Parshas Va’eira

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum
הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה (פרק ו פסוק יב)

Hashem tells Moshe to inform the Jews that Hashem will take them out of מצרים and bring them to ארץ ישראל. The Torah tells us that the did not listen to Moshe because they were too oppressed with difficult labor. After that, Hashem sends him to Pharoah with the demand to send out the Jews. Moshe responds that if the Jews didn’t listen to him, certainly Pharoah won’t listen! The מהר”ל asks, Moshe’s logic is flawed- the Jews only didn’t listen because of their oppression, but perhaps Pharoah, who is living a relaxed life, would still listen? R’ Yeruchem Levovitz says that the secret to Pharoah’s stubborn refusal even after all the plagues is hinted to in פסוק כג- “ולא שת לבו גם לזאת”- he did not pay heed to the miracles. R’ Yeruchem explains that Pharoah viewed things on an external and superficial level. He did not think and internalize things that happened to him or things that were told to him. This attitude is so detrimental that someone can experience the miracles and punishments of the plagues and still not react appropriately. Hashem can send all the messages in the world but to effect a change, the recipient must contemplate and internalize their experience. According to this, perhaps we can answer the question of the מהר”ל. Although the Jews didn’t listen to Moshe because of their oppression, this only resulted in them not being able to focus on Moshe’s message. They heard what he said without thinking about it because of their terrible labor. Pharoah, even without the hard work, did not think about Moshe’s words. This was his general attitude- to live superficially and without thought. This was Moshe’s logic- if the Jews, when unable to think, did not listen to me, then Pharoah, who never thinks, certainly won’t listen.

ותעל הצפרדע ותכס את ארץ מצרים (פרק ח פסוק ב)

The second plague was the abundance of frogs all over מצרים. When Aharon first begins the plague, the Torah says that he raised “the frog” from the water. Rashi explains that the plague began with one frog and the Egyptians hit it which resulted in many more frogs coming from the original one. Logically, when the Egyptians saw that by hitting the frog it resulted in more frogs, they should have stopped hitting it. Their anger, however, guided them to continue hitting it because the more that it spewed frogs, the angrier they got at it, and the more they tried to lash out and punish it. R’ Chaim Kanievsky quotes from his father, the Steipler Gaon, that this is the reality in all cases of uncontrolled anger. If a person would swallow the insult, or whatever is raising his ire, then usually the cause will slowly subside. Only when he responds out of anger, it causes a retaliation and soon snowballs into an unstoppable fight on both sides. Each side continues to defend itself, which only irks the other person more and results in a ping pong of bad feelings and anger. The way to logically deal with anger is to totally ignore the one who is antagonizing him until the heavy emotions fade.

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