Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Va'era- Frogs Here, Frogs There, Frogs Were Hopping Everywhere

One morning when Pharaoh awoke in his bed
There were frogs in his bed and frogs on his head
Frogs on his nose and frogs on his toes
Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were hopping everywhere
This is a very popular seder song in our home. We added it when the children were little, but have maintained its place in our seder even as the children have grown. It’s more than a nice rhyme. The song portrays an important theological aspect of the plagues.
...hinei Anokhi nogeif et kol g’vul’cha batzfar’d’im. V’sharatz ha’y’or tzfar’d’im v’alu u’va’u b’veitecha uvakhadar mishka’v’cha v’al mitatecha u’v’veit a’vadecha u’v’amecha u’v’tanurecha u’v’mish’a’rotecha. U’v’cha u’v’amecha u’v’chol avadecha ya’a’lu hatzfar’d’im.
…Behold, I will strike all your borders with frogs. And the rivers will swarm with frogs, and they will go up and come into your house and into your bedroom, and on your bed, and into your servants’ home, and upon your people, and into your ovens and in your kneading troughs. And on you and on your people and on your servants the frogs will come.          (Shmot 7:27-29)
The first plague, blood, strikes at the Nile, central to Egyptian theology. The Nile itself was a God. It could give life or kill with its waters, and all of Egypt depended upon its benevolence. So follows the procession of plagues. Not only do they afflict the Egyptians, they work to erode faith in the power of the Egyptian gods over all others. The Nile turns to blood. Fish die. The amphibians crawl out to plague the Egyptians. The frog plague, as with the other plagues that follow, fills all of Egypt, from border to border within Egypt. The frogs plagued the Egyptians in their homes, in their beds, in their kitchens, on their dishes, and on their bodies. The frogs fill every space, including Pharaoh’s bed and upon his body. The plagues did not differentiate among classes. They did not choose between the people and their god on earth, Pharaoh, but were here, there and everywhere.
Further, these plagues struck Egypt. They do not enter Goshen, where the Israelites dwelled. This is a basic theme of the redemption. Only the Egyptians were afflicted. As they had afflicted others, now they were afflicted. For and against whom God stood had to be clear. The child’s song, while silly and fun, illustrates God’s power and the extent of the helplessness of Pharaoh, a god among the Egyptians.
As an aside, I used to wonder why we read the story of the exodus for far before Pesach. I have decided it’s to remind me that Pesach is coming and I’d better start getting rid of all the hametz.

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