Does Hitting Your Computer Screen Help? ­ Article ­ BINA

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Does Hitting Your Computer Screen Help?

by Rabbi Aron Moss

Question:

At my seder no one understands Hebrew, so we read the Haggadah in English. My cousin who is fluent in Hebrew says that we miss much of the richness and depth of the story by reading it in translation. Apparently there are deeper lessons that can only be found in the Hebrew. What does he mean?
 
Answer:
 
In every English version of the Haggadah that I have seen, there is one word that is always translated incorrectly.
 
When listing the Ten Plagues that smote the Egyptians, second one in Hebrew is called Tzefardeya. This is always translated as Frogs. But the original Hebrew is in the singular. The translation should be Frog.
 
Now indeed, it is a little awkward to translate it literally. One frog hopping around does not seem like much of a plague. And to be fair, in many languages the singular form can denote a group, so perhaps Frog can mean Frogs. But there must be a reason why the Haggadah calls this plague the plague of a frog. Lice is in plural, so why is frog singular?
 
The talmudic tradition answers that actually, the plague of frogs started with one single frog. A large frog emerged from the Nile River. The Egyptians saw it, and knowing that Moses had warned them there would be a plague of frogs, attacked the giant frog with sticks. As they struck the frog, it started spewing hundreds and thousands of little frogs, which quickly spread over the entire land. The more they hit, the more frogs appeared.
 
So indeed the plague started with a frog singular. It was the Egyptian reaction that caused frogs plural.
 
Those foolish Egyptians were attacking the frog, but ignoring its root cause. The plagues were only coming because the Egyptians refused to let the Israelites go free. But rather than taking a hard look at themselves and changing their cruel behaviour, the Egyptians looked at this big frog and tried to kill it. Which only led to more frogs.
 
There is a deep message behind this rather odd episode. Because so often we do the same silly thing as those Egyptians did. Rather than deal with our problems, we try to take away the consequences. We attack the symptoms but not the cause, the outside manifestation of an issue rather than our own part in it. And things only get worse
 
We get upset at our spouse for pointing out our flaws, rather than facing the flaws themselves.
 
We lose patience with our kids who are misbehaving, while the main reason for their playing up is because we don't have patience to really listen to them in the first place.
 
We throw sharp objects at our computer for taking too long to warm up just when we need to view an important document for a meeting starting in two minutes. And then for some reason the computer doesn't work at all.
 
We hit these frogs, and all we get is more frogs.
 
The Haggadah is full of such powerful lessons. It is worth studying it in detail, and there are many excellent English translations with commentaries that bring out the deeper meanings. The above is just an example of how even one word in the Haggadah can teach us volumes. Don't look at the frog. Look at yourself.

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