In Parshas VaEira, Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to first warn Pharaoh about the impending plague. Moshe told Pharaoh that if he refused to free the Jews to serve Hashem, “so said Hashem, ‘In this you shall know that I am Hashem.’ Behold I am going to strike with the staff that is in my hand upon the water that is in the river, and it shall turn to blood.” After warning Pharaoh, Moshe is then commanded: “Tell Aharon, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt…’” Why does Hashem specify that Aharon be the one to initiate the plague? In addition, this pattern is repeated with the next two plagues – frogs and lice.
Rashi explains that it was inappropriate for Moshe Rabbeinu to strike the Nile for the plagues of blood and frogs. After all, this same river provided refuge for him as a baby. In the same vein, Moshe Rabbeinu could not strike the sand to bring the plague of lice. The Egyptian sand protected Moshe when he used it to bury the Egyptian that he killed. Hashem’s message to Moshe Rabbeinu is clear.
Striking the Nile River or the Egyptian sand would show a lack of appreciation for how they had helped him, and such an action would tarnish his hakaras ha’tov. Rather, Aharon should initiate these plagues, since he never benefited from the water or the sand to the same extent.
Rashi’s explanation lends new insight into the dimensions of hakaras ha’tov. Gratitude is not because someone did something for you, but rather if you benefited. If you benefited from somebody or something, you must show gratitude (from the book Netivei Ohr, pg. 165, by Rabbi Nissim Yagen). That’s why it is said by Moshe that he was not allowed to hit the Nile River, and he had to ask Aharon to do it. A river has no feelings and does not care whether Moshe lived or died. But since Moshe benefited from the river, so then he has to have gratitude and he can’t strike it.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler further explains that it is irrelevant if our beneficiary (e.g., the Nile River) might have been an inanimate object. Our emotional reality is that when we strike something, its value is lowered in our eyes. It becomes inferior and we become superior. If we previously benefited from it, then our midah of hakaras ha’tov certainly diminishes. Moshe’s Divine mandate was to diligently preserve his midah of hakaras ha’tov, since it is so critical for avodas Hashem (service of G-d).
List of People Who Need a r’fuah sh’leimah (a complete recovery)
Please recite Psalms 20, 30, 88, 121, and 130.
Meir ben Malah
Shmaryahu ben Reizel Shoshanah Miriam
Yisrael ben Reizel Shoshanah Miriam
Shia Herschel ben Sosha
Moshe ben Sarah Yehudis
Mordechai ben Evlyn
Yitzchak Isaac ben Devorah
Yosef ben Sarah
Aharon Yaakov ben Caryn
Roma Rachamim ben Yaffah
Yaakov ben Tovah
Tziporah bas Fruma
Bluma bas Etel Rivkah
Esther Hadassah bas Devorah
Henya bas Brachah Devorah Leah
Brachah Bryna Luba bas Chanah
Udel bas Chayah Rivkah
Tamarah bas Istat Ester
Sarah Gittel bas Sarah