Frog wildlife animal

Parashas Vaera

When was the last time you spoke to that old friend of yours? You know, the one with whom you had a falling out. Neither one of you knows exactly how or why the fight started, but it just kept growing. And now you two don’t speak. Which reminds me of a story about a frog. There are no princes in this story, but there is a Pharaoh.

In our parsha, Pharaoh implores Moshe to bring an end to the plague of frogs. The Ohr Hachaim explains that Pharaoh only made such a plea when he feared for his life. What was so threatening about these frogs that made Pharaoh fear for his life? lbn Ezra points to several commentators who identify the tzefarde’im as a certain group of dangerous Nile-dwelling creatures, which left their watery habitat to attack Egypt. The Abarbanel considers these creatures to have been life-threatening. According to their description given by Sefomo, the tzefarde’im were apparently crocodiles.

But lbn Ezra rejects these descriptions, as does Rashi. When learning about the plague of frogs in this week’s parsha, the astute observer will note that one verse stands out. All other mentions of the plague of frogs refer to the creatures as tzefarde’im, in the plural. But in this pasuk (8:2) the Torah refers to
hatzefardei’a, the (singular) frog.

Rashi addresses this curiosity with a midrash that says that originally there was indeed only one frog, but the Egyptians hit it and it multiplied into countless croaking frogs. Frogs filling the courtyards, fields, and houses of the Egyptians. Frogs eating Egyptians out of house and home. Frogs that jumped into the Egyptians’ ovens and ate their baking bread. Frogs that even jumped inside their bodies and continued their incessant, maddening croaking.

But if there was only one frog that multiplied when it was hit, why didn’t the Egyptians – who watched the frog population multiply at an alarming rate – just stop hitting it? Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon, zt”/, answers this question with a penetrating look at the nature of anger: Even when logic and common sense dictate that beating a magic frog, like a dead horse, gets you nowhere, people who are angry will do so anyway. Instead of accepting the situation and dealing with it appropriately, they lose any grip on common sense, even to the point of putting their own lives in jeopardy.

Anger causes us to alienate friends and family, and to miss out on positive opportunities. Let’s think about this the next time we’re enraged. Let’s think about it over Shabbos. After Havdalah, let’s give that old friend a call.

Rabbi Mayer Waxman

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