Rebeet: VaEira 5775 by Cantor Lipp

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:34am -- lcanfield

What he lacks in common sense he makes up in self esteem.

--from Fargo, the TV Series

If Pharaoh’s common sense would have trumped his self esteem he might have asked his magicians a simple question. They were able to duplicate the first two plagues, the blood and the frogs, and yet the king never asked them: If you can duplicate the plague, can you make it go away? 

Even Moses seems to suffer a lack of common sense in his handling of the second plague. 

Approaching God to end the plague of the frogs, there is an odd word choice: Why does Moses need to scream to get God’s attention? After all, the Torah is clear that Moses was the only prophet who had face-to-face conversations with God. All other prophets had visions, dreams, night encounters. Even if 'face-to-face' is metaphorical, we assume Moses had a closer, more informal relationship with God.

In short, he shouldn't have needed to yell to get God's attention.

So why the yelling?

The most contextual answer seems to be that Moses has chosen an unorthodox method of deciding the date of frog-cessation. He has given Pharaoh the pride of choosing the time. In effect, indirectly, Moses is letting Pharaoh tell God when to shoo the frogs back into the Nile. It seems that once Moses has a taste of exercising God’s power, he realizes he might have overreached in extending God’s prerogative to his nemesis. So he screams to get God's attention, fearing God might be miffed at his arrogance.

But there’s another reason given for the yelling from a more modern perspective. The 18th century Rabbi Avraham Broyde, the Baal Shem Tov’s brother in law, was staying at an Inn when the time for prayer arrived and he couldn’t find a quiet place to davven so he had to yell. When saying the amidah, the standing silent prayer, we are normally supposed to pray loud enough to hear ourselves but not disturb or throw off other davveners in our midst. Rabbi Avraham needed to yell to hear himself and began to understand why Moses had to yell when asking God to cease the plague of the frogs. It’s not that God couldn’t hear him; it’s that Moses couldn’t hear himself! 

I was watching an episode from the first season of Nurse Jackie in which she’s supporting her trainee who has just experienced the death of a patient. It’s a solemn moment interrupted by her cell phone going off. Then her other cell phone rings. You see, Nurse Jackie just bought a new cell phone so the pharmacist, with whom she’s having an affair, will not send her texts that might be seen by her husband. She looks at both phones and sees she’s being called by both at the same time. She flips them both open (old fashioned phones...), one to each ear, and says, “Can’t talk now. Love you. Bye.”

Only a well written script can provide such an opportunity for successful multi-tasking. Real life is far less forgiving.

Thomas Friedman, in the 92nd Street Y program we had this past week, said that he thanks people for being late as it gives him an unexpected pause to think and observe and be silent. 

God has given us a weekly break, a weekly pause to observe the real world around us without the multi-interruptions of the modern world or the virtual barriers we need to leap over in order to communicate.

It may boost our self esteem to hear the multitudinous sounds that represent ‘likes’ and ‘posts’ on Facebook, texts, e-mails, and twits; but it only makes common sense for us to pause for one day a week and divorce ourselves from these modern tweets, chirps and reebeets of our lives.

Shabbat Shalom

David Lipp