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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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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: http://parsha.blogspot.com/2009/08/corporealist-rashi-as-if.html http://parsha.blogspot.com/2010/09/does-hashem-have-nostrils-do-they-smoke.html

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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 '15 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 '15 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 '15 at 1:08

Rashi in Bereishis 1:26 mentions the Pasuk in Melachim that refers to right and left of Hashem. Rashi continues, Is there a right and left of Hashem? Only it means those saying merits, which is referred to as 'right', and those condemning, referred to as 'left'. This clearly shows Rashi not accepting corporeality.

As for the Rashi in question, it is more than just a metaphor. Hashem reached out and struck them Himself. That is His hand. It wasn't meant to take on another meaning. The word Yad is to be translated as 'hand', not as 'assistance'.

Rashi is not addressing here the general approach regarding physical sounding attributes.

We should understand that the Rambam made a big campaign about this issue because it came to a head in his day. People became exposed to philosophy and understood for the first time concepts of the metaphysical. To these people, the Torah — which seemed to promote corporeality — appeared outdated and narrow. Others rejected this and decided to take on the simplistic, face-value understanding.

Since the Rambam made this into a big campaign he devoted much of his Moreh Nevuchim explaining each reference that could have been taken to show corporeality. Any physical sounding term became taboo.

However, although Chazal and Rashi certainly didn't promote corporeality, they didn't shy from using descriptive terminology when it fit. It was understood that it is not meant to be taken in the physical sense, and we get past that. Today,we are pretty much back at that point. We don't have to explain that it is only a metaphor every time we mention Hashem listening to our prayer, getting angry, or proud.

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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 '15 at 15:57
I have no source, except that the verbs למשש and למשמש (similar to ממש) both mean "to feel." – MusashiAharon Jan 15 '15 at 17:18

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