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In Parshat VaEira (9.35) it says "b'Yad Moshe" כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּיַד ־משֶֽׁה ; so what was the hand of Moshe that the Torah tells us here about?

(And Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not let the children of Israel go out, as the Lord had spoken (debeer) through the hand (b'Yad Moshe) of Moses.)

Did Moshe's speech impediment force him to speak sign language so that Ahron would understand him?

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Hizkuni to that verse (9:35) writes that it means "in Moshe's prophecy", and that that is what the term ביד משה always means. Radak also writes in his commentary to Hoshea (12:11). Indeed, the term is used dozens of times in the context of prophecies conveyed by Moshe (e.g. Exodus 35:29). The term is not unique to Moshe, and is used for other prophets as well.

  • I Kings (12:15, 14:18, and 15:29) uses the term for prophecies conveyed through Ahiya HaShiloni, as does II Chronicles (10:15).
  • I Kings (16:7 and 16:12) uses the term for prophecies conveyed through Yehu.
  • I Kings (16:34) uses the term to refer to prophecies conveyed through Yehoshua.
  • I Kings (17:16) uses the term for prophecies conveyed through Eliyahu, as does II Kings (9:36 and 10:10).
  • II Kings (14:25) uses the term for communication through Yonah ben Amitai.
  • Isaiah (20:2) uses the term for communication through Yeshaya.
  • Jeremiah (37:2 and 50:1) uses the term for communication through Yirmiyahu.
  • Hagai (1:1, 1:3, and 2:1) uses the term for prophecy through Hagai.
  • Malachi (1:1) uses it to refer to prophecy through Malakhi.
  • I Chronicles (11:3) uses it for prophecy through Samuel.
  • I Samuel (28:15) uses the expression ביד to refer to communication by God through prophets in general, as do II Kings (21:10 and 24:2), Ezekiel (37:19), Zechariah (7:7 and 7:12), Daniel (9:10), Ezra (9:11), Nehemia (9:28 and 9:30), and II Chronicles (29:25). Furthermore, II Kings (17:13 and 17:23) uses the expression for God's communication through all the prophets.

Given that the expression is not unique to Moshe, there is no reason to suppose that it refers to communication through hands. Note also II Kings (4:27) in which the term ביד is used for God acting through someone, outside the context of prophecy (although in that case it could be claimed that it refers to actions committed with hands), and note also II Kings (19:23) and Psalms (77:21). Note also Hoshea (12:11) with Radak's commentary, and Zecharia (9:16) with Radak's commentary, in which ביד is used outsides the context of prophecy, or hands. Similarly, note Isaiah (64:6) with the commentary of Metsudat Tsion in which ביד is used to mean 'through' outside the context of prophecy (and of hands).

Rather based on all the above textual evidence, it appears that Hizkuni is correct that ביד משה means "through Moshe." This seems similar to the expression על ידי in Jeremiah (18:21), Ezekiel (35:5), Psalms (63:11), and Ezra (3:10) which is quite common in Mishnaic Hebrew that also means 'through'.

For a Midrashic interpretation of one instance of ביד משה, see Rashi to Numbers (17:5) who associates hand with Moshe's tsaraat which he had on his hand, suggesting that those like Korah (mentioned in that verse) who disagree with the legitimate priests, will be stricken with tsaraat.

Another derash is that of Paneah Raza (Parashat Tsav) who suggests that ביד משה (in the context of Leviticus 8:36) suggests that Moshe acted with all the strength in his hands to serve God.

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  • Good answer. Do any of these explanations explain more specifically why the term "hand" is used? – DanF Jan 14 '18 at 2:46
  • Presumably the term yad means through since hands are used to do things. God uses Prophets to do things. Hence yad. @DanF – mevaqesh Jan 14 '18 at 3:12
  • People generally do actions via their hands. However, it seems prophets are mainly speakers. So, it seems most of their actions are through words or the mouth, no? – DanF Jan 14 '18 at 15:30
  • In Parshat Bo (Shmoth 10.12) the passuk reads in pertinent part, "The Lord said to Moses, "Stretch forth your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, ...."" The next passuk reads in pertinent part, "So Moses stretched forth his staff over the land of Egypt, ...." Thus, we see that Moshe took action (prophesied) with his hand and staff. – Yochanan Mauritz Hummasti Jan 14 '18 at 17:09
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    @DanF ביד appears to be a general expression referring to A doing something through B, as I note in recent edits. – mevaqesh Jan 14 '18 at 19:05
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In relationship to Rashi's comment to B'midbar (Numbers) 17.5:

Moshe’s hand becoming leprous was to be for a sign to the Yisraelites that HaShem had met with Moshe, not that he rebelled against the institution of the priesthood. (Shmoth 4.8-9)

Leprosy, according to Rashi's commentary is a punishment for the sin of slander; and we do not find anywhere in Torah that Moshe slandered anyone!

Perhaps, the phrase b'Yad Moshe is a reference to Moshe's writing the Ten [Emphatic / Prophetic] Sayings of Shmoth 20.1-13 ( Aseret HaDibrot ) - "And the L-RD said unto Moses: 'Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.' " Shmoth 34.27; or perhaps it is a reference to Devarim 31.22: דברים לא:כב וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיְלַמְּדָהּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. Devarim 31:22 "That day, Moses wrote down this song and taught it to the Israelites."

It seems to me that the reference to b'Yad Moshe is related to Moshe writing the Sefer Torah and placing it before the Children of Yisrael; as in, Shmoth 34.27 and Devarim 31.22. Every Shabbat after the Torah Parshah is read we say, "v'Zoth haTorah asheer sam Moshe liphney Bney Yisrael al pi HaShem b'yad Moshe." ("This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Yisrael, [Devarim 4.44] upon the command of HaShem by the hand of Moses." [B'midbar 9.23]) Devarim 31.9 "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the ark of the covenant of the L-RD, and unto all the elders of Israel." Devarim 31:25-29 "Take this book of the Law and place it besides the Ark...."

Moshe actually did something with his hands: Besides having taken the "Staff of God" in his hand and waving it over the waters; he wrote the Sefer [Shirah] Torah and he placed the Torah before the entire Nation of Yisrael.

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