Why did Moshe and Aaron need to use a staff in initiating the plagues?

Such as in שמות פרק ז פסוק יט:

יט. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל אַהֲרֹן קַח מַטְּךָ וּנְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל מֵימֵי מִצְרַיִם עַל נַהֲרֹתָם | עַל יְאֹרֵיהֶם וְעַל אַגְמֵיהֶם וְעַל כָּל מִקְוֵה מֵימֵיהֶם וְיִהְיוּ דָם וְהָיָה דָם בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וּבָעֵצִים וּבָאֲבָנִים:

The Lord said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch forth your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their canals, over their ponds, and over all their bodies of water, and they will become blood, and there will be blood throughout the entire land of Egypt, even in wood and in stone.' "

Or as in שמות פרק ח פסוק א:

א. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל אַהֲרֹן נְטֵה אֶת יָדְךָ בְּמַטֶּךָ עַל הַנְּהָרֹת עַל הַיְאֹרִים וְעַל הָאֲגַמִּים וְהַעַל אֶת הַצְפַרְדְּעִים עַל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:

The Lord said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, stretch forth your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals, and over the ponds, and bring up the frogs on the land of Egypt."

  • Rav Dovid Feinstein(kol dodi) writes that the staff had all the makkos initials written on it. He writes that when Hashem told Avraham Avinu by the bris ben habisarim that his children would be enslaved in Egypt the passuk(Berishis 15:14) says that the nation that they will serve,I shall judge. Reb Dovid writes that the word don(judge) has the numerical value of 54 and the word Matteh(staff) also has that same value which and the staff was used to carry out their punishment.
    – sam
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 1:42
  • interesting thought. I wonder is there is a clue to the staffs function in that Medrash.
    – RCW
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 1:46

3 Answers 3


Hashem wanted it to be obvious that the plagues were intentional and not just a natural occurrence, thus Moshe and Aharon using a physical staff, while not necessary for the miracle, showed the Egyptians who was responsible.

  • 1
    Welcome Aaliyah to Mi Yodea! You make a good point, but sources and further support of your answer would be appreciated.
    – JNF
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 20:12

They didn't. For the frogs the pasuk just says he stretched out his hand, and sforno says all that was necessary was a signal for them to leave the water.

  • Where is the Sforno that you are referring to? Furthermore, if you look ahead at the other plagues (See Shemot 8:13 by Kinim) he used the staff.
    – RCW
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 5:27
  • But why is Moshe told in 4:17 to take the staff with which he will perform the miracles? וְאֶת-הַמַּטֶּה הַזֶּה, תִּקַּח בְּיָדֶךָ, אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה-בּוֹ, אֶת-הָאֹתֹת.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 5:56


Moshe and Aaron had to use the staff that was used to show Pharaoh that Moshe and Aaron were messengers from Hashem. This was to help support the fact that it wasn't Moshe and Aaron that were bringing about the Plagues, but rather it was Hashem. Moshe and Aaron needed to initiate the Plague otherwise people would say it was just a coincidence. By marking exactly the beginning and end it showed that it was brought about by Hashem. However, don't think it was Moshe and Aaron who had the power, the staff reminded the people that they were just emissaries from Hashem and that it was Hashem bringing it about.

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