In Parashat Va-eira, Pharaoh, plagued with frogs, asks Moshe and Aharon to "entreat" God to remove the plague and says that he'll respond by releasing the Israelites. Moshe agrees, and then we have (Exodus 8:8):

וַיֵּצֵא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל ה' עַל דְּבַר הַצְפַרְדְּעִים אֲשֶׁר שָׂם לְפַרְעֹה

And Moses and Aaron went away from Pharaoh, and Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs that He had brought upon Pharaoh.

(emphasis mine)

I've always had a problem with the verb "cried out" here. It seems to me that people "cry out" about things that are really, really bothering them. In fact, this would seem to be the pattern the other times we have "וַיִּצְעַק" in the Torah:

  • Esav, upon learning that Ya'akov had taken their father's blessing. (Genesis 27:34)
  • Starving Egyptians, begging Pharaoh for food. (Genesis 41:55)
  • The Israelites, when a wrathful fire from God was burning them for being whiners. (Numbers 11:2)
  • Moshe, when his sister was afflicted with Tzara'at. (Numbers 12:13)

So, what was bothering Moshe so much here that he "cried out"? The frogs weren't plaguing him, and I assume that he didn't love Pharaoh like a sister. Why not just say to God "Pharaoh said he'd let us go if You take away the frogs. Could You please do that?" Why did Moshe have to get so emotional about his oppressors' frog problem?


5 Answers 5


I don't think this is the simple answer, but it is nonetheless an interesting answer I heard: normally, prayer should be "just loud enough to hear yourself" -- but with all the frogs croaking, Moshe had to scream!


A couple of the classical commentators address this as well.

Ibn Ezra writes that Moshe, on his own initiative, had given Pharaoh the option when the plague should be gone (8:5-6) - without first consulting Hashem whether this was the right thing to do, or whether the stated deadline was acceptable to Him. Now he was concerned that Hashem might not approve of this, and so he felt the need to "cry out" that Hashem should follow through anyway, so as not to put him to shame.

Sforno takes a different tack. Ordinarily, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 64a, et al) tells us, "G-d does not grant just half of a petition." But here Moshe was telling Pharaoh that the frogs would disappear from the dry land but remain in the Nile (8:5,7); to accomplish this required extra-fervent prayer.

  • Both of these answers sound plausible, but neither is very satisfying to me. I can see how personal shame or the need for a special request would prompt extra pleading, but not how they would prompt the sort of emotional state that "וַיִּצְעַק" seems to imply elsewhere.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 21, 2010 at 20:56
  • Alex, I thought that the crying out in the Ibn Ezra made Moshe's prayers more public "forcing" Hashem not to embarrass him. Though I could be wrong, it's a cryptic Ibn Ezra.
    – YDK
    Dec 31, 2010 at 1:17
  • "A cryptic Ibn Ezra" - is there any other kind? :) Could be you're right, though it might be a stretch fitting that into his wording בטח בשם שלא יביישהו.
    – Alex
    Dec 31, 2010 at 15:05

I see where Daas Soferim has an interesting take on it.

Really, he says, Pharaoh didn't deserve to have the plague taken away at this point. However, Moshe wanted to do him a favor and make it possible for him to recognize Hashem's greatness (by seeing how Hashem removes the plague at his, Moshe's, request).

So he had to "cry out" because he was asking for something undeserved.

Building on this, then, I think the implication is also that with this word the Torah is underscoring Moshe's greatness. He could have just left Pharaoh to stew in his own juices and take the full punishment he deserved; instead he chose to not only get involved, but indeed to "cry out" about it as if it personally affected him or his family - all because he had in mind the ultimate goal of getting Pharaoh to acknowledge Hashem.

  • Interesting. See המדרש והמעשה on וירא, where he compares צעקה with שוע. The former is used when referring to one who cries out because of unjust suffering. שוע is used by one who cries out understanding that his suffering is just, but nevertheless appeals to God's mercy. (This is not in direct contradiction here, since Moshe is the one crying out, not Pharaoh.)
    – Ephraim
    Oct 29, 2013 at 6:59

Perhaps the reason is that Moshe, being the intermediary between God and Pharoah knew it ws his job to take Pharoah's request to God, but Moshe also knew that the Exodus from Egypt couldn't happen untill Pharoah and the Egyptians were punished "full measure" for their treatment of the Jews. By ending the plague and the Egyptian discomfort, God was in essense prolonging the Jews time as slaves and prolonging the redemption. Moshe cried out because of his involvement in that prolonging of the redemption.

  • Not bad, but your explanation has Moshe crying out because of what he was asking for, which is inconsistent with the other examples of this term, in which people were crying out because of the present situation, and asking for change.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 18, 2010 at 13:37
  • Ken, why aren't the other prayers the same? We see the language of vaye'tar, which describes abundant prayer, but different than vayitz'ak.
    – YDK
    Dec 31, 2010 at 1:09

I saw this year in Hagada from Rav Shmulevitz in the name of Rav Chaim Kanievsky a very nice answer:

It is written in Perek Shira that frogs say the posuk "Yehi kevod Hashem l'olom" that they are screaming all the time, and since we know there is din in tefiloh "corich lehashmiah l'ozno", that a person must hear himself, Moshe had to scream to hear himself.

  • 2
    mato, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for this answer! It seems to provide more detail and an alternative source for this answer. This answer would be more helpful if you'd edit it to be more readable in English, starging with "corich lehashmiah loynoy," which is not familiar to me. Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 2, 2013 at 14:39
  • How is this any different from Sholom's answer above?
    – gt6989b
    Jul 2, 2013 at 14:42

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