JANUARY 26-27, 2000 3 SHEBAT 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
The second plague to befall Egypt was the plague of frogs. As the children's song goes, "Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were truly everywhere." The amazing thing about this plague was that at the outset, Hashem brought upon the Egyptians one huge frog. When they began hitting the frog in anger and frustration, it multiplied again and again, until they were everywhere. The Steipler Rebbe Z"l asks the obvious question; Why didn't they stop hitting it when they saw the results of their actions?
He answers with a very profound truth about human nature. When a person is angry and does something in his anger, although he sees that no good will come out of it, he can't help himself. His anger carries him further to do what he knows intellectually he will regret later on. How often do we get into an argument and begin saying things we know we will have to take back. At the time, we feel that we just "have to" do this regardless of the consequences. Later on we realize how foolish we were and wish it never happened.
We should realize that the majority of the time getting angry does more harm than good. Although the Rabbis tell us that there are certain times we are allowed to act angry if we are truly calm inside and there is good reason for it, nevertheless, experience has shown that this is difficult to rely upon. Next time we think about losing our temper, let's remember the big Egyptian Frog, and think about the consequences. This will help us find alternatives to solve our problems without losing our temper.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Hashem said to Moshe, 'Say to Aharon: Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land, it shall become lice'" (Shemot 8:12)
Our perashah relates the exciting story of the Ten Plagues. Hashem commanded only Aharon and not Moshe to initiate the plague of lice. In last week's perashah, when Moshe killed the Egyptian who was beating a Jew, Moshe hid the body of the Egyptian in the earth. Therefore, Moshe had a debt of gratitude to the earth and could not strike it in order to bring out the lice. In order to preserve Moshe's gratitude, Aharon, not Moshe, was commanded to strike the earth. However, if one studies closely the story of Moshe killing the Egyptian, he will notice in the next verse that on the next day, Moshe confronted a Jew hitting another Jew. The Jew spoke to Moshe saying, "Are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Moshe feared that the fact that he had killed the Egyptian had become known. As a matter of fact, Pharaoh heard of it shortly afterwards and wanted to have Moshe killed, forcing Moshe to escape. So what was Moshe's debt to the earth? He had to flee for his life anyway. The earth hadn't really done anything for him after all. The Torah here is teaching us a powerful lesson. Gratitude is not to be qualified by results. Imagine if someone loaned you a lot of money interest-free. You took the money and invested it in an apparently safe and sound venture. However, in the end all the money was lost and the loan didn't help you at all. Now, when you meet the lender, how will he be greeted? The Torah is teaching us that we must show that person as much gratitude as if that money turned into many millions of dollars! He did his part to help, he deserves our everlasting appreciation. Shabbat Shalom.
"How can I expect Pharaoh to listen to me, I have a speech defect" (Shemot 6:12)
Moshe was blessed with all the attributes of perfection and purity. He was the paragon of excellence, so that the Jewish people would believe that his superiority was truly a Divine gift. Why then was he lacking in his power of speech? Should not this attribute have been included among his special Divine gifts?
This was Hashem's intention, lest others say that the Jewish people were inspired by Moshe's rhetoric and style, and moved by his eloquence, rather than by the content of his message. Often, people are emotionally stimulated by rhetoric that covers subtle dishonesties disseminated by the orator. People can be so impressed by the oratory that they are led to believe almost anything to be true. This is the opposite with one who is tongue-tied and lacks the self-confidence of a polished speaker. No matter how true and sincere the message, it must be repeated over and over, and scrutinized to be accepted by the people. (Peninim on the Torah)
"And the river shall swarm with frogs which shall go up and enter your home...and into your ovens" (Shemot 7:28)
The second plague which Hashem brought against the Egyptians was frogs, which invaded the entire Egyptian community. No place was free of this menace, not even the heated ovens. The Talmud relates that Hananya, Mishael and Azarya, who had entered the fiery furnace in defiance of Nebuchadnesar, had developed a logical from the frogs. If frogs, who have no misvah to sanctify Hashem's Name, nevertheless entered the fiery furnaces in order to glorify His Name, how much more so should we, who are enjoined in the misvah of Kiddush Hashem, be obligated to do so. We may question their argument, since the frogs were commanded to enter the ovens, while they were not commanded, they followed their own prerogative.
The Darchei Mussar gives a simple but profound answer to this question. He states that the frogs, in addition to being commanded to enter the ovens, were also commanded to enter other places in the community. It would have been convenient to refrain from going into the ovens in exchange for another place. The frogs did not entertain such thoughts but rather seized the opportunity to sanctify Hashem's Name, not shirking from their responsibility.
How often are we faced with situations in which an opportunity to perform a misvah or to perform an act of kindness for another Jew arises, and we conveniently "volunteer" another person to discharge this deed? If one seeks excuses, he will always find them. We may even suggest that when one trains himself in this manner regarding simple tasks, he will eventually reinforce his lack of responsibility to his community, even to misvot in general. An integral component in the proper fulfillment of misvot is the ability to seize the opportunity when it arises and discharge the misvah with the appropriate intentions. (Peninim on the Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 28:25 - 29:21.
This haftarah begins by saying that Hashem will gather all of Israel from the nations among whom they are scattered. In our perashah, Hashem also says that he will take B'nei Yisrael out from under the burdens of Egypt.
The haftarah then goes on to prophesize about the downfall of Egypt in Nebuchadnesar's time. Pharaoh, who claimed to be a god, will be conquered by Nebuchadnesar, and all the wealth of Egypt will be looted. Our perashah also begins to tell of the retribution to Pharaoh and Egypt. The first seven of the Ten Plagues occur, and the process which will lead to Egypt's downfall and Israel's redemption begins.
Answer to Pop Quiz: He took handfuls of furnace soot and threw it heavenward.
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