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Gods, Frogs, and Drash
Why were the Egyptians punished with a plague of frogs? Someone sent me an insight that they heard from a contemporary rabbi: "Because Pharaoh portrayed himself like a god by not relieving himself, G-d specifically brought frogs as the second plague, since frogs are creatures that eat and do not void their waste." Pharaoh falsely claimed to be a God who does not excrete, so he was punished with lowly creatures that really do posses this ability.
There's pshat, and there's drash. Within the category of drash, you have different levels. There's drash that can reasonably be posited to be the true deeper meaning. And then there's drash that is clearly being invented rather than discovered. This does not mean that it is illegitimate; it's a nice way to create meaning and to ground lessons in older sources. (Still, one would prefer there to be clarity as to such drash being an invention rather than it being claimed (or implied) to be a discovery of actual hidden intended meaning.)
When it comes to divrei Torah involving animals, the drash often relates to an (alleged) fact about the animal. For example, I like to give a drash about the gevurah of the lion being its ability to overcome its aggressive nature and to live in groups with other lions, as per the Mishnah's statement that "Who is mighty? The one that overcomes his inclination." Now, lions actually aren't always the nicest of creatures to their kin; sometimes, males will kill and eat cubs, when trying to take over a pride. Still, it is a fact that lions are able to control their intra-species aggression much more than other big cats, and they are the only ones to live in social groups. So, this is a drash that is grounded in fact.
Then there's drash that is not grounded in fact. Sometimes, this is understandable, such as when there is popular or long-standing myth, or when the person is repeating something that he heard from others. Still, if it's something that sounds unlikely, then educators have a responsibility to verify its factuality. On occasion, one wonders if the person giving the drash has just invented something out of thin air in order to justify the drash.
I don't know how this frog drash came about. I've never heard of an ancient belief that frogs do not excrete. (Though I do often hear people asking me if snakes excrete; for some reason, people seem to think that without legs, there's no tushie.) But the fact is that frogs, like every other creature in the world, excrete their waste. How could it be otherwise? What else would they do with the parts of their food that they haven't digested?
There is something extraordinary, however, about the excretory abilities of certain species of frog. It has been discovered that some Australian tree-frogs, when they have a foreign object impaled or implanted into their body cavities, are able to transfer the foreign object into their bladder and excrete it. Feel free to incorporate this fact into a creative drash about the plague of frogs!
(See too this post: Frogs Challenge Rationalism. And don't forget that you can also read this blog via email subscription, using the form on the right.)