by Rabbi Thomas Louchheim
Saturday, December 28, 2013
14thTorah Portion, 2nd in Exodus – Vayeira
6:2-9:35 (121 verses)
DespiteGod’s message that they will be redeemed from slavery, the Israelites’ spiritsremain crushed. God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites fromthe land of Egypt. The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and their descendantsis recorded. Moses and Aaron perform a miracle with a snake and relate toPharaoh God’s message to let the Israelites leave Egypt. God brings down thefirst seven plagues on Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, insects, animal disease,boils, and hail. After each episode, Pharaoh reneges on his offer to let theIsraelites leave Egypt to worship God.
Thesecond plague brought upon the Egyptians was frogs. Curiously we read inchapter 8: And Adonai said to Moses, “Sayto Aaron, ‘Reach out your hand with your staff over the rivers over the canals,and over the pools, and bring up the frogs on the land of Egypt.’” And Aaronreached out his hand over Egypt’s waters, and a frog came up and covered theland of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their charms. And they brought upthe frogs on the land of Egypt” (8:1-3). Aaron is commanded to bring up frogs.He brings up a frog. The Egyptian magicians make matters worse bymultiplying one frog into a swarm, augmenting the plague. According to theMidrash, every time an Egyptian would strike a frog in an attempt to destroyit, it split and became multiple frogs. Why would the Egyptians continue to hitthe frogs when they were witness to the fact that by doing so, they only madematters worse?
TheEgyptians were unable to control their anger. As they continued to hit thefrogs out of anger, they also lost their ability to reason and see that theirloss of temper was creating even greater destruction. That is not to say thatanger does not have its place. The Chatam Sofer (1762 – 1839, Hungarian rabbi)explained that every character trait is necessary. Someone without anger orpassion will fail to take action against injustice. On the other hand, too muchanger is harmful and can lead to excessive violence, hurt feelings and evenself-destruction, as seen in this story of the frogs.
Angerthat is allowed to get out of control escalates the anger and the aggression.It does nothing to help resolve the situation. It is helpful to learntechniques that will control your anger before it controls you.
1. Breathedeeply, from your diaphragm. Picture your breath coming up from your“gut.” belly?
2. Slowlyrepeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.” Repeat it toyourself while breathing deeply.
3. Oftenyour body will “signal” you that you are about to blow up. Identify thatsignal, and begin breathing deeply before you respond.
1. Replaceangry thoughts with more rational ones. Instead of telling yourself, “Oh, it’sawful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,” tell yourself, “It’s frustrating,and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of theworld.”
2. Becareful of words like “never” and “always.” They alienate, humiliate and, moreoften than not, are inaccurate.
1. Slowdown and think through your responses. Don’t say the first thing that comesinto your head.
2. Listencarefully to what the other person is saying and take your time in answering.
1. Ifyou tend to get angry at particular times during the day, try changing the timewhen you discuss important matters.
2. Ifyour daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage andfrustration, map out a less congested and more scenic route.
1. The sages taught: There are three kindsof people whose life is no life: those who are overly compassionate, those whoare too prone to anger, and those who are too fastidious(Pesachim 113b).
2. Doesn’t God get angry? Yes, but only fora moment (The Palm Tree of Deborah, Cordovero).