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 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.
2) “Zeroah Netuyah” means an Outstretched Arm. This explains the Haggadah refers 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 that He sends out to destroy Egypt.
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 run away on their very own,
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, of course, 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 next to 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 theHaggadah 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 fit.
1) – Dam – Blood – This one we have already classified as a “mofes” – a wonder
2) – Tzfardeya -Frogs
3) – Kinim – Lice
4) – Orov -Wild animals
5) – Dever – Animals died out
6) – Shchin – Boils
7) – Borod – Hail
8) – Arbeh – Locust
9) – Choshech – Darkness
10) Makos Be’choros – 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 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 very frightening.
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 it 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.
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