The Torah tells us in regards to the plague of tzefardaya (8:8) that Moshe had to cry out and plead with Hashem to reverse the plague. Many mefarshim deal with the question “why by this particular plague was it necessary for Moshe to pray ‘extra hard’?” There is another pasuk which is discussed (8:5) in which Moshe says to Pharaoh that he will remove the tzefardya except in the yaor (Nile River). The question is what is the significance of the ones in the yaor, and what do we have to learn from it?
Chazal teach us that Chananya, Mishael, and Azarya learned from the tzefardaya and went willingly to sacrifice their lives to make a Kiddush Hashem. They said that the tzefardaya did not have an obligation, and yet they went to the ovens to make a Kiddush Hashem—we three certainly have an obligation to allow ourselves to be burned by the fire.
Usually the plagues were there to punish the Egyptians, and as a side effect, the emunah of the Jewish People was bolstered by seeing the “hand of G-d” giving retribution to the sinners. In the case of the tzefardaya, there was more of a direct lesson to Klal Yisrael. On a daily basis they saw the frogs willingly going to die in order to make a Kiddush Hashem. This was a direct lesson for the Jews on how to live their own lives. Therefore, were Moshe to remove the plague, he would be taking away a direct positive lesson for klal Yisrael.
Another interesting point is that in this plague it was not taken away totally, but only partially, as we mentioned: Only in the yaor they will remain. These two ideas make the plague of tzefardaya unique.
I would like to suggest that this was part of Moshe’s prayer: To engineer that we should have a lasting reminder of our need to be moser nefesh—to be prepared to give up our lives, just as the tzefardaya did. Moshe prayed extra hard that the tzefardaya should remain alive, as a reminder that we Jews should be moser nefesh just as the tzefardaya were moser nefesh. This is why Moshe had to add special tefillos by the tzefardiem. He wanted the plague to go, but at the same time to stay.
If one of the tzefardaya would have asked Moshe Rabbeinu if is he obligated to go into the oven, the answer would obviously have been “No!” Not only would the tzefardaya not be obligated to make a Kiddush Hashem, but there was no “special tzefardaya” that the calling was meant for. Those tzefardaya who jumped into the ovens did so out of a desire to do “the right thing” and not because they felt they were obligated to do so. Moshe wanted this lesson to stay eternal.
The Medrash in Tehillim (28) tells us that the frogs that had jumped into the ovens were removed from there and placed in the yoar. We can learn from this Medrash that possibly the reason the tzefardaya stayed in the Yaor was not only a reward for them, but a reminder for us on how to live our lives.
When we learn the Parsha and we revisit this idea, it is worthwhile to look around and learn from situations in which we see people’s mesiras nefesh, doing more than it seems they are required to do. Perhaps at the time, their actions did not seem necessary or realistic, but in hindsight, it is these kinds of actions that keep us going until today.