This Shabbos we read Parshas Vaaira. In the Parsha we learn about the first seven of the ten plagues that Hashem brought upon the Egyptians. The first three, we are taught, were actually brought about by Aaron. He is the one who hit the Nile to bring the plague of blood (Exodus 7:19), he hit the waters of Egypt to bring the plague of frogs (Exodus 8:2), and he hit the earth to bring the plague of lice (Exodus 8:13). The Sages tell us that these actions of hitting the water and the earth to bring the plagues had to be done by Aaron, for Moses could not hit them. Since he was indebted to the water for saving him when he was a little child, and to the earth for taking the body of the Egyptian when Moses killed him, it would have been inappropriate for Moses to strike them. Certainly there is a tremendous lesson in “hakaras hatov” – how we should feel gratitude – that is contained here. If we are being taught that even to an object, something that has no free will, we still have to feel gratitude, certainly to people who choose to be kind to us we must express and have these feelings.
There is a question that does come up in these verses. Although it is clear that only Aaron was the one who actually brought about the plague, when the Torah describes what happened, it seems to tell us that both Moses and Aaron did it. In the plague of blood the Torah says “And they did so Moses and Aaron as Hashem had commanded, and he hit… (Exodus 7:20) Again by the plague of lice the Torah says “And they did so, and Aaron stretched his hand,…(Exodus 8:13) If only Aaron was the one who struck the water and the earth, why are both Moses and Aaron credited for the plague?
In the classic work “Chovos Halevovos” (Duties of the Heart) we are taught that one of the reasons a person deserves reward in the world to come is for causing others to serve Hashem. As much as we may be nice people and do many good things, if we have to earn our reward based on our own deeds things can be very tight. If we try to get others to serve Hashem, then the merit deserving reward is much greater. A similar idea, the Skolener Rebbe taught, is exactly the lesson that the Torah is teaching us in this verse. When Moses spoke to Aaron and caused him to hit the earth or strike the water, he gets credit as if he did this himself. Therefore the Torah says that they did it. The beautiful opportunity this offers us, to increase our merit many times over by causing and helping others to serve Hashem, is stressed here, as we open new opportunities for our success in serving Hashem. If we can focus on ways that we can cause others to serve Hashem, the mitzvohs they do will be considered things that we do.