Do you like frogs?
What could the Torah be telling us? Rashi finds a Midrash that sees into the unusual wording of our verse: "There was one frog, and when they would hit it, it would spew out bands and bands of little frogs" (based on Midrash Tanchuma, Va'eira 14). G-d caused one giant frog to emerge from the Nile. When the terrified Egyptians hit it, it spewed out smaller frogs. The more they struck it, the more frogs would come out. The more frogs came out, the more they would strike it. This was no Kermit the frog!
After this hitting and spewing and hitting and spewing had gone on for a while, the entire land of Egypt (with the exception of the Jewish neighborhood of Goshen) was covered with slimy amphibians. Now, let's ask a question. Once the Egyptians saw that the more they hit the giant frog, the more it spewed out little frogs, why didn't they stop hitting the frog? That would only make sense. They could have saved themselves a lot of grief.
But that's not how the emotion of anger works. The angrier we get, the more we lash out. Even if this results in the object of our anger responding towards us with greater fury. So the Egyptians struck the great frog in their anger and it spewed out little frogs. And this made the Egyptians angrier and they struck the frog more. And more little frogs spewed out. And the Egyptians boiled in fury and struck the frog more and more
Does this sound familiar? No, not the giant frog. I mean, how our emotion of anger works. It's very predictable, yet we never seem to learn from our vast experience with it. When we get into an argument and we say something out of anger, the other side responds harshly in turn. Then we respond with a little more force, which is met by a slightly more forceful return. And it escalates. And pretty soon we find ourselves going where we know we're going to regret.
What's the solution? Isn't it obvious (in theory, at least)? If we'd just stop responding to everything we hear, if we wouldn't always answer back- our disputes could not continue (at least not for very long.) Slowly, but surely, arguments die down when only one side is yelling and the other side remains silent. It takes two to fight.
But when we decide that we must defend our honor and we can't let the other side get in the last word then arguments intensify and escalate and pretty soon there are frogs everywhere (so to speak).
Once we see that a discussion has turned into an argument, why don't we just stop answering back? That would only make sense. We could save ourselves a lot of grief. But we have to learn to be smarter than our emotions. We learn this from our old hosts, the ancient Egyptians. Next time, let's catch our tongues when we find ourselves sinking deeper into an argument. We won't get in the last word, but we'll save ourselves from the plague of the frogs.
Rabbi Yosef Edelstein, Savannah Kollel. Phone: 355-0157; fax: 354-9923; e-mail address: Yosef18@aol.com
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