Acting Out in AngerJanuary 14, 2021 - 12:00 am
“So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land”— Exodus 8:6
Each week in synagogue or at home, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Va’era, which means “and I appeared,” from Exodus 6:2–9:35.
Like most children who grew up in America and went to a Jewish day school, I learned this cute song about the second plague that God brought upon Egypt: “One day Pharaoh awoke in his bed — there were frogs on his head and frogs in his bed. Frogs on his toes and frogs on his nose. Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were jumping everywhere!”
However, the truth is that the plague didn’t happen exactly the way that the song describes.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read that, “the frogs came up and covered the land.” However, translated literally, the verse actually reads, “the frog came up and covered the land.” Only one frog.
According to Jewish tradition, the plague began with just one frog. When the Egyptians saw the frog, they struck it, attempting to kill it, but instead the frog multiplied. One frog became two. The Egyptians became angry and hit the two frogs, but that only caused them to become four. Infuriated, they struck the frogs repeatedly. Four became eight and then sixteen, until eventually there were so many frogs that they “covered the land.”
Acting Out in Anger
One might think that when the Egyptians understood that hitting the frogs caused them to increase, they would have stopped hitting them. However, they were blinded by their anger, which caused them to act out in a way that was self-defeating.
Indeed, anger is a destructive emotion. The Talmud teaches, “When a person gives in to anger, if he is wise, his wisdom leaves him. If he is a prophet, his power of prophecy leaves him; if greatness was decreed for him from Heaven, anger will cause him to be degraded.” Acting out in anger hurts us more than it hurts anyone else.
It can be difficult to rein in anger once it has a hold on us, and we can easily justify lashing out at another person who we feel has wronged us. But this image of the Egyptians lashing out at the frogs, only to bring destruction upon themselves, can help us retain clarity. God wants us to know that acting out of anger simply isn’t in our best interest. In contrast, when we act from a place of love, everyone benefits — most of all, us.
Your turn: Memorize a verse about controlling our anger, such as Proverbs 29:11, Ephesians 4:26, or James 1:19. Use it as a reminder whenever you feel the urge to act out in anger.