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The Frog in the Oven

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The river will swarm with frogs. They will come up and enter your home, your bedroom, and your bed… your ovens and your kneading bowls

Exodus 7:28

The Talmud[1] relates that when Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah (three Jewish officers in the court of Babylonian emperor, Nebuchadnezzar) faced the choice to either bow before an idolatrous image or be thrown into a fiery furnace, they took their lesson from the frogs which plagued Egypt in Moses’ time. If the frogs entered the ovens of Egypt to carry out the will of G-d, they reasoned, we, certainly, should be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our Creator.

To the Jew, “self-sacrifice” is more than the willingness to die for his beliefs—it is the way in which he lives for them. It is the willingness to give up his very self—his most basic wants, desires and aspirations—for the sake of his relationship with G-d. Indeed, the Hebrew term for self-sacrifice, mesirat nefesh, means both “the giving of life” as well as “the giving of will.”

Thus, the lesson of self-sacrifice is derived from a frog—a cold-blooded creature—who enters a burning oven. The ultimate test of faith goes beyond the issue of physical life and death; it is the willingness to go against the grain of one’s nature for the sake of a higher truth.

Based on an address by the Rebbe, Shabbat Va’eira 5718 (1958)[2]
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[1]. Pesachim 53b.

[2]. Likkutei Sichot, vol. I, p. 123.

 

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