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Rashi(8:2) "And the frog emerged": The lesson in the aspect of one who undertakes a Mitzvah that we say to him - complete it (Tal. Sotah 13b etc) (5736)


1. On the verse (Ex. 8:2): “Aharon extended his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frog emerged and covered the land of Egypt.”

Rashi cites the words: “and the frog emerged/vta’al haTzefardeia” and states:

“There was (only) one frog and (when) they struck at it, it split apart into teeming swarms etc.

In simplicity, Rashi is answering why it states in the verse: “the frog emerged” – in the singular when there was, in fact, a multitude of frogs. Therefore he explains that at the outset there was indeed just one frog, but through “striking it”, “teeming swarms” emerged from it.

The Talmud (and also the Midrash Shmot Rabbah) also grapples with why it states “and the frog emerged” in the singular and they offer two opinions:

·         R’ Akiva says it was one frog (and it multiplied) and filed the entire land of Egypt.

·         R’ Elazar ben Azaria says that it was one frog that croaked out to the others and they came.

One must understand:

Rashi‘s commentary is based, as is known, on the simple understanding (pshat) of the verse. And since the concept that “G-d does not perform an unnecessary miracle” is a maxim which is also logical according to Pshat,

(as has been explained, at length),

therefore logic dictates, that even for a miracle which occurred, we must strive, as much as possible, to say and explain that the miracle had a foundation in the laws of nature and not maintain that it was a miracle that completely shattered the laws of nature – because an additional (aspect of the miracle) may have been “unnecessary”

Therefore, why does Rashi cite the explanation (of the Midrash) that “they struck at it and it split apart into teeming swarms” which is a type of miracle,

(namely that through striking it, new creations (“teeming swarms”) emerged from it.)

that has completely no place according to the laws of nature - when he could have explained it according (to the Talmud and Midrash which is like) R’ Elazar ben Azaria that it was one frog that “croaked out to the others and they came”?

(As Rashi himself comments on the Talmud there, that “all the frogs of the world heard and they came”).

For according to this view, there was not (i.e. no need for) the extensive miracle of a new creation.

Or, at least he could have explained it according R’ Akiva that it “multiplied and filed the entire land of Egypt.” - (for even though, according to that view, it required a special creation in a miraculous manner (Note: namely a frog that could multiply so quickly and exhaustively), nevertheless, it would have been, at least , connected with a principle of nature – birth – multiplication (as Rashi explains “infants emerged from its innards”)?

2. Therefore Rashi continues and states that “That is its Midrashic explanation. But as to its plain meaning, it may be said that the swarming of the frogs is referred to in the singular. Similarly "There was lice" (referring to the swarming).

(And in order to further clarify it for a five year old (ben chameish l’mikra) Rashi also translates it into the vernacular): gedoliere, in Old French-swarming lice, so, too “and the frog emerged “is translated as grenoilliere in Old French”-a swarm of frogs)

One must understand:

Rashi‘s style is to endeavor to explain the simple understanding of the verse. And only when the simple explanation is not straightforward, he then cites an “Aggada (homily) that resolves the words of the verse”.

How is it that here, Rashi prefaces the explanation which (as he himself writes later) is “Midrash” before the explanation which (as Rashi writes) is its simple meaning (pshuto)?

It is understood that Rashi must rely on a proof that “frog” means “swarming frogs” (and therefore states “frog “in the “singular”)

But it is hard to say that the name “tzefardeiah” means something that swarms (the frogs) – which is not stated in the verse and, moreover, that it is a concept referring to all crawling animals (“sheratzim”) and not just to the frog.

Therefore Rashi brings a proof from “lice/kinom” since the translation of the word “kinom” is “swarming/rechisha” even though “swarming/rechisha” does not necessarily apply only to the species of “lice/kimim”.

In other words:

If the swarming of the frogs would have been different than that of other creatures etc., than it would make sense to say that “frog”

                (Just as it means this creature – different from all other creatures in its appearance, movement etc.)

also means spitting – since it is a special type of swarming/shirutz.

Even though it is not entirely straightforward since there should have been a difference in the (actual) word (such as different vowels etc.) like there is by lice/kimim - where it states “Kinom” – as will be explained.

However, since the verse states the same terminology of swarming both for the frogs as well as for other “swarming creatures/sharatz nefesh chaya” – it is seemingly hard to say that the word “tzefardeiah” has the same connotation as for all other creatures/sharatz nefesh Chaya – therefore Rashi brings the proof from “and there was lice/kinom”, as aforementioned.

However, it is not understood:

Why it is simple for Rashi, that “lice/kinom” refers to “swarming”

(which is why Rashi suffices there with the translation “swarmimg/rechisha” and does not cite a proof for it, and does not bring a second explanation) -

whereas by “the frog emerged”, he states that:

                (and entirely as a second explanation)

“it may be said (that) the swarming of the frogs is referred to in the singular”?

3. The commentators explain that Rashi needs to translate “lice/kinom” as “swarmimg/rechisha” is because the word is spelled “kinom” (with a kametz under the Nun) which does mean a plurality (like Kinim”) and also not the singular (“Kinah”). Therefore Rashi must say that it does not refer to the name of the species “lice” which is “kinim” but to the property of the “swarmimg/rechisha” of the lice.

But it is also understood that this is not a complete proof that “tzefardeiah” means the “the swarming of frogs”, Because from the phrase: “and the frog emerged/vta’al haTzefardeiah”, there is no proof that this means anything other than the name of a frog, in the singular.

This is why Rashi uses the precise wording:

“Similarly "There was lice" so, too “and the tzefardeiah emerged “.

And on this Rashi adds (the vernacular of frog):

 “grenoilliere b’la’az” –

For although Rashi writes “frogs/tzefarde’im” before this and many times – he does not cite the vernacular, because the translation of “frogs/tzefarde’im” is understood (to mean the literal frog).

Therefore, why after writing: “swarming frogs/shirutz tzefarde’im” (here)-

 (and the word shirutz/swarming is known from the previous (verse) “and the river shall swarm with frogs”)

does he write the vernacular of the word: “grenoilliere b’la’az”?

The answer of this is because:

The vernacular of the word “tzefardeiah” (connoting frog) is“grenoillie”.

And the five year old understands this because this is his vernacular

 (French – which is used even in our day)

However, swarming frogs/shirutz tzefarde’im” in the vernacular is termed differently:  “grenoilliere” – similar to the change “kinom” instead of “kinim” (which has a similar counterpart in his language).

Therefore Rashi writes: “so, too ‘ and the frog/ tzefardeiah emerged’ ”. explaining that even though there is no difference in the (Hebrew) word (tzefardeiah), the translation is (different.. It is:) “grenoilliere” in Old French. (not grenouille =frog).

Yet since the Torah utilizes a different term - “Kinom” - to symbolize the “swarming/rechisha” of the lice - notwithstanding that which “swarming/rechisha” is not only a property of the species lice -

(for this is the principal difficulty in translating “kinom” (and “Tzefardeiah”) as “swarming/rechisha” (and “multiplying/shoreitz”))

this is why Rashi states: “One could say/yesh lomar” that the word tzefardeiah means “multiplying/shoreitz” of frogs to us)

According to this, one could seemingly also explain why Rashi prefaces the Midrash before the “simple” explanation – because the “simple” explanation in this case is not so straightforward and decisive, as aforementioned.

4. However, in truth one cannot say, that Rashi prefaces the Midrash’s explanation before the explanation “multiplying of the frogs” (only) because of this.

To preface:

To emphasize that an explanation follows Pshat (the simple understanding – and not according to the homiletical style (derash)) Rashi suffices with the following expressions:

1.       “According to its simple meaning” – “uPshuto” (as in our case)

2.       “According to the simple meaning of the verse” – “uPshuto shel mikra”

The difference between them is understood simply:

  • “Pshuto shel mikra” means that the explanation follows the simple understanding of the verse (mikra) – from the general import of the verse.
  • The expression “uPshuto” (without the suffix: “shel mikra”) means that this is the simple explanation of (just) the word or aspect itself, that Rashi is explaining (even though it is possible that it does not fit the general import)

It therefore must follow in our case that:

If one would accept that the reason Rashi prefaces the explanation of the Midrash before the “simple” explanation is because the translation of “swarming frogs/shirutz tzefarde’im” is not implied in the word “tzefardeiah”,

(as opposed to the Midrash where the translation of the word “tzefardeiah” is plain - one frog) -

then Rashi should not have said: “uPshuto . . tzefarde’im”

(meaning that it can be inferred from just the word “tzefardeiah” itself)

But rather Rashi should have said: “uPshuto shel mikra”.

In other words:

Since there is, seemingly, no allusion from the flow of the verse that it refers to a miracle that “when they struck it, it split into teeming swarms”, therefore his (first) explanation is according to “the Midrash”

(an explanation that is derived according to the homiletical style (derash) of Torah).

But according to “Pshuto shel mikra” (the simple understanding of the verse) one must rely on the simple explanation that “the frog emerged” means that “sharutz tzefarde’im” - the frogs multiplied.

5. There is another question in Rashi’s explanation:

In the beginning of Parshat Vayishlach, Rashi states: “It is customary to refer to many oxen as ox” – that one can refer to a multitude of a species in the singular, the name of the species. Therefore Rashi here could have simply explained that “the frog emerged” means many frogs, and the reason that it is stated in the singular is because it follows the name of the species?

Certain commentators explain that Rashi is bothered by the change of wording in the verse:

Throughout the Parsha, this plague is mentioned ten times using the word “tzefarde’im” – in the plural. Why, precisely in this verse, is it written differently, in the singular - “the frog emerged”?

It is therefore suggested (gedrungen) that

                (it does not refer to the species, as a whole, but)

the verse comes to emphasize with the singular usage, an event that occurred only here – therefore Rashi translates that it “was one frog etc.“ (that split etc.).

According to this it is understood that, the explanation of the Midrash, even though it is a derash, - has a merit over the explanation that sharutz tzefarde’im” - the frogs swarmed, because of the context of the verses (Pshuto shel mikra).

Only by the explanation of the Midrash can it be understood why it states here: - “the frog emerged – in the singular.

Whereas according to the explanation that “sharutz tzefarde’im” - the frogs swarmed,

Even though this explanation also answers why it (“frog”) is not stated everywhere in the singular. (Because the singular usage only applies when it is speaking of the multiplication - “sharutz tzefarde’im),

Nevertheless there a difficulty is from the other direction:

For it should always have stated (even here) the usage in the plural. Therefore the usage of the singular, here, is not straightforward since it immediately states in the following verse: “The sorcerers did likewise .. . and made the frogs emerge upon the land of Egypt.

Therefore Rashi cites it as a second explanation. However, the explanation of the Midrash is primary and first explanation according to the simple understanding of the verse (Pshuto shel mikra).

Yet (the difficulty) is still not completely resolved:

Why is the second explanation more “simple” (pshuto) regarding the translation of the words “the frog emerged” than the explanation of the Midrash?

6. The explanation is:

Rashi is endeavoring not just to clarify the difficulty of the language change, but to accomplish more since the words “the frog emerged (in the singular) is also a contradiction to G-d’s command to Aharon (in the preceding verse): “'Extend your hand with your rod etc. and bring up the frogs".

Because with emphasis of the wording: “bring up the frogs etc.”,

(Not like by the plague of locusts where it states: “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt (for the plague of) locusts and bring up etc.” and similarly by the other plagues)

it is understood that the command to Aharon is not limited just to the preparation and beginning of “Stretch out your hand with your staff”. But rather he must actually endeavor and accomplish bringing up a multitude of frogs, as it states: “bring up the frogs".

Therefore how did he fulfill this, when, in actuality, it was in a manner of bringing up (one frog): “and the frog emerged / vta’al haTzefardeia”?

Therefore Rashi states: “they struck it and it split into teeming swarms etc.”

Thus, even though at the outset he brought up (through “Aharon’s “Stretch out your hand etc.”) just one frog, nevertheless it was a type of frog that split into teeming swarms – it sprays. For just as when one strikes (klapt) the “waters of Egypt”, it sprays water,

(not that additional water is created ex nihilo).

The same occurred with the frog which emerged from the “waters of Egypt“– there was no difference who struck it – therefore Rashi omits the word (that it was the) Egyptians (who struck it – like the wording of the Midrash and he just says “and they struck it”).

According to this it is understood why Rashi cannot explain it like the Talmud and Shmot Rabbah, that it:

  • “croaked out to the others and they came” or
  • “it multiplied and filed the entire land of Egypt”

Because according to this it comes out that Aharon actually did not bring up more than one frog – and the multitude of frogs came about through “croaking” out to the other or through “multiplication”. Consequently, with this, he did not fulfill the command to: “bring up the frogs etc.". Therefore Rashi must cite the explanation that it split into swarms.

7. Since the verse explicitly states that the command to Aharon was to “bring up the frogs” (in the plural), there must be in the verse (at least an allusion), as to how he fulfilled this command.

The explanation is

“Bring up the frogs” can be interpreted in two ways:

1.       The frog emerged

2.       Causative (maf’il) - The frog made (other frogs) to emerge.

And these two parts in the explanation of the Midrash – that:

1.        Aharon raised up one frog

2.       The frog raised other frogs

are reflected in the two translations:

1.       “vta’al haTzefardeia” – “and the frog emerged” – “it was one frog”

2.       “vta’al (haTzefardeia)” – “it split into swarms”

With this it can also be understood why Rashi cites the “derash” (Midrash) - “it split into swarms” on the words (s.v.): “and the frog emerged / vta’al haTzefardeia” and not on the words: “and covered the land of Egypt”.

8. Even though this explanation has a rationale in the words of the verse, as aforementioned. Nevertheless Rashi states that this is: “Its Midrashic interpretation”. Because according to this explanation, one must say that the two different translations – on the phrase “and the frog emerged / vta’al haTzefardeia” - both occurred. However, this is not logical according to Pshat (the simple understanding) when learning this verse. It is in the realm of “Midrash”. For according to “Pshat” it should have been translated one way:

From the words “vta’al “ (“and it emerged”), and as the verse continues: “vTechas” (“and covered”) (both in the singular), it must be learnt that it refers to “Tzefardeiah” (one singular frog) and that “Tzefardeiah” means “sharutz tzefarde’im” - the frogs multiplied.

Nevertheless, Rashi cites this as a second explanation (and the primary explanation is “Its Midrashic interpretation”) because:

1.       From the subject of the verse, the Midrashic interpretation is more fitting to the simple understanding of the verse (as aforementioned Par. 5)

2.       The main translation of the word “Tzefardeiah” lends itself more to the explanation of the Midrash than the explanation that it refers to “sharutz tzefarde’im” - the frogs multiplied. (as aforementioned Par. 3)

9. From the homiletical style of Torah (“yayina shel torah”) in Rashi’s commentary:

There is a maxim (klal) that if one begins a Mitzvah, we say to him “finish it”. And the sages warn of the dire punishments, G-d forbid, that occur when one is able to complete a Mitzvah yet fails to do so.

Moreover, this is especially so when learning Torah with another, where it must be “placed before them as a table set and prepared for a person to eat at” (tasim lifnehem k’shulchan ha’aruch umuchan l’echol lifnei ha'adam).

On the other hand, if a person knows that due to certain unavoidable (umfarmeidliche) circumstances, he will not be able to complete the undertaken Mitzvah – he must nevertheless not refrain, G-d forbid, from starting the Mitzvah and fulfilling whatever part of the Mitzvah that he is able to do.

We find this by Moshe Rabbeinu. He separated the three Cities of Refuge while on the other side of Jordan, even though “they would not offer asylum until those cities of Canaan were set aside”. Because “a Mitzvah that I am able to fulfil, I will fulfil it”.

And it is understood that a doubt in what is considered the completion of a Mitzvah is dependent on the type of Mitzvah.

  • For the Mitzvot like Tzedakah, for example - Whoever adds is to be praised.
  • However, for the Mitzvot similar to Lashes (malkot) - “he may not add; lest he additionally (pen Yosif) flog him“. So much so that according to many (even though forty lashes are prescribed), the Rabbis reduce (batzri) them by one – because of the concern of “lest he additionally add”.

Similarly, this is the difference between the two explanations in Rashi:

  • According to the first explanation it comes out that Aharon accomplished the command: “Bring up the frogs”. But the “and covered the land of Egypt” came afterwards by “striking it”.
  • However, according to the second explanation it comes out that Aharon accomplished the entire swarming of the frogs which covered the land of Egypt, Because the frogs were:

1.       In simplicity - A plague and pestilence for the Egyptians. Therefore, plainly, Aharon accomplished all.

2.       An act that would cause Pharaoh to interpret and realize that there must subsequently be the: “I will send out the people”. Thus Aharon also accomplished this -according to the Midrash – in a manner that they subsequently “struck it” etc.

In other words:

By explaining Torah in the method of Derash (Midrash), it also relates to the explanation of the command of: “bring up the frogs”–

For (“bring up the frogs”) could imply not just “frogs” in the simple sense (Pshuto) (in the plural), but it could also mean one frog etc. And since this is an aspect that is (similar to) “Lashes” – it (could be) inferred that the command (should) be reduced (batzri) to “one” (frog) etc. - therefore there would be no issue of “additionally adding” (pen Yosif).

The lesson from the two explanations is:

From the first explanation (that Aharon) brought up just “one frog” one can learn that if it is so regarding the measure of punishment (puraniyot) (that we not add to the plague for the Egyptians), how much more so should it be regarding good, that we must prevent the concern of detracting from a Mitzvah (“Pen yigra”).

From the second explanation (where it comes out that Aharon “completed” the Mitzvah), the lesson is that one must endeavor to perform a Mitzvah in its entirety, from beginning to end, and to complete it.

When one is dealing with, for example, the Mitzvah od bringing a second Yid close (mekarev) to Torah and Mitzvot, and as is known Talmud Torah is greater than all other (Mitzvot) - one must not suffice with starting the kiruv, but rather one must complete it to the end. Interact with him until he is like a set table (k’Shulchan HaAruch), the epitome of quality.

However, if one is in a situation where he can only start the Mitzvah, he can only make “a beginning” in bringing another close to Torah and Mitzvot – he could think: What is accomplished by beginning to “interact” with another, when he does not know if he can have an effect (oifton) And who knows how it will end up later?

The answer to this is this lesson that was discussed – namely, that “a Mitzvah that I am able to fulfil, I will fulfil it”.

The rule is that one must not give-in to making assessments (cheshbonot) – (saying) “Why are you meddling in G-d's affairs" (behadei kavshei deRachamana lama lach? - Brachot 10a), and “this is not your ‘business’”. But rather, one must begin and do, as much as one can, to bring a second Yid close (mekarev) (to Torah and Mitzvot).


When one does all that is required of him, G-d deems/metzarfa the good thought an action ("machashava tova hakadosh baruch hu metzarfa la'ma'aseh – G-d forms (metzarfa) and brings down the thought into deed.

And when G-d “completes” the “Mitzvah”, he does so without any limitation and boundary, so much so that it is the epitopme of quality.

mSichas Shabbat Parshat Vaera 5727

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