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Friday, January 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eira

At the beginning of the plague of frogs, as Aharon raised is hand over the waters of Egypt, the pasuk states (8:2) "vata'al hatzefardeia," the frog rose up. Although throughout the episode, the frogs are always referred to in plural, here it is in the singular form. There is a discussion in the gemara (Sanhendrin 67b) as to what to make of this anomaly. R' Elazar says there was one frog and it gave birth to all the other frogs which proceeded to cover the land. Likewise, R' Akiva said there was one frog which filled the whole land (seemingly by giving birth to the other frogs). R' Elazer ben Azaria took offense, exclaiming, "Akiva, why do you bother to delve in Aggada? Cease and return to the study of 'negaim' and 'ohalos.' There was one frog and it whistled to all its friends to join and they came."


Chasam Sofer is bothered by the tone of R' Elazar ben Azaria's remarks. There is certainly nothing in the pasuk itself that is in opposition to R' Akiva's interpretation. Why is he so turned off by his suggestion?


The gemara (Pesachim 53b) discusses the great miracle of Chananiah Mishael and Azaria who were forced by Nevuchadnezzar to walk through a fiery furnace and came out alive. Todos Ish Romi taught, "What led Cananiah Mishael and Azaria to walk through the fiery furnace (rather than bow down to an idol)? They reasoned that the frogs who are not obligated to sanctify God's name nevertheless jumped into the ovens of the Egyptians as part of the plague of frogs (7:28). Certainly, we who are obligated to sanctify God's name must surely make that sacrifice.


Chasam Sofer explains that if one frog gave birth to many, as R' Akiva suggested, than all those frogs were created solely for the purpose of this plague. If so, Chananiah Mishael and Azaria would have no basis for their reasoning. They, who have a purpose, could not derive from the frogs who had no other purpose but to jump into the ovens. Therefore, R' Elazar ben Azaria is vehemently opposed to R' Akiva's interpretation and explains that surely, these frogs who participated in the plague were in existence before the plague.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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