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Why Me?

By: Rabbi Dr Zvi Ron

In the third chapter of Sefer Daniel we read the story of Chananya, Misha'el and Azarya. These three young Jewish men refused to bow down to the idol that Nevuchadnezzar set up. All the other nobles and officials agreed to bow down, but these three Jews did not. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 93a) states that even all the other Jews at the time bowed down as well, and only Chananya, Mishael and Azarya did not. In Sefer Daniel we read how they were punished by Nevuchadnezzar by being thrown into a fiery furnace, but were miraculously saved by Hashem. This episode is the classic example of "Kiddush Hashem" quoted by the Rambam, and is the basis for the well known midrash that Nimrod threw Avraham into a furnace when Avraham refused to worship idols.

The Gemara (Pesachim 53b) explains that Chananya, Misha'el and Azarya learned that they should be willing to risk their lives in a fiery furnace from the frogs in this week's parsha. They made a "kal vachomer" argument: there is no mitzvah for a frog to be a martyr and die to sanctify the name of Hashem, yet the Torah tells us (Exodus 7:28) that the frogs went everywhere, even into the ovens of the Egyptians, so of course Chananya, Mishael and Azarya, who are commanded in the mitzvah of "kiddush Hashem" should go into a fiery furnace.

The Sha'agat Aryeh questions this "kal vachomer" because in fact Hashem did tell the frogs to go into the ovens of the Egyptians. Hashem told Moshe to inform Pharaoh that frogs would go everywhere and even into the ovens. Based on this, there is no "kal vachomer," the frogs were commanded just as Chananya, Mishael and Azarya were.

The Vilna Ga'on answered this question by explaining that G-d commanded the frogs in general that they should enter the ovens, but did not instruct any individual frog to do so. Thus, each frog could have said to himself, "Why should I go into the oven? Some frog has to go into the oven, but why should it be me?" 

According to our Sages, Daniel was away on government business during the whole idol episode. All of the Jews who were present did bow to the idol. Chananya, Mishael and Azarya could have said, "Why do we have to take a stand? Daniel is not around, maybe we should also leave town and avoid this whole scenario." From the frogs they learned that each person has to take personal responsibility and take a stand rather than relying on the collective and absolving oneself of any duties.

We often find ourselves in difficult and uncomfortable situations where it might be easier for us to lay low, keep quiet and dodge responsibility. We could just wait for somebody else to do what has to be done and stay in our own comfort zone. The frogs teach us that this is not the way to behave. When somebody must do something, that somebody is you.




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