by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – January 19, 2012
In the Torah section of VaEirah, we begin to read of the ten plagues that G-d put upon the land of Egypt and the Egyptian people as a result of their persecution of the people of Israel. The first plague consisted of all waters in the country turning to blood. After that plague ceased, the plague of frogs began during which frogs infested the entire land. Despite his initial stubbornness, Pharaoh finally succumbed. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were overcome by this intolerable calamity. Pharaoh then summoned Moses and Aaron and begged them (Sh’mot 8:4-6), “Entreat G-d that He remove the frogs from me and my people, and I shall send out the people that they may bring offerings to G-d”. Subsequently, Moses asked Pharaoh to specify the time when he wished G-d to remove the frogs and Pharaoh responded that it should be done the next day.
In one of his discussions on this Torah section, the erudite Torah scholar and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ner Israel, R. Yissachar Frand notes the peculiar irony in this episode. Wherever the Egyptians turned, there were ugly and nauseating frogs. The frogs were in their ovens and in their closets, on their tables and on their chairs, in their pots and in their cupboards, on their plates and their beds. The frogs were making life totally unbearable for the Egyptians. Yet, when given the choice by Moses, Pharaoh asked that they be removed TOMORROW! Tomorrow?! If we found roaches or mice or any rodents in our residence and called the exterminator and he asked us when we would like him to come and take care of the problem, we would say, “Immediately!” How could Pharaoh say “tomorrow”? Where is the logic?
The answer, R. Frand suggests, is that Pharaoh, despite the overwhelming evidence indicating the supernatural and divine nature of this plague, in his recalcitrant attitude, assumed that the frogs were about to cease that day in any event. He refused to give Moses credence in the eyes of the people. He wanted to set a trap for Moses and have him agree to have the frogs leave the next day, and then they would be gone before the agreed upon deadline.
Although he had the opportunity to rid the country of these frogs TODAY, getting rid of them that same day would have been a sign of conceding to Moses. It could appear as a confession to the power of the Al-mighty Who Moses represented if he asked Moses to get rid of these frogs TODAY. This was something that Pharaoh could not bring himself to do. Our Sages tell us (Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 19a), “The wicked, even at the gates of Hell, do not repent.” A wicked person would rather suffer unimaginable pain and distress rather than admit that G-d is the world’s absolute ruler.
Nevertheless, despite Pharaoh’s connivances and stubbornness, TOMORROW did come, as foretold by Moses, because this was the Will of G-d. Pharaoh eventually learned an important lesson for all of us. Whether we like it or not and whether anyone of us cares to admit it or not, if G-d wishes it to happen, tomorrow will come. Ignoring G-d’s wishes will not prevent its execution, for He is the world’s absolute ruler and what He prescribes must be abided by. There is no escaping it. If G-d says “tomorrow,” then what is prescribed to happen then will unequivocally come. Tomorrow will come!