotted with ordinary sights and sounds.

It was a vanilla day;

forgettable in its bustling ordinariness.

Then there were faint stirrings in the air,

a ripple of warnings

flew above the heads of people.

Muted words, gray and intangible.

Rumors and stories

diffused like smoke in the air.

Some ears picked up the whispers,

but for most, the sounds flew over their heads,

incoherent mumblings.

Life continued in its ordinary way.

As in the days of The Flood,

the eyes of the people suddenly opened

when the sickness began.

They stared at each other,

for wasn't it just an ordinary day yesterday?

But the ordinary had become a thing of the past.

It flew away,

disappearing behind the clouds.

In the time that the plague strikes

confusion reigns.

Rumors swarm like locusts

as sickness spreads.

The people babble in fear,

their language caught in invisible nets.

They run, they hide, they flee.

Eyes and ears search for answers

but there are no answers to be found

for they grown wings and flown away.

It cannot happen here.

Not with these blue skies.

Not with our ordinary days

in our ordinary town.

Not to the healthy,

not to the young and not to the old,

not to those we love.

Not to us.

The place does not matter,

nor the century,

nor the people,

nor the plague.


or frogs,

or boils,

or sickness.

What was once barely imaginable,

is now real.

The plague is now a visitor who refuses to leave.

The masses pray for redemption.

And the magic cures fail.

Hopes fade as the days pass.

It is during this time,

this time of plague;

during black nights where sleep no longer comes,

that the ordinary, the mundane,

that even beat of the ticking clock

is longed for.

But the ordinary is now the stuff of the past,

the content of dreams.

Clocks keep ticking,

the strike of each new hour brings sickness.

If only we could go back in time,

wind the clock back

so we could be wiser,

so ears could understand the buzzing whispers in the air.

Aaron held out his arm with the rod and struck the dust of the earth, and vermin came upon man and beast; all the dust of the earth turned to lice throughout the land of Egypt.

Exodus 8:13

Heavy swarms of insects invaded Pharaoh’s palace and the houses of his courtiers; throughout the country of Egypt the land was ruined because of the swarms of insects.

Exodus 8:20

And the LORD did so the next day: all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not a beast died.

Exodus 9:6

Translation from Sefaria

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