As we all know, there were ten plagues in all. While we all know that these
plagues were both signs and wonders, and represented G-d’s “Powerful Hand” and
“Outstretched Arm,” it seems from the above, that the ten plagues were divided into
five different categories. Two of them were the result of G-d’s Mighty Hand – Yad
Cha’zoka. Another two were done with G-d’s Outstretched Arm, –Z’roah Netuya,
while two others represented G-d’s frightening power -“Moreh Godol.“. Two others
were considered signs –“o’sos,” while two others were considered wonders –“mofsim.“
This entire statement seems rather odd. Exactly what does this mean? Weren’t all
the plagues signs and wonders done with both G-d’s Mighty Hand and Outstretched
Arm? Were there any two makos in particular that were done with Hashem‘s Mighty
Hand and two others which were done with his Outstretched Arm? If so, which ones
are we referring to?
In order to figure it all out, we must first define what these five different terms
mean. What exactly are we alluding to when we say that G-d has a “Mighty Hand”
or an “Outstretched Arm”? It should be quite obvious that the words arm and hand
are only a metaphor meaning an analogy or figure of speech. We all know that it is
impossible to describe Hashem in any shape, form or manner. We have absolutely
no understanding of G-d Himself. Even if we were to describe Him in the greatest of
terms, it would be incorrect since He is way beyond all human comprehension, and
has no physical properties whatsoever. (“Les machshovo tefisa bei.”) We therefore
must realize that all of our descriptions of G-d are nothing but a metaphor. So let’s
begin my trying to understand what these words allude to.
1) “Yod Chazach” means a Strong Hand. This describes Hashem’s great strength
and power. One that can do anything at will and immobilize his enemy without any
effort whatsoever will be perceived as having great power or strength. Perhaps this is
why the Haggada previously says that it refers to “dever” a plague. A plague that killed
all Pharaoh’s animals without Hashem having to send out any of his messengers to
do it, certainly shows Hashem‘s great power – His mighty Hand. There is no greater
show of force than destroying the enemy without doing a thing.
2) “Zeroah Netuyah” means an Outstretched Arm. This explains the Haggadah
is similar to the action of a sword. This describes some type of positive action that
is being taken against one’s opponent. This can mean sending out some weapon of
destruction that will destroy an enemy. This can be the army, navy or air force or
it can refer to G-d’s mighty army of locusts or hail, which He sends out to destroy
3) Next we have “Mora Godol” which is defined as great fright caused by the
appearance of the Shchina. Sometimes we can defeat an enemy just by frightening
him. The fright alone is enough to make him surrender. Not a single missile need be
launched. Not a single finger need be lifted. The enemy is so frightened by what they
see, that they surrender without a shot being fired.
4) “Os” means a sign. A sign is when we can make a perfect prediction of what is
going to happen. This can refer to any event even if it is not wondrous in nature. It
can be a prediction such as who will win the next lottery or when the next earthquake
in Los Angeles will come. A sign can also predict a wondrous event such as that the
sun will stand still.
5) “Mofsim” refers to wonders. This refers to any act that is truly wondrous in
nature such as the sun standing still or water turning to blood. While certainly all the
ten makos may have been a combination of signs and wonders, there were some,
which were wondrous in part, while there were others that were a total miracle.
If we examine the makos very carefully we will notice that while all of them were
wondrous, they didn’t represent a complete change of the laws of nature. Most of
them just seemed as if nature ran amok. There was no change of nature, but rather
it was nature running out of control. Instead of there being a population of a million
frogs, they suddenly began to multiply into the trillions. Instead of the frogs remaining
in the water, they now began jumping everywhere even entering through people’s
chimneys. Had a frog changed into a mouse it would then classify as a full-fledged
miracle. The fact that they multiplied at an extraordinary rate was no different then
the mice, roaches and rats that populate New York. While the invasion of rats can
cause serious damage, it certainly does not classify as a miraculous event. The only
one of the” Ten makos” that was miraculous in its entirety was that of “Dom” – Blood.
That’s because the change of water to blood is a complete change of the laws of
nature. This is why when the Haggadah describes the word “Mofes” it says that this
refers to “dom.” While all the makos had certain components that were miraculous in
nature, this mako was miraculous in its entirety. So we at least know that one of the
two makos referred to as “mofes” is the mako of “Dom.” That means that we have
nine more to go.
Let’s list all ten makos and see in which of these five categories they would best
דם ( 1 – Blood – This one we have already classified as a “mofes” – a wonder
צפרדע ( 2 – Frogs
כנים ( 3 – Lice
ערוב ( 4 – Wild animals
דבר ( 5 – Animals died out
שחין ( 6 – Boils
ברד ( 7 – Hail
ארבה ( 8 – Locust
חשך ( 9 – Darkness
בכורות ( 10 מכת – Killing of the firstborn.
Perhaps you ought try working on it and see what you come up with. You’ll find
that it’s not easy at all since some seem to fall into more than one category.
Now that you’ve had plenty of time to think about it, let’s see what you’ve come
Perhaps you’ve noticed a Rashi in Parshas Eikev that gives us a bit of a clue. Have
a look in perek 7 posuk 19 . Here the posuk mentions four of our five categories.
Rashi on this posuk starts by giving us an example of “os” sign. An “os,” says Rashi,
refers to the stick turning into a snake and the water turning into blood. We’ll have
to leave out the one of the stick turning into a snake since this is not included in the
ten plagues and therefore is not the one we are looking for. Yet, this Rashi seems
to contradict the Baal Hagadah who says that the blood was a wonder and not a
sign? Actually this may not be a contradiction at all since as we’ve already said that
a sign can also be a wonder. Rashi is not referring to the mako of “dam” but may be
referring to the time that Moshe took some water and showed Pharaoh how he was
able to change it into blood. He performed this miracle as a “sign” even though the
sign happened to be a wondrous one. So let’s go on to the next Rashi. Here Rashi
says very clearly that “yad Chazaka” refers to “Dever” just as we find in the Haggadah.
Perhaps this is because we don’t find G-d sending out any army of animals or birds
to kill the animals. They just died out on their very own. This certainly shows G-d’s
great power. Hashem killed out the Egyptian animals without the need of sending
out his arsenal of weapons such as animals or hail etc. to do the job. What greater
power can there be than this? No army, navy or air force needed!
So now we know two out of the ten. The next Rashi gives away another one. The
“Outstretched Hand” refers to “Makos B’choros” says Rashi. Here Hashem Himself
went into every Egyptian house and killed their firstborn. So now we’ve got three out
of ten. Let’s try and figure out the rest.
Perhaps darkness would fit into the category of “Great fear” since its main purpose was to put great fear into the Egyptians. Another mako that the Torah tells us caused great fear was Hail, since the noises of thunder and the accompanying lightening were veryfrightening.Perhaps Frogs fits into the category of “signs” since we find that Moshe tells
Pharaoh that it will first be tomorrow that he will take them away. By giving him a definite time when it will go away, this wonder may also classify as a “sign.”
A look into Sh’mos 8:19 which discusses the mako of wild animals says, “Tomorrow
will be this sign,”
Perhaps Shchin should be classified as a “mighty Hand” since it wasn’t caused by
any outside force but done by Hashem Himself.
Perhaps locusts are classified as “outstretched hand” since they went out and ate
up all the food causing starvation.
Perhaps lice classifies as “wonder” since the Egyptians were not able to duplicate
it. While I’m not really sure if all the above are correct, it’s the best I can do for now.
I’ll be glad to hear your opinion on the matter.
1) Dam – Blood – =Mofes – A wonder.
2) Tzfardeya -Frogs = Sign
3) Kinim – Lice = Wonder
4) Orov -Wild animals = Sign
5) Dever – Animals died out = Yad Chazaka.
6) Shchin – Boils = Yad Chazaka
7) Borod – Hail= Moreh Godol
8) Arbeh – Locust = Outstreched Hand
9) Choshech – Darkness= Moreh Godol
10) Makos Be’chros -.= Outstretched Hand
1. Dam – Blood
1. Kinim – Lice
1. Tzfardeya -Frogs
2. Orov -Wild animals
2. Dever – Animals died out
2. Shchin – Boils
1. Arbeh – Locust
2. Makos Be’cohros
1. Choshech – Darkness
2. Borod – Hail