Monday, December 31, 2007

Parshas Va'era 5768

וְשָׁרַץ הַיְאֹר, צְפַרְדְּעִים, וְעָלוּ וּבָאוּ בְּבֵיתֶךָ, וּבַחֲדַר מִשְׁכָּבְךָ וְעַל-מִטָּתֶךָ; וּבְבֵית עֲבָדֶיךָ וּבְעַמֶּךָ, וּבְתַנּוּרֶיךָ וּבְמִשְׁאֲרוֹתֶיךָ.

"The river will swarm with frogs. They will emerge and come into your house, into your bedroom, and on your bed, into the houses of your servants and your people, into your ovens and into your kneading bowls."

The Gemara in Pesachim (53b) says that the frogs jumped into the ovens when they were hot (presumably killing them), as this is the only time that the kneading bowls were by the ovens. Further, the Gemara there tells us us that Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah, in their act of Mesiras Nefesh in jumping into the fiery furnace learned out a Kal v'Chomer from the frogs in the above verse. Namely, that just has the frogs, which were not commanded in the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem jumped into the ovens and gave up their lives, all the more so, they reasoned, that they were obligated to jump in the furnace.

The Shagas Aryeh fails to understand the Kal v'Chomer, being that the basis of it is that the frogs were not commanded to jump into the ovens; however, the verse, by saying that "They will emerge and come into your house...", is specifically commanding them to do so - as such, the premise of the Kal v'Chomer is destroyed. However, the Gra (who was reported to be about 7 years old at the time), explained to the Shagas Aryeh that while there was a command to the frogs to jump into the ovens, the verse also lists other places that the frogs could've jumped (i.e. the house, bedroom, bed, etc.). Therefore, each individual frog had the choice where to go. As such, it would've been very easy for every frog to think to himself, "Yeah, I'll go into the bed...I'll let the next sucker be the one who gives up his life." Nevertheless, we see that, at least among a good number of the frogs, they rejected this mindset and opted to give up their lives. Thus, we see that while they were commanded to go into the ovens, they were also given the option of entering other places; and it was this choice that Chananya, Mishael, and Azaryah learned their Kal v'Chomer from.

The lesson to be learned here is that we shouldn't habituate ourselves to constantly choose the easy path. Of course, that doesn't mean we should spend this New Years Eve jumping in the closest furnance we can find. However, constantly taking the easy-path is a cop out and we often reap less reward later in life than we would if we would've put more effort in initially (הזורעים בדמעה ברנה יקצרו). Further, it's easy, like the frogs could've done, to rely on others to do our work for us. We should learn from the plague of the frogs that we shouldn't leave our responsibilites to others and that putting in more work initially will pay off in the long run.