Seven of the Ten Plagues happen in this week’s parsha. The first three, blood, frogs, and lice, have something in common. None of them were brought by Moshe. The first two involved the Nile River. The third, lice, involved dust. The commentaries tell us that Moshe could not bring these plagues personally because he had a debt of gratitude to the Nile River, and to the dust. The river brought him to safety when he was a baby placed in a floating basket on the Nile. The dust hid the Egyptian that he killed. He had to pay up his debt. Aharon brought these three plagues instead.
Would the river and the dust have a claim against Moshe had he ignored his debt of gratitude? Certainly not! Nevertheless, Moshe is teaching us a valuable life lesson. If he recognizes and acknowledges kindness which is done for him even by a river, then certainly he will have the same sensitivity toward people!
This is basic to Torah. Appreciation. Recognizing the good which others have done for us, and feeling a debt of gratitude. Appreciation is also why we serve G-d. It’s difficult to begin counting all of the kindnesses G-d bestows on us. Even if He gives us our share of painful experiences, if we would weigh them next to all of the kindnesses, they would be insignificant in number. Focus on one life-function such as sight. It’s overwhelming to try to understand how many things need to go right for sight to occur. These functions faithfully serve billions of people daily, and that’s just one of so many!
The word “Jew” comes from the name Yehuda. Yehuda received his name from his mother Leah. Leah knew that of Yaakov’s four wives she made the largest contribution of children to the tribes of the Jewish people. When Yehuda was born, the fourth child, Leah noted that she received more than her share. She named the child Yehuda which is derived from “hoda’ah,” thankfulness. Appreciation is in our name and it is our essence. Getting in touch with our essence expresses itself through how much we try to pay our debt actively; daily. Moshe was in touch. Let’s all try to do at least one thing each day as a tangible expression of our appreciation to G-d.