May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Va’eyra: Pick Your Plague

Ronit was sitting in her playroom reading Where the Wild Things Are to Sam when they started pouring out of the wall. There were hundreds of them, maybe thousands. They were black, they had lots of legs, and some had wings. And they were streaming across the floor at a rapid pace.

It is moments such as this when a parent needs to remain calm, for your child learns how to act from your behavioral cues and will pattern his or her own behavior after yours. It is an excellent moment for educating the next generation in the proper way to respond to a crisis.

“Aaaaagh!” Ronit shrieked in a blood curdling exclamation, as she jumped up on the couch. “Uuuuuuugh!” she added for emphasis.

Avi came running. “What, what?” he said, prepared for a burglar or a vomiting child.

“There!” Ronit said, averting her eyes and gesturing toward the swarm.

“Oh great,” Avi said, “just what we needed.”

“What are they, ants?”

“No, termites.”

“Termites? Ugh,” Ronit reiterated.

Avi took off his left sneaker and began smashing bugs as quickly as he could.

“Stop! You’re killing God’s creatures!” Sam ordered.

“You know, Sam, I think that God might forgive us this time,” Ronit said, regaining a modicum of composure. “I think you need to think about these bugs like they’re a plague.”

“You mean like the ones in Egypt?”

“Exactly like the ones in Egypt.”

“Ro, go into the garage and get the bug spray,” Avi said, as he continued bopping bugs.

“Which bug spray?”

“Any bug spray. I don’t care; whatever we have.”

“Avi, dear, I love you madly, but there is no way I’m coming down from this couch until all those creepy, crawly things have stopped moving.”

Avi threw up his arms in despair, then went to the garage and returned with a can of Black Flag Ant, Roach, and Spider Spray. He sprayed the hole from which the termites had been pouring forth, and the bugs stopped swarming out of the wall. After a few more minutes of Avi’s search and destroy mission with his sneaker, the crisis was averted.

“Whew, that was a close call,” Ronit said, as she came down from the couch.

“Yeah, thanks for all your help,” Avi said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Avi, honey, I don’t do bugs. You knew that when you married me.”

“That’s true. You’ve never hidden your feelings about insects. I’ll call an exterminator in the morning, and it’ll all be taken care of.”

“So are termites really like a plague?” Sam asked.

“I would tend to agree with your mother on this one, Sammy. A termite swarm is like a good, old-fashioned biblical pestilence.”

“Huh?”

“They’re like a plague, just like your mom said.”

“So which plague are they like?” Sammy asked.

“That’s an interesting question,” Ronit said. “I think they’re like kinnim, lice. They were simply everywhere, and they made my skin crawl. And lice were the first plague that the Egyptian magicians couldn’t duplicate. Only God can create a plague as awful as lice, or termites.”

“I think they’re more like the frogs,” Sam said. When they came out of the wall, they were, like, everywhere. You know the song, “Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were jumping everywhere.”

“Good one, Sam,” Avi said. “I think the termites were more like arov, the wild beasts. A lot of the commentaries suggest that the beasts were scorpions and snakes. They were the kinds of animals that are in your environment the whole time, hidden from view. The miracle was that they all came out into the open and attacked the Egyptians. I think that was what the termite swarm was like.”

“Well, let’s hope we have no more plagues in this house,” Ronit said.

“Amen to that,” Avi agreed.

“If they ever come again,” Sam said, “can we keep one as a pet?”

“How would you feel about a fish?” Ronit asked. “I’m pretty sure there’s no plague associated with fish.”

“We’ll talk,” Avi said, as he went for the broom.

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

By Larry Stiefel

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