Torah Fax

Friday, January 27, 2006 -27 Tevet, 5766
Torah Reading: VaEra (Exodus 6:2 - 9:35)
Candle Lighting Time:  4:49 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:52 PM
We bless the New Month of Shevat

The second of the ten plagues G‑d brought upon the Egyptians was the plague of frogs. The Parshah tells that upon striking the Nile, the frogs emerged from the Nile and "covered the Land of Egypt."
Rashi, the principle Bible commentator, notes that the Torah employs the singular word for frog-tzefardeah, rather then the plural tzefard'im. Rashi's simple explanation for this anomaly is that the word really does not mean frog, but the swarming of the frog species.
Rashi's preferred explanation, however, is the one he cites from the Midrash. In fact, the Midrash states, there was only one frog that emerged from the Nile . When the Egyptians saw this one frog emerge they began to strike it, whereupon "streams" of frogs came out of the one "super frog" that then swarmed throughout the Land of Egypt.
The Midrash is not a book of fanciful legends. It contains traditions that were handed down through the generations. But the Midrash is even more than just oral traditions that provide us with greater detail of Biblical narratives and laws. In addition to this, the Midrash was intended to teach us spiritual and moral lessons by focusing on certain anomalies in the Biblical text.
With this introduction in mind, the question begs to be asked: What moral and spiritual lesson can we derive from the fact that there was actually only one frog, from which multitudinous frogs were generated, when the Egyptians struck that lone frog?
As we have mentioned many times, the Ten Plagues were not just ways of punishing the Egyptians or motivating them to set the Jews free. The plagues were also, if not primarily, intended to teach the Egyptians (and the Jewish people as well) certain theological and moral lessons.
The plague of the frogs was intended to discredit the Egyptian belief in false gods. The Nile river was worshipped by Egypt and thus, by having the river turn into blood (the first plague) and then become the source of disgusting frogs pervading every one's life, the Nile was thoroughly discredited as a true deity.
But why was there a need for two plagues to strike the Nile ? What did the second plague contribute to the Egyptian understanding of G‑d and the rejection of their false theology that the Plague of Blood did not teach them? Contrary to the view of some anthropologists and historians, the Egyptians were not monotheists. Our Sages, based on explicit Biblical texts, tell us that they worshipped the Nile, lambs, Ba'al Tzephon and Pharaoh himself, among other deities. The mindset of the pagan culture of ancient Egypt was that there were multiple forces that were responsible for the events and conditions of life.
The notion of unity promoted by Judaism was a most radical departure from the Egyptian pagan mindset. This explains why Pharaoh said to Moses "Who is G‑d that I should listen to His voice and let Israel out? I do not know of G‑d, nor will I let Israel out!"
Why would a man who was well aware of the existence of so many gods find it so difficult to believe that there might be "another" G‑d somewhere? In truth, if Moses would have used the plural name for G‑d "Elo-him," a name that connotes G‑d as the source of the multitude of natural forces, he would have not been so averse to recognizing His existence. But he did take exception to the name of G‑d employed by Moses that denotes absolute unity and transcendence over all existence.
By having the lone frog emerge from the water, G‑d's intention was to dramatize the idea that multiple creatures can all come from one solitary source. And that it is man's actions-symbolized by the striking of the frog-that produces multiplicity. If we would trace everything in this world to its source, we would realize that there is but one, absolutely one, source to everything. Any appearance of plurality in our source of life is but an illusion created by our doing.
What this might mean for us today is that while we may not worship the Nile or any of the natural forces the way the ancients did, we also find ways of seeing multiple sources for our existence. For example, some might view G‑d as a benevolent force who does not have control over all of existence. While this approach recognizes G‑d to a certain extent; this is essentially stating that there are other parallel sources to our existence. We are paraphrasing Pharaoh who said, "I do not know [the exclusive] G‑d; [the one source of everything]."
The plague of frogs provides us with a simple repudiation of that mindset. By demonstrating how the notion of multifarious forces is one that we create - but that G‑d is really the true source of everything, G‑d gives us the ability to find unity where there is division.
Thus, our mission is to search for the not so common, Common Source. And as we get closer to the Messianic Age when G‑d's exclusivity will become fully accepted by the entire world, we see how the notion of unity is dominating all areas of life. Only in the area of human relationships are we seriously lagging behind. In virtually every sphere-communications, travel and science-unity is the name of the game. Our work is cut out for us to recognize the absolute Divine unity that pervades all of existence; the realization of which will unify all of humankind as well.  
Moshiach Matters
The anticipation of the Redemption does not mean that we abandon all the activities which we carry out in the exile. On the contrary, by definition, the word implies that during the exile certain activities were carried out under subjugation to other forces, and in the Era of the Redemption, we will be freed from this subjugation. (The Rebbe, 13 Iyar 5751-1991)
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