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Hashem’s Power and Hashem’s Control

Torah Thoughts on Parshas Vaera by Rabbi Ben Zion Shenker

וַיַעַשׂ ה' כִּדְבַר מֹשֶׁה וַיָמֻתוּ הַצְפַרְדְעִים מִן הַבָּתִּים מִן הַחֲצֵרֹת וּמִן הַשָׂדֹת" שְׁמוֹת ח':ט'

“And God carried out the word of Moshe; and the frogs died – from the houses and from the courtyards, and from the fields.” Shemos 8:9

The Talmud (Pesachim 52b) relates that Chanania, Mishael, and Azaria opted to turn themselves over to be burned at the stake al kiddush Hashem, based on a kal vachomer argument. In the plague of the frogs, the frogs, who do not have the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem, jumped into hot ovens. (The Gemara assumes the ovens were hot based on the juxtaposition of the word "oven" to the word "kneeding bowls".) Thus, we, who have the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem, should certainly do so as well.

The Baal HaTurim makes an interesting observation. At the conclusion of the plague, when the Torah lists all of the places in which the frogs died, it mentions the courtyards and the fields, but fails to mention that the frogs that had jumped into the ovens also died. Based on this inference, the Baal HaTurim suggests that the frogs in the ovens did not die at all. Rather, since they elected to die al kiddush Hashem, they were in fact saved. Chanania, Mishael, and Azaria reasoned that if the decision to die al kiddush Hashem was correct for the frogs, it certainly would be proper for them as well.

The Baal HaTurim points out that the opposite is also true. Moshe and Aharon were destined to lead Klal Yisrael into the Promised Land and live forever. However, their singular lapse came about through a failure to sanctify the name of Hashem at the waters of strife. Therefore, they did not merit to enter into Eretz Yisrael.

A Jew must always strive to be moser nefesh to uphold the will of Hashem in every situation. The test may be as small as hitting the "snooze button" one less time in order to make it in time for Shacharis, or it may be as big as the test of Chanania, Mishael and Azaria. It is certain, however, that when one manages to find the strength to give Hashem his all, he is bound to succeed and is more likely to escape from a situation of peril, be it physical or spiritual.


Rabbi Ben Zion Shenker graduated from FYHS in 1993. He continued his learning in Israel under Rav Daniel Lehrfield at Yeshivas Beis Yisrael for four years. He then went to the Mir Yeshiva for about 20 years. He is currently Rosh Kollel of Kollel Shaarei Chaim, a position he has held for the last five years. He lives with his family in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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