Fire and Ice
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
In the Pesach Hagadah we read the story of the ten plagues that punished the Egyptians.
The seventh plague that G d sent upon the Egyptians - the plagues that made way for the final exodus from Egypt - was hail. Enormous hailstones rained down, destroying Egyptian crops and damaging their fields. But then the Torah adds a miraculous detail that is somewhat puzzling. It tells us that each hail stone contained a flame of fire that burned inside the ice. What purpose did that fire serve?
The Zohar explains that the ten plagues were not sent just to dismantle Egypt's infrastructure. They were powerful forces that provided the Jews with strategies for spiritual rehabilitation. Each plague carried with it an important lesson in the journey of growth and true freedom.
Hail is cold and icy and symbolizes insensitivity and indifference to other people and their needs. The "hail" personality is someone that appears to lack the capacity to care, to be compassionate or to love. This is someone that seems totally cold and couldn't care about anyone or anything. Is this person beyond hope? Can a spark of love be ignited?
With this plague the Torah declares that even the stone hearted can be aroused. Every person has a flame of love and compassion within them. But with some that flame is a love of self, driven by ego and channeled inwards rather than towards others. The result is selfishness and care for one self, with insensitivity to others. The fire burns, but it is hidden inside the ice.
All that needs to happen is for the ice to melt, and the fire of love and compassion will be visible to all. To achieve this, the "hail" individual needs to do two things:
a) Chip away at his/her ego by developing a sense of humility.
b) Begin to do acts of kindness and love even in the absence of motivation. The deeds themselves will stoke the fire.
The flame always burns. It is up to the individual whether it will be hidden by hail or burn openly.