Living Torah by Rabbi Ari Enkin

Rabbi EnkinThis week’s Torah portion is Va’eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35). Va’eira contains seven of the ten plagues that were brought upon Egypt for their refusal to “let the Jewish people go”. The second plague was the plague of frogs.

I’m sure most of you saw one of the movies the re-enact the biblical story of the Exodus. Perhaps you saw the film “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston or perhaps you saw the animated “Prince of Egypt” or perhaps some other type of film. In all such movies, the plague of frogs appears to be swarms and swarms of frogs infesting the land of Egypt. However, this is not the way it happened – at least not according to the Midrash. If one looks at the Torah’s text closely one will notice that only a single frog was dispatched into Egypt! As it says: “Aaron stretched his hand over the waters of Egypt and THE FROG ascended and covered the land of Egypt”. Huh? A single frog??! COVERING the land of Egypt?!? What’s going on over here?

The Midrash teaches that indeed, only a single frog ascended upon Egypt. However, thinking that they could outsmart God and promptly end the plague, they whacked the frog on the head in an attempt to kill the frog. But every time the Egyptians whacked the frog, it multiplied and produced many more frogs! One frog. WHACK! Now two frogs WHACK! WHACK! Now four frogs. And so on.

As we know (from both the text and the movies!) the frogs went EVERYWHERE. They went into people homes and wreaked havoc. The frogs were in people beds, bodies, baths, and kitchens. What is especially interesting, however, is that we are told that the frogs also went into the people’s ovens! This is true before, during, and after the ovens were being used! Why would the frogs willingly enter the ovens just to be burned up and die?

There is an eternal lesson here. The frogs knew they were sent on a Divine mission. They knew they were messengers of God charged with fulfilling His will. The frogs wanted to teach all of us a lesson: Sometimes, one must be prepared to suffer in the serviced of God. To sacrifice. Being a Jew isn’t always that

easy – certainly not in past generations. The frogs also teach us that sometimes you have to be willing to inconvenience your self to do the right things.

Indeed, right from the very beginning –from the first whack- the frog, and all its ensuing frogs, were teaching us that sometimes you’ve got to suffer in order to get the job done. The frogs had a mitzva to perform, and they fulfilled it valiantly. In fact, it was from those original “whackings” that the frogs experiences which is what made them the self-sacrificing agents that they were. One frog couldn’t wreak much havoc on Egypt, but with whack after whack, the frogs became tougher, stronger, more numerous, and more competent to fulfill their mission. Without that first suffering they would not have reached their potential.

And so it is with us. Sadly, throughout history, Jews knew what the sacrifice of the ‘beatings’ and the ‘ovens’ truly meant. However, today self-sacrifice takes on different forms. For example, today Jewish teenagers sacrifice three years of their life and serve in the Israel Defense Forces to ensure that those ‘beatings’ and ‘ovens’ never again take place. In the spiritual dimension, self-sacrifice means performing mitzvot when it isn’t truly comfortable or convenient. Nevertheless we recall those selfless frogs who gave of themselves in order to carry out God’s will. It behooves us to do the same, even when doing so may not be the most comfortable, convenient or timely thing to do. Yes, it is easier said then done. But then again, what isn’t?

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Rabbi Ari Enkin