On the night of the seder, and whenever one recounts the story of the Exodus, the recitation of the 10 plagues presents a particularly dramatic moment. It is interesting to note that the 10 plagues are so essential a part of Jewish history that the sages did not feel it was necessary to explain them in any more detail than to list them.
Blood - Frogs - Lice - Wild Beasts - Pestilence - Boils - Hail - Locusts - Darkness - Plague of the First Born
During the seder, there is an almost universal custom to “spill” a small drop of wine as each plague is recited. (How the wine is removed varies from family to family: some pour the wine out directly from the cup, while some dip a finger or spoon in the wine and remove a drop). Why do we do this?
The Midrash tells us that as the Egyptians were meeting their horrible end in the churning waters of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea), the angels wished to sing out praise to the A-lmighty. God rebuked them and said “My creations are drowning in the sea, and you wish to sing praises?!” (Talmud Megillah 10b). The custom of spilling the wine, explained the Abrabanel (a famous medieval Spanish commentator), is because wine is a sign of rejoicing. But one should not rejoice when an enemy falls, because they too are creations of God.
This custom of spilling is also performed when the statement “Blood, Fire and A Column of Smoke” is read, that precedes the 10 plagues and also when reciting “D’tzach, Adash, B’achav,” Rabbi Judah’s mnemonic for remembering the plagues in order.
(After spilling, the glass should be refilled before it is used for the second cup.)
This Treat was last posted on March 20, 2013.
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