When should I entreat for you …to destroy the frogs from you…The frogs will depart from you.
Which was it? Were the frogs destroyed? Or did they just walk off the job and ride into the sunset?
I believe that Moshe actually provided Paroh with a choice. Paroh requested of Moshe, “Entreat Hashem that He remove the frogs from me and my people.” Moshe’s response directly answered Paroh’s request. He subtly changed the request to “For whom shall I entreat …to destroy the frogs,” but added, “So that you will know that there is none like Hashem, our G-d.” Moshe meant that only if Paroh learned from his experience that he was being punished by Hashem, would He see Paroh’s regrets about his misdeeds, and work a miracle into the ending of the plague of frogs. He would do better than destroy them in place, leaving their carcasses to rot. He would remove them entirely, so that they would not decay and pollute the land. Thus, “the frogs will depart from you.”
If, however, Paroh would not be moved to any degree of repentance, there was an alternative outcome. Moshe would daven that the frogs would be destroyed where they were, leaving piles of dead, rotting frogs for the Egyptians to deal with.
That is what happened. Paroh showed no contrition at all. He had no intention of letting the Bnei Yisrael go; all he sought was relief from his discomfort. So “they piled them up into heaps and heaps, and the land stank.”
Moshe said to him, “When I leave the city, I shall spread out my hands to Hashem
Rashi, citing Mechilta, explains that Moshe would not daven to Hashem in a city full of gilulim, usually translated as “idols.” Yet, this was not the first time that Moshe was called upon to daven for a cessation of a plague. Paroh asked Moshe to do so during the plague of wild beasts, and Moshe agreed without any mention of having to leave town to do so.
Perhaps this is the solution. Earlier, Moshe had only established the wickedness of Paroh himself. Therefore, when asked to daven for him, Moshe said, “Behold, I leave you and I will daven to Hashem.” The offensive, repulsive object was Paroh himself! Moshe would not attempt to bring Hashem’s presence close to this repugnant person.
During the plague of hail, however, Paroh made an extensive confession. “Hashem in the righteous One, and I and my people are the wicked ones.” The evil was not limited to Paroh! His subjects were also implicated; the city, then, was full of gilulim / repulsive things. It was the people – not stone figurines – who were the gilulim in whose presence Moshe would not daven!
- Based on Meshivas Nafesh by R. Yochanon Luria (15th century). ↑
- Shemos 8:5,7 ↑
- Shemos 8:4 ↑
- Shemos 8:5 ↑
- Shemos 8:6 ↑
- Shemos 8:7 ↑
- Shemos 8:10 ↑
- Shemos 9:29 ↑
- See Ramban who addresses this question ↑
- Shemos 8:25 ↑
- Shemos 9:27 ↑