Carl Jung liked to think that frogs were God’s first attempt at making humans. He once said “The toads and the frogs are God’s first attempt to make man on the cold blooded level, and then he didn’t quite succeed. But he kept the idea, he kept the idea in mind, and made us later.” In my own mythology, infallible as He is, God apparently got it right on the first try; evidenced by Him calling on his first creations in Exodus to help Moses free the Jews from Pharaoh. After all, let’s face it; without the help of the frogs, Moses and the Jews didn’t have a chance.
On that note, here’s a lovely article from the Atlantic entitled “Frogs: The Surprising Star of the Passover Table”
“Over the past decade or so, I’ve noticed a fundamental shift in the thematic focus of the Passover Seder—the ritual meal that recalls the Jews’ journey from slavery to freedom. My childhood memories are of songs and symbols of liberation: a trail of matzah crumbs leading out of the wilderness, fresh green sprigs of parsley emerging from salty water like an enslaved people emerging from a sea of tears. The Seder also contains equally vivid recollections of the horrors of divine wrath (blood, boils, darkness, gefilte fish). But in the 21st century, one symbolic element has usurped the focus at countless American Seders I’ve attended: frogs.
Biblically speaking, frogs were the second of 10 divine plagues unleashed upon Egypt when the Pharaoh refused to free the Hebrews from slavery. Today, frog napkin rings, plush dolls, plastic figurines, table cloths, t-shirts, matzah covers, and candle sticks—all can be found in abundance at the Seder table. But rather than bemoan this amphibious invasion, I’ve begun to embrace it. Why? Because the more I looked, the more examples I found throughout history, science, and the arts of how the frog symbolizes the struggle for liberation—the very liberation Jews celebrate on Passover. But as the Israelites soon learned on their generation-long trek through the desert, the path to freedom is paved with many obstacles—not the least of which is, according to the Torah, the human heart’s resistance to change and its refusal to confront the status quo.
Sometimes this resistance to change takes the form of human stubbornness. A thousand years ago, medieval rabbis wrote a midrash (essentially biblical fan fiction), which imagined that the second plague started out as a single, massive frog that multiplied exponentially every time the Egyptians struck it in their obdurate efforts to drive it back into the Nile. As explained in a commentary to the midrash by 20th century Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, “When the Egyptians saw the result of their beating the frogs, why did they not stop? Rational thinking told them to stop, but they became enraged when they saw the result of their beating the frogs—and they lost control.” In the imagination of the medieval rabbis, the plague of proliferating frogs is a vivid reminder of the danger posed by the humans’ resistance to such change—the “hardened heart” the Torah warns of.”