In this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Va’Ayra, we learn about the first seven plagues that God brought on Egypt. For the first three plagues, God commands Moses to tell Aaron, his brother, to hit the water and then the ground to begin the plague.
Why does God want Aaron to do it and not Moses? Isn’t Moses the one who will be taking the lead in this plan of leading the Jews out of Egypt? For the other seven plagues, it is indeed Moses who will start each plague, so why is he not responsible for starting the first three plagues?
Our Sages, in a midrash, answer that Moses couldn’t possibly hit the water or the ground! After all, he was saved by the water and then the earth. Do YOU remember where and when Moshe was saved by the Nile and then by the earth/ground?
Answer: Moses’ mother placed him the Nile, and Pharoah’s daughter found him there. It was the Nile that kept Moses safe from Pharoah decree to kill each and every Jewish baby boy born. Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Jew. Moses stepped forward and intervened, saving the Jew but killing the Egyptian. Moses buried the Egyptian he killed in the ground so no one would know what he had done.
The midrash is telling us that one cannot hurt someone /something that helped you. But how do you understand this? Can inanimate objects feel? Will they be insulted? Why do owe them gratitude?
Perhaps, saying and showing thank you isn’t only for the other person but for US as well. How? Discuss.
One way that we are enriched by a sense of gratitude is that we become aware of all that we’ve been given by God. Ultimately it makes us more aware and appreciative of all the blessings that God has given us. One commentator (Sefer haChinuch) explains the famous “Honor your mother and father” commandment in this way. Besides for paying back our parents, which is the right thing to do for all they have done and given us, we are commanded to appreciate them in order to hone this quality of gratitude. Once we can be aware and acknowledge the good someone has done for us, we will broaden that sense of appreciation and extend it to all that God has done for us. It is for that reason that Aaron, Moses’ brother, steps in and starts the first three plagues, allowing Moses to show the proper gratitude to both the water and the earth for saving him.