The frogs we are going to talk about are those “croakers” that feature in the second of the Ten Plagues. Before we discuss the connection between frogs and bread, I would like to bring a Midrash (Rabba, Devarim 2:25) in connection with the prayer Shema Yisrael. “When Moshe ascended above to Heaven (to receive the Torah), he heard the angels singing praise to Hashem. What were they singing? “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Le’olam Va’ed (Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity).”
Two weeks ago, we read in parshat Vayechi that Yaakov wanted to bless his sons and reveal to them the end of days, but suddenly the Shechina departed from him. Yaakov feared that among his twelve sons there might be those who were unworthy. They all reassured Yaakov: “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad,” to which Yaakov replied “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Le’olam Va’ed,” the praise recited by the heavenly angels above. However, the Targum Yerushalmi, relating this commentary, translates it into Aramaic as “Yehei Shmei Rabba Mevorach Le’Olmei Olamim,” the famous verse from Kaddish.
Our Sages say that the reason we whisper the above blessing in Hebrew is that we do not want to openly flaunt a blessing we “stole” from the angels. On Yom Kippur, however, we are permitted to say it aloud, because on that day we resemble the angels. Year-round, instead of saying it aloud in the original Hebrew, we do so in Aramaic as part of the Kaddish (because the angels do not understand Aramaic, only Lashon HaKodesh). The Sages attribute enormous power to this blessing and urge us to say it out loud (in Aramaic) with all our strength and kavana every time Kaddish is recited.
In Perek Shira (written by David HaMelech and his son Shlomo), a composition of praises sung to Hashem by all creation, what is the praise sung by the frog? The very same “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Le’olam Va’ed.” In other words, the praise sung daily by frogs when they “croak” is in fact the most elevated praise of the angels to Hashem. This means that in their praise of Hashem, frogs are equivalent to the angels.
In Shemot 7:28 we find minute details about where the frogs went: into the houses, the bedrooms, the beds, the slaves’ houses, inside the people and the ovens and the dough of their bread. No other plague is described so specifically as to its location. The text doesn’t specify exactly which parts of the body the boils affected, the parts of the plant the locusts ate, or which exact longitude and latitude the hail struck. What is different about the plague of the frogs?
There is an interesting commentary and answer to these questions in sefer Meir Panim (chap. 15, p. 161). There I describe in detail the sin of Chava regarding the Tree of Knowledge – that she was duped by the serpent to take the fruit of the tree (wheat), grind it into flour, mix it into dough, and bake it into a chametz bread. The gematria of the verse “Vatikach Mi’piryo,” (She took from its fruit [and ate], Bereishit 3:6) is “Lechem Mi’toch Ha’eish,” (bread from out of the fire). Chava then fed this bread to her husband Adam, who also ate from it. There I also describe the preface to the sin, how Adam was tardy in performing the mitzvah of procreation, which led to the debacle.
The Exodus from Egypt is atonement for this sin. Each facet of the Exodus plays some part in the atonement, and the plague of frogs is no exception. The frogs are atonement for the serpent. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent whispered venomous words of lashon hara to Chava to convince her to sin. To atone for that, the frogs in Egypt instead sang Heavenly praises.
To atone for Adam’s tardiness in procreating as commanded, the frogs invaded the houses and then homed in on the bedroom – the bed.
After being duped by his lashon hara, Chava became a slave to the serpent. Chava and Adam’s bodies became infected by the yetzer hara. To atone for this, the frogs invaded the slaves’ houses, the people (their bodies – the Midrash says the frogs got into their digestive systems and could be heard croaking from within).
To atone for duping Chava into baking forbidden bread in the fire, the frogs demonstrated mesirut nefesh, ultimate devotion, by willingly jumping into the hot ovens and into the bread dough baking in the fire.
The frogs were therefore rewarded forever more with the gift of Heavenly praise of the angels, each time they open their mouths.
Now that you know this, you will never be able to listen to the croaking of a frog in the same way!
Parshat HaShavua Trivia Question: Why were only the barley and flax destroyed by the locusts, and not the wheat?
Answer to Last Week’s Trivia Question: Who were the two midwives, Shifra and Puah? Rashi says that Shifra was Yocheved and was nicknamed “Shifra” because she enhanced (“meshaperet”) the fetus. Puah, also according to Rashi, was Miriam, and was so nicknamed because she would “coo” (the translation of “puah”) and comfort the infants. It is logistically unlikely that Yocheved and Miriam were present at every birth. They were probably the “head midwives” and all the midwives under them followed their example.