Synopsis:

Despite God’s message that they will be redeemed from slavery, the Israelites’ spirits remain crushed. God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt. The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and their descendants is recorded. Moses and Aaron perform a miracle with a snake and relate to Pharaoh God’s message to let the Israelites leave Egypt. God brings down the first seven plagues on Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, insects, animal disease, boils, and hail. After each episode, Pharaoh reneges on his offer to let the Israelites leave Egypt to worship God.

Parashat Va’eira

Commentary:

The second plague brought upon the Egyptians was frogs. Curiously we read in chapter 8:

And Adonai said to Moses, “Say to 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 Aaron reached out his hand over Egypt’s waters, and a frog came up and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their charms. And they brought up the frogs on the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:1-3).

Aaron is commanded to bring up frogs. He brings up a frog. The Egyptian magicians make matters worse by multiplying one frog into a swarm, augmenting the plague. According to the Midrash, every time an Egyptian would strike a frog, in an attempt to destroy it, it split and became multiple frogs. Why would the Egyptians continue to hit the frogs when they were witness to the fact that by doing so, they only made matters worse?

Let us imagine that these frogs represent anger. The Egyptians were unable to control their anger. As they continued to hit the frogs out of anger, they also lost their ability to reason and see that their loss of temper was creating even greater destruction. Now, every character trait is necessary. Anger has its place, but only when it is used wisely. Anger may be necessary to fight against an injustice. On the other hand, too much anger is harmful and can lead to excessive violence, hurt feelings, and even self-destruction, as seen in this story of the frogs.

Anger that can get out of control escalates the anger and the aggression. It does nothing to help resolve the situation. It is helpful to learn techniques that will control your anger before it controls you.

Relaxation:

  1. Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm. Picture your breath coming up from your “gut” (belly?).
  2. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  3. Often your body will “signal” you that you are about to blow up. Identify that signal, and begin breathing deeply before you respond.

Cognitive Restructuring:

  1. Replace angry thoughts with more rational ones. Instead of telling yourself, “Oh, it’s awful, 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 the world.”
  2. Be careful of words like “never” and “always.” They alienate and humiliate, and often are inaccurate.

Better Communication:

  1. Slow down and think through your responses. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head.
  2. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time in answering.

Changing the Environment:

  1. If you tend to get angry at specific times during the day, try changing the time when you discuss important matters.
  2. If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, map out a less congested and more scenic route.

Rabbinic Teachings:

  1. The sages taught: There are three kinds of people whose life is no life: those who are overly compassionate, those who are too prone to anger, and those who are too fastidious (Pesachim 113b).
  2. Doesn’t God get angry? Yes, but only for a moment (The Palm Tree of Deborah, Cordovero).