As I was learning about the Ten Plagues, I thought perhaps these plagues can teach us some key lessons for dealing with people or situations that we may find difficult, or oppressive. Here’s what I came up with:

Blood: For the first plague, G‑d instructed Moses to tell Aaron to “take his staff and extend his hand over Egypt’s waters, which will become blood.”1

Interestingly, G‑d commanded Aaron, and not Moses, to strike the Nile River. Rashi explains that G‑d wanted to teach Moses gratitude towards the Nile River which had protected him as an infant, when his mother placed him in a basket in the water to hide him from Pharaoh's decree to kill all the Jewish male newborns.

If G‑d did not want Moses to show ingratitude to an inanimate river, how much more must we much remember to remain focused and grateful for every kindness shown to us throughout our lives—even from those we may find difficult.

Frogs: When one monstrous frog arose from the Nile, the Egyptians brought weapons to hit and kill it. Instead of sustaining injuries or falling dead, however, the more it was hit, the more baby frogs it would spit out.2 As more and more frogs swarmed out of the large frog, the Egyptians grew angry and lost control of themselves, despite the increasing damage they were causing.

Expressing anger not only hurts others but destroys the person who is expressing anger. When anger briefly flares, instead of opening one’s mouth or taking action, if instead we could just pause for a minute or two and breathe, the whole incident might fade away, like a passing cloud.

Lice: This was the first plague that the Egyptian magicians could not replicate,3 which forced them to acknowledge that the plague was initiated by “the finger of G‑d.”4

G‑d orchestrates the world and puts every difficult person we encounter in our paths. Instead of despairing or feeling attacked or triggered, we should remember that G‑d chose for us to have these interactions to learn how best to handle them with dignity, grace and courtesy.

Wild Animals: This plague consisted of a “wild mixture” of animals, snakes and scorpions.5 The Divinely imposed mixture of wild beasts could have led the Jewish people to believe that G‑d was in favor of mixtures,6 but at the same time He also “set apart the land of Goshen where my people remain, so that there will not be any harmful beasts there.”7

The mixtures of wild animals can teach us that, as Jews, even when we set out into the wider world of mixed values and blurred boundaries, we should never conclude that G‑d favors mixing with ideas, ideologies and “isms” that are foreign to the Torah. G‑d wants us and our values to remain distinct from the rest of humankind.

Cattle Disease: While the Torah tells us that “all of the livestock of Egypt died,”8 Rashi explains that only the Egyptian cattle left outside, “in the field,” were killed. The Egyptians could have averted the damage simply by bringing their animals inside.

Chassidism teaches that we have two souls: one animal, and one G‑dly.9 Throughout the day, and especially in difficult situations, we must remember to “bring in” our animal souls, which react strongly. For instance, when we feel attacked, our fight-or-flight instincts may influence us to express ourselves in unpleasant or combative ways that escalate and worsen conflicts. Instead of letting our inner animal out, to “go wild,” we can slow down, pause and show restraint.

Boils: Moses put the plague of boils into motion by taking a fistful of soot from an extinguished furnace that he thrust heavenward so high that the ashes reached G‑d’s throne of Glory before falling back down onto every person and beast in Egypt to create boils.10 The fact that a small amount of soot managed to spread throughout the land of Egypt was miraculous.

When trying to accomplish anything, or dealing with a frustrating person or situation, put forth your best effort, but then throw it heavenward and G‑d will do the rest.

Hail: Hail came down as a flash of ice and fire.11

When we feel attacked, we may feel tempted to provide an icy reply. Instead of giving in to destructive instincts that will surely worsen and escalate tense exchanges, let’s try to connect with our inner warmth and understanding and choose to communicate with courtesy, kindness and love. On the other hand, there are also times that we need to temper our urgent and heated passionate response with the ice of coldness, by stopping and cooly considering our response.

Locusts: Locusts in Hebrew are arbeh, which means destruction, but the letters are similar to harbeh, which means abundance or bounty.12

When looking at our lives, do we focus on the negative instead of the positive? Do we focus on our challenges or difficulties? From arbeh, we can choose to see the good and adjust our attitudes, to reframe and see the abundance and bounty.

Darkness: “No man could see his brother, nor could anyone rise from his place for a three-day period; but for the Children of Israel, there was light in their dwellings.”13 Nachmanides teaches that the darkness for the Egyptians was not just an absence of light but “an opaque fog that extinguished all flames, so that the Egyptians could not even use lamps.” Yet the light in the Jewish homes remained on.

When we feel “in the dark” or confused about how to handle a difficult situation, we always have the light of Torah available to us to illuminate and clarify our next course of action.

Slaying of the Firstborn: “He [G‑d] will go out in the midst of Egypt to cause every firstborn in the land to die.”14 The deaths of so many animals and so many people—from Pharaoh’s firstborn to the firstborn of the maidservant—happened at the same time, but G‑d protected the lives of the Jewish people.

G‑d protects His people. He loves and cherishes us far above and beyond our imaginations. G‑d is always near us, extending His loving, nurturing and comforting presence, support and supervision.

As we remember the plagues, we remember that G‑d created nature, over which He can always rise to create unexpected miracles in our lives.

Whenever we feel in need of help or extra reserves of strength, we turn to Him for assistance. While we continue to make efforts to turn ourselves into vessels to receive G‑d’s blessings, at the same time, we can pause, stand back and know that He can work outside of nature to give us what we need.