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Shemos 7:4-
וְלֹא-יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה, וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-יָדִי בְּמִצְרָיִם; וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-צִבְאֹתַי אֶת-עַמִּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בִּשְׁפָטִים, גְּדֹלִים

There, Rashi comments- את ידי: יד ממש להכות בהם

Does this mean that Rashi was a corporealist? Is there another way to understand his commentary on this Pasuk?

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4 Answers 4

Here is a way to read this Rashi other that advancing corporealism:

Usually, when we see Yad, it means to signify strength. So one might understand that Hashem will apply his strength against the Egyptians. However, Rashi here is saying that there is a metaphor here, of someone striking another. And that is an actual hand performing an act of hitting. To put your hand against -- to hit them with your first. Then, of course, the fact that this idiom is meant allegorically kicks in, such that it is Hashem acting against the Egyptians. (Because, surely one does not think that Hashem put a physical fist against physical Egypt -- that would be hard to see in practice. Would they be squished?) But rather, first you need to understand the peshat in the mashal before you can understand the nimshal.

Further reading about Rashi and corporealism by yours truly:

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But if it's a metaphor, why did he write "literal hand"? – Bochur613 Nov 27 '13 at 12:49
Because within the metaphor, it IS a literal hand. That literal hand slaps. Only then do we as readers understand the metaphor. This is in line with wfb's answer, I think... – josh waxman Nov 28 '13 at 13:08
Its hard to perceive what you mean, and I'm still not sure what he said, but I'm quite certain that this is what Rabbi David Feinstein answered when I asked him what these Rashis mean. – user6591 Jan 14 at 12:40

Richard Steiner (quoted by Natan Slifkin) cites Rashi in Shemot 14:31:

את היד הגדלה: את הגבורה הגדולה שעשתה ידו של הקב"ה. והרבה לשונות נופלין על לשון יד, וכולן לשון יד ממש הן, והמפרש יתקן הלשון אחר ענין הדבור

The great hand--the great mighty deed which God's hand has performed. Many meanings fit the word יד, but they are all the same as the meaning of an actual hand, which the interpreter adjusts according to the context.

According to Steiner, Rashi intends to argue with Menachem ben Saruk who says that "yad" has four different meanings. Rashi, on the other hand, holds that "yad" has only one primary meaning, but that this primary meaning itself can be used different ways in different contexts. See also Rashi Shemot 2:5 cited ibid.

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I would make the same point, but instead of "primary meaning itself can be used different ways in different contexts", I would phrase slightly differently: Rashi is saying that "yad" translates to "hand". Here it is used idiomatically, which the mefareish has to detect based on context. Idiom is a kind of derived meaning that is short of calling it allegorical. – Micha Berger Aug 19 at 0:32

Rashi to Exodus (2:5):

על יד היאור. אצל היאור, כמו ראו חלקת יואב אל ידי (שמואל-ב יד, ל.), והוא לשון יד ממש, שיד האדם סמוכה לו. ורבותינו דרשו, (סוטה יב:) הולכות לשון מיתה, כמו הנה אנכי הולך למות, (בראשית כה, לב.) הולכות למות לפי (צ) שמיחו בה, והכתוב מסייען, כי למה לנו לכתוב ונערותיה הולכות

I'm not clear on his exact intent, but it is evident that "yad mamash" does not always mean a hand in Rashi's usage.

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Good point. But just for the record, this is mentioned in the Slifkin download in the other answer. Page five of the pdf. – user6591 Feb 4 at 1:08

Maybe if we translate ממש as "tangible" rather than as "literal" it works out. This way, Rashi is saying that the Egyptians felt G-d's punishment physically, and the plagues weren't metaphorical. I.e., G-d's hand is tangible, despite not being a physical hand.

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Do you have a source for that, or is it your own idea? – Scimonster Jan 14 at 15:57
I have no source, except that the verbs למשש and למשמש (similar to ממש) both mean "to feel." – MusashiAharon Jan 15 at 17:18

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