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January 14, 2024

by Rabbi Daniel Huebner

The Ten Plagues are a significant part of the story of our Exodus from Egypt. This week we read about the first seven.

The midrash offers a curious, almost heretical, statement about the second plague, the plague of frogs. "If not for the frog, how would G-d have punished the Egyptians?"

Did G-d have no other means to punish the Egyptians? There were nine other plagues, and there are many other types of disasters that G-d could have used as a means of punishment for the Egyptians.

Let us consider:

There are three characters that are discussed as having had a complicated relationship with G-d, Balaam, Pharaoh, and Sennacherib.

Balaam was a prophet. He reluctantly resigned himself to listening to G-d when it came to his job of cursing the Jewish people, which ended up as a blessing. While that requires belief in G-d, and even G-d's interaction with the world, he had a difficult time believing in the unity of G-d.

Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, was an atheist. Not only did he not believe in G-d, he was passionate about discounting belief in G-d. Doing whatever he could to combat faith in G-d also involved a fair amount of focus on G-d.

This was somewhat common ground between Balaam and Sannacherib. They were both bothered by the idea of a G-d that interacts with the world. They reacted in different ways, with one resigning himself to do G-d's will, and the other resisting.

Pharaoh had a different approach. The way he saw things, there could have been a G-d or not. Either way, it made absolutely no difference in his life. Even if there is a G-d, he thought, He surely doesn't make a difference in our world. He can do whatever he wants in the heavens. This attitude is apparent the first time Moses went to demand that Pharaoh free the Israelites. "Who is G-d that I should heed His voice to send out Israel?" was his response. Why should He care what I do?

When Moses was sent to give Pharaoh the message, he warned him about the plagues "so that you will know that I am G-d in the midst of the land." Not only is there a G-d in the heavens, but He even cares what we do "in the midst of the land."

Indifference is a total lack of any passion. Balaam and Sannacherib at least knew where they stood with their belief and acted on it. Pharaoh's attitude of indifference is the key to understanding the significance of the frog.

Most animals have some sort of use. Either as pets, livestock, or to produce something. Even if not, they may be a harmful animal that at least does something, a frog doesn't produce, doesn't provide affection, doesn't even damage. It just exists as a cold-blooded animal, seemingly purposeless. That is why specifically the frog was brought to teach Pharaoh a lesson about indifference. Nothing is random. Nothing exists for no reason.

The lesson for us is to know where we stand on issues in our life, either positive or negative. And then to approach those issues accordingly, knowing if this is something I should be involved in, and with a passion, or is this something I am going to make sure to stay away from.

To quote Eli Weisel "The opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness. It's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy. It's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death. It's indifference between life and death."


Rabbi Daniel and Raizel Huebner moved to San Miguel from New Jersey in 2018 with their family to start Chabad SMA. They enjoy living in San Miguel and integrating with the community through classes, Jewish activities and social events.


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