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Welcome to Our Shabbos Table

Click here for last year's divrei torah on parshas Va’era
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Click here for last year's divrei torah on parshas Va’era

Welcome to our Shabbos Table!
We hope you enjoy this selection of short divrei Torah, presented to family and guests at our Shabbos table as a springboard for discussion. Each one is followed by a question. The responses shared at our table are enlightening, entertaining, and always thought-provoking.
Please share them at your own Shabbos table, and send us your most interesting responses. A selection of the best will be posted on the website, and eventually, included in a book. To respond, email us at responses@ourtable.org.

Parshas Va'era/ Striking Out

“And Aharon stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frog ascended and covered the land of Egypt” (Shemos 8:2).

This week’s parshah enumerates the first seven of the ten plagues brought upon the Egyptians. The second plague was that of frogs.

Why does our pasuk refer to a single frog (tzefardea), not to frogs (tzefarde’im)? Rashi cites the Midrash: When Aharon initially stretched out his hand over the river, only one frog emerged. But when the Egyptians struck this creature, hoping to kill it, it subdivided, and one frog became a swarm. The Egyptians attacked these frogs as well, but they kept multiplying, eventually filling the land.

The Steipler Gaon (1899–1985) puzzles over the Egyptians’ behavior. The first time they hit the frog, they didn’t expect it to split in two. But as they kept hitting, and the frogs kept reproducing, didn’t the Egyptians realize what they were doing? Why did they continue attacking? They were only hurting themselves!

The Steipler’s answer contains a powerful lesson.

Losing Control

The Gaon explains that each time they hit the frogs, the Egyptians grew angrier. Once a person gets angry, he becomes irrational. Of course, logic dictated that the Egyptians stop hitting the frogs, but when people are furious and frustrated, they lose all self-control. And the result is often self-defeating.

Unfortunately, we can all relate to this concept. We all get angry and lose control. Then we say things we regret, and we can’t even hear what others say to us in response.

Sometimes things don’t go our way. Sometimes someone or something tries our patience. In those moments, let’s learn from the Egyptians what not to do! (Rabbi Yissocher Frand, “Stop Hitting Those Stupid Frogs Already!”)

Question for Discussion:

Give an example of a situation that made you angry. How did you control yourself?

Responses:

Jeremy, formerly worked with the NFL in New York and Los Angeles and now learning at Aish HaTorah:

A rabbi who’s been teaching at Aish for thirty-five years spent last Shabbos with us. He has a lot of wisdom and insight to share – if we only listen. But during one meal, someone didn’t stop talking throughout the rabbi’s dvar Torah. He didn’t even give the rabbi a chance. His incessant chatter was a disgrace to the rabbi and inconsiderate to those of us who were trying to listen. My temper began to rise. I was hoping this student would shut up, but he didn’t. I debated whether to say something. Meanwhile I glared and shushed him.

Later I found out that his table was full of French students who don’t understand English. The person speaking throughout the dvar Torah was translating for them!

I learned a very important lesson right then and there: Even when it looks like someone is doing something wrong, he might not be. Don’t judge, don’t get angry – there could be more going on than we realize.

Yehoshua, originally from Los Angeles and currently on leave from dental school to spend a year in yeshivah:

I generally get along with my roommate, but recently something quite disturbing happened. Not only did he borrow my umbrella without asking, but he lent it to someone else for an entire week! I was so upset. I didn’t know how to react. So I just started laughing. In hindsight, that was much better than blowing up at him.

“Hayim,” a CPA from Australia, now in Yerushalayim:

I too had some challenges with my roommate in yeshivah. He would come back late at night, when I was already asleep, and turn on the lamp by his bed, which pointed right at me. I discussed it with him, but he continued nonetheless. One night, my other roommates and I had just gotten into bed when he came in. I pretended to be asleep. When he turned on his lamp, I jumped out of bed to scare him – and boy, did it work! I really wanted him to understand that turning on the lamp was very disturbing. The next day he showed me a Jewish source prohibiting scaring someone. I learned that it’s best to deal with these issues upfront, in a mature manner. But he certainly learned that I really was being disturbed, and thankfully he stopped turning on that lamp.