In this week’s Parsha we read about the plagues that Hashem visited upon the Egyptians. In particular, we are told in significant detail, the incredible disruption to their lives caused by the plague of frogs. On the other hand, this second plague, is discussed in Medrash Rabba 10:2, where it tells us that the plague caused peace between Egypt and its neighbor Cush, because the presence of the frogs demarcated the borders of Egypt. Whereas before the frogs, there had been a border dispute, that issue was now settled for all to see.
This is most perplexing. Most of us would think that when two people or two countries have a dispute and in the end there is one winner and one loser, there may be an end to overt hostilities, but there will be a lot of simmering rage and resentment. It usually looks like anything but peace when the loser emerges from a Din Torah or civil court case. We can understand if the Medrash would tell us the border skirmishes ended, but how could there be peace between competing nations when one suddenly loses its claim to land?
The answer is that when boundaries are set clearly, authoritatively and decisively, as was done by the frogs, a person or nation can make peace with it and the agitation dissipates. It’s only when lines are blurred, when false hopes arise or linger, when something is not clearly defined or put out of reach that conflicts, both internal and external, arise. People remain frustrated and angry after losing a court case, because they question the validity of the judge, court and proceedings. With the proper respect for the authority of the court, even a negative ruling would be accepted with equanimity. When a person thinks an object of their desire is within reach, they’ll resort to inappropriate means to procure it. This is well illustrated by understanding how Halacha serves the role of a border, a boundary. A person who lives according to Halacha will more easily resist the temptation of someone else’s money, a questionably kosher food, or an illicit relationship. They are simply out of reach, as out of reach as a peasant marrying a princess.
This idea is especially crucial in the Chinuch of our children. Children, for whom clear boundaries have been drawn, are more settled, calm and accepting of whatever rules they are subject to. No matter what they may say at first, they actually feel safer and more self confident when they have safe boundaries and guidelines. When a parent is not decisive, when the chance of a ‘yes’ remains even after a verbal ‘no’ then the child will be unable to accept the `no’ because it’s not for sure. When a child is confident that the parent means what he says, he will happily accept whatever decision is rendered, even if it goes against what the child has been so passionately advocating for.
We parents need to understand the value of being forthright in our dealings with our children. It provides security for our child, by removing false hopes and allowing the child to live in the present without constant dissatisfaction. If we realize how great the benefits are to our children when we confidently and clearly set limits for them, we’ll also understand that they strongly prefer a clear `no’, to an uncertain `yes’.
Best wishes for a decidedly wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann