With A Powerful Hand and an Outstretched Arm

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

up with.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a Rashi in Parshas Eikev that gives us a bit of a clue. Have

a look in perek 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

Yad Chazaka

2. Dever – Animals died out

2. Shchin – Boils

Zeroah Netuya

1. Arbeh – Locust

2. Makos Be’cohros

Mora Godol

1. Choshech – Darkness

2. Borod – Hail