“B’Yod Chazakah Shtayim. Bz’roah Netuyah Shtayim, B’morah Godol Shtayim, B’osos Shtayim, U’b’mofsim Shtayim”
By Rabbi Eli
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
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
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.
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
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 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 fit.
1) - Dam - Blood -
This one we have already classified as a “mofes” - a wonder
2) - Tzfardeya -Frogs
3) - Kinim - Lice
4) - Orov -Wild
5) - Dever - Animals
6) - Shchin
7) - Borod - Hail
8) - Arbeh - Locust
9) - Choshech -
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
3) Kinim - Lice =
4) Orov -Wild
animals = Sign
5) Dever - Animals
died out = Yad Chazaka.
- Boils = Yad Chazaka
7) Borod - Hail= Moreh
8) Arbeh - Locust =
9) Choshech -
Darkness= Moreh Godol
10) Makos Be’chros
-.= Outstretched Hand
1. Dam - Blood
1. Kinim -
1. Tzfardeya -Frogs
2. Orov -Wild
2. Dever -
Animals died out
1. Arbeh -
2. Makos Be’cohros
1. Choshech -
2. Borod – Hail