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I used to love the plagues – until I lived through one

I used to love the plagues. Not anymore.

I used to love the plagues until I lived through them. As a child, my most favorite moment of Passover, the otherwise endless family dinner which featured a gelatinous fish dish and an overcooked meat dish, was the plagues. After all, the plagues were the moment we got to stick our fingers in the wine glasses and sing out the names of all the horrible things God sent down to the Egyptians for not listening to Him. Each plague was represented by a drop of blood, or in this case, red wine. It was a moment of levity, and a sign that the boredom of the Passover seder had almost abated.

Molly Jong Fast

Molly Jong Fast | Photograph: Noam Galai/Getty Images

But I never related to the plagues. I never thought they were actual things that might happen to me. I never dreamed that I would actually live through the plagues.

What a difference a pandemic makes.

Plagues are now the most relatable part of Passover, not that any of us are going to be doing Passover this year. I live in New York, which is mostly under lockdown. I can’t imagine this will be lifted in another ten days.

This Passover, we get to live with real plagues. No more ceremonial plagues, no more plagues as a fun distraction. This year we have COVID-19 which is ripping through New York City with breakneck speed, killing a person an hour, according to Mayor De Blasio.

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But wait, there’s more: There are actual, giant, bird-size locusts swarming on two different contents — yes, locusts, you know from the Bible! Two continents are struggling with enormous swarms of locusts. Some swarms are so big they are three times the size of New York City. And there’s the Toronto river running red with ink.

Will this Passover be different than all other Passovers? Yes, very much so. We will eat not with our elderly relatives, but we will instead socially distance from them. We will not break matzah with our parents, but we will break it with the image of our parents on a screen.

This year, we will pray for God to protect the old and immunocompromised. And this year, instead of saying next year in Jerusalem, we’ll be saying, “Next year in person.”

This is one in a series of pieces on Passover during coronavirus. Read the rest of the series here.

Molly Jong Fast is the author of two novels and a memoir. Follow her on Twitter @mollyjongfast


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