Environmental Appreciation

The actions and people that brought about the plagues teach us not only sensitivity towards people but also towards the environment.


Provided by the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, a summer seminar in Israel that aims to create a multi-denominational cadre of young Jewish leaders.

This week the process of Moses negotiating with Pharaoh for the right of the Jewish people to leave Egypt and worship God in the desert moves into full swing. The negotiations are accompanied by the ten plagues–a pretty effective bargaining tool. The first three plagues–the waters of the Nile turning into blood, the plague of frogs, and of lice, all have an interesting element in common. All three of these plagues are brought about not by Moses but by his brother, and assistant, Aaron:

"And God said to Moses, say to your brother Aaron: Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers and over their streams and over their lakes and over all their bodies of water and they will become blood…"

"And God said to Moses, say to Aaron: Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams, and over the lakes, and raise up the frogs on to the Land of Egypt."

"And God said to Moses, say to Aaron: Stretch out your staff and strike the earth of the land and it will be lice in all the Land of Egypt."

The Next Three

After these three plagues, the next three plagues are announced by Moses and brought about by God himself (with both Moses and Aaron assisting with the sixth plague, boils). The next three are brought about by Moses who, like Aaron, brings about the plague himself, with his staff. The last, the killing of the first born, is, again, announced by Moses and brought about by God.

On one level, this arrangement seems to give everyone a chance to be involved–God, Moses, and Aaron are all part of this process. On another level, the Rabbis have tried to make some deeper sense of the way the roles of our three heroes are divided up. Rashi quotes an interesting Midrash, which attempts to explain Aaron’s active involvement in the first three plagues.

The first two, blood and frogs, take place, obviously, in the Nile and the other waters of Egypt. Rashi quotes the Midrash which says that since the waters protected Moses when, as a baby, his parents put him in a basket among the river’s reeds in an attempt to save him from Pharaoh’s decree to drown all the male babies in the river, it would have been inappropriate for him to repay the river in this way, by turning it into blood, or by bringing the plague of frogs from it.

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Rabbi Shimon Felix is the Israel Director of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. He lives with his family in Jerusalem, and has taught in a wide variety of educational frameworks in Israel and abroad.

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