The frogs were a hardy bunch who swarmed all over Egypt. No place was considered off limits to them. Even the burning hot ovens did not prevent them from fulfilling Hashem’s command. When the Almighty said, “Go,” they went. It took enormous mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, for those frogs to enter the burning oven. For all intents and purposes, it spelled certain death. In the end, they were the only frogs who did not die. Whoever carries out Hashem’s mitzvah comes to no harm. Chazal (Yoma 85:b) teach that years later Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah entered the fiery cauldron, motivated by a kal v’chomer, a priori argument, derived from the Egyptian frogs. They conjectured, “Frogs do not have a mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify Hashem’s Name; yet, the frogs entered the Egyptian ovens, knowing that they probably would not emerge. Certainly Jews, who have this mitzvah, are obligated to enter the fiery cauldron to demonstrate their inextricable, uncompromising devotion to Hashem.”
The Maharsha presents a counter question to this kal v’chomer. Since frogs do not have the mitzvah of V’chai bahem, “And you shall live by them,” which compels every Jew to live and not relinquish his life in the performance of a mitzvah, the frogs had nothing to cause them to refrain from expressing their devotion to Hashem – not even their lives. Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah had a very powerful reason for seeking life. Furthermore, the tzelem, image, that Nevuchadnezer placed before them was not really an idol. It did not represent a pagan deity, which is another reason why these holy men did not have to give up their lives. Thus, we return to our original question: What was the kal v’chomer?
Horav Avraham Kalmanowitz, zl (quoted by Horav Elyahu Svei, zl), explains that indeed they had no underlying obligation to sanctify their lives, because they had not been asked to bow down to an idol. Nonetheless, just because there is no mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem does not detract from the fact that what they were being asked to do was a denigration of the kavod, glory, of Shomayim, Heaven. To bow down to this image at the behest of an evil gentile king, one who had earned his stripes murdering Jews, was a gross chillul Hashem, profanation of Hashem’s Name. Thus, the general community was obligated to take action to preserve the glory of Heaven.
Someone had to take a stand in defiance of Nevuchadnezer. Now, the question began: Agreed that someone has to give up his life, who says that it should be “me”? Let it be someone else. I would like to avail myself of the mitzvah of V’chai ba’hem; and live by them.
Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah ruminated over this question and ruled for themselves, based upon the kal v’chomer from the frogs. The frogs were given a general command: “Go all over Egypt.” They, too, had a question: “Why should I be the one to enter the ovens? Let it be the next frog. I would rather lay on Pharaoh’s soft pillow. This, too, is a mitzvah.” Regrettably, there will always be the other fellow. “Let him be the one, not me.” Certain frogs did not take this attitude. They understood that when action must be taken, we do not defer to someone else – we act! This was the lesson which Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah derived from the frogs. Thus, they entered the fire to demonstrate to Nevuchadnezer that the glory of Hashem is sacrosanct and supersedes everything.