Friday, December 31, 2010

[KollelH blog] VaEirah - Snow and..... Frogs?

I'm sure this week's snow makoh upon Brooklyn made people think of the parshah's closing plague in Egypt; Barad - the miraculous fire hailstorm. So what's the connection between the snow and frogs? (not much, if you ask google)  The huge mounds of now messy matter piled high at street corners and against many cars, brings to mind what went on in Mitzrayim in the aftermath of their makkoh, Tzefardeah. ויצברו אותם חמרים חמרים ותבאש הארץ  - "They grouped them in heaps and heaps and the land was disgusting." You can just imagine the horse and camel back gridlock traffic!

But there is more to learn about the two unassuming  partners in this week's D'var Torah.

The Gemarah (Pesachim 53b) teaches us that Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah learned a kal v'chomer from the frogs. "If the frogs which were not commanded to die al kiddush Hashem, voluntarily jumped into the Egyptian ovens, we, who are commanded should certainly be willing to die al kiddush Hashem".

The Sha'agas Aryeh posed the following question to a number of Torah scholars. "How can they claim that the frogs were not commanded, when (passuk 7:28) Hashem told Moshe to warn Pharoah that 'they will go and enter your homes, your bedrooms, your beds, the homes of your servants and citizens and your OVENS and your dough.' ?!"
The Vilna Gaon, a seven year old boy at the time, overheard the question and responded.
"Each frog had the right 'to point his finger' at some other frog and say "you take the oven, I'll attack the beds!" thereby fulfilling the command of Hashem while still saving his own skin. As a whole, the group of frogs had to get the 'oven job' done, but no particular frog had to take on the responsibility. However many frogs did just that. They volunteered on behalf of the group. Instead of pointing fingers at others, they put their own neck on the line."
The Sha'agas Aryeh joyfully lifted the young gaon up in the air and kissed his forehead.

Perhaps this sense of unity allowed the makkoh to continue with an after effect even after its official time was up, which is not found by any other of the ten plagues (see kli yakar). They were grouped together in piles to continue causing affliction to the mitzriyim long after the makkoh ended.

There is a common saying about snowflakes that no two are exactly the same. Scientists are not too sure about the preciseness of that statement, however, they basically agree that for the most part it is true. There is amazing variety and individuality in snowflakes. But what is so fascinating is why that is so. The beautiful crystallized formation of each snowflake develops as the water molecules attempt to bond with one another! The unique individual character is a product of its partnership! As we can testify as well, one snowflake on its own has no permanence whatsoever. It melts and disappears before your very eyes. It is their bonding tendency that gives them any power.

The word שלג - 'snow'- is made up completely of letters with the numerical value of  3. The word שלש - 'three' - is similar in that sense. The Maharal in pirkei avos explains the special meaning of this number. It represents חיבור - a bonding connection. [In a nutshell, one point stands alone, two points, relative to one another, are each extreme's opposite. The third point creates a middle ground, the opportunity for unity between the two extremes.]

The well known zechusim of the Jews in Mitzrayim are the three that helped keep them together as a unified unassimilated nation. They kept their Jewish names, language, and mode of dress. The Tana D'vei Eliyahu (23:9) describes another merit that is not as well known. "They gathered and settled together and made a pact amongst themselves to do גמילות חסדים with each other!" (It seems from the context, that this was their initial reaction to the decree of slavery.)

Stress and change from daily routine are prime causes for people's innate (and quite often negative) middos to surface. Let the challenges of this week's storm bring out the best in all of us. Let the snow and the frogs teach us to help one another and unify! We can point fingers at politicians, unions, and other drivers, but then a week's long lesson would fall on deaf ears and be lost. Let us accept the pain and nuisance of the week as humbly as possible, as each person receives his own Divinely apportioned troubles (like the manna that piled appropriately for each person!).

Have a wonderful and restful Shabbos!

Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 12/31/2010 03:14:00 AM

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