At the Passover Seder Jews recount the story of the Exodus. The dramatic core is the Ten Plagues sent by God to afflict the Egyptians and that motivate Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves who then begin their journey to Canaan. The plagues are a dividing line between two epochs.
But the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for plagues, מכות, blows or lashes, captures more viscerally the effect of these divinely created phenomena. Though from a pre-scientific world, the word מכות–blows– has considerable relevance for today. So, too, does an examination of pandemics in the past, including in the ancient Near East.
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