Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Work of the Frogs

Frogs are fascinating creatures. They are, perhaps, the most common and best-known amphibians. There are over 4,800 types of frogs.

While some frogs are poisonous, they are, on the whole, benign creatures - which makes one wonder what was so upsetting about frogs? Stranger still is the fact that the Midrash Rabbah refers to the frogs as the most grievous of the plagues (Exodus Rabbah 15:27). The Midrash explains that the frogs “destroyed their [the Egyptians’] bodies and emasculated them, for it says (Exodus 7:28), ‘[and the river shall swarm with frogs, which shall go up and come into your house] and into your bed-chamber and upon your bed...’”

The frogs were insidious. They were everywhere - in the beds of the Egyptians, in their food and even in their ovens.

The Talmud records a fascinating discussion between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah concerning a statement by Rabbi Eleazar (from an earlier era), who said that the Torah’s use of the singular word “frog” in Exodus 8:2 meant that there was just one frog and that single frog “bred prolifically and filled the land...Rabbi Akiva said ‘There was one frog that filled the whole of Egypt [by breeding].’ But Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said to him, ‘Akiva, what are you doing with Aggadah (legend)...One frog croaked for the others, and they came [at its call]?’” (Talmud Sanhedrin 67b).

Whichever way the frogs came to swarm Egypt, they succeeded in their task. The frogs made life for the Egyptians so unbearable that Pharaoh was forced to beg Moses and Aaron to ask God to remove them.

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