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The Torah informs us that Hashem saved Klal Yisrael with a “Yad HaChazaka u’Vizroah Netuyah” – A strong Hand and an Outstretched Arm. Of course, these terms are anthropomorphic in nature for, as we know, Hashem has no corporeal form. It is our job to understand what each metaphor is meant to convey.

The Yad HaChazaka refers specifically to the plague of the firstborn with its devastating impact of death to every single Egyptian palace, home, and hovel. It also refers to the mighty feat of compassion manifested when Hashem took out Bnei Yisrael, though they had already sunk to the forty-ninth degree of contamination. Indeed, it is this attribute of mercy that we remember twice a day when we mention the Exodus, always recalling that no matter how low a person has fallen, he or she can always turn around as did Bnei Yisrael from their lowly state in Egypt where, in a mere seven weeks, they merited seeing the Divine Splendor at Har Sinai.


But, what does the term ‘Vizroah HaNetuyah’ come to convey? This is not simply a study on how to define the words. In the Lesheim Yichud which we say before putting on our tefillin, we state, “Al hayad lezichron zeroah hanetuyah,” we put the tefillin on the, “Upper arm to remember Hashem’s outstretched Arm.” Thus, we see that the meaning of ‘zeroah netuyah’ is one of the primary ideas that we are supposed to contemplate daily when wearing the tefillin on our arm. It behooves us, therefore, to research what this phrase is meant to convey.

The Ramban and other Rishonim explain that once the plagues started Hashem’s protection over us never ceased. Indeed, even between the major plagues, Hashem peppered the Egyptians with other problems so that they wouldn’t trouble us further. Thus, these commentators are explaining the ‘zeroah hanetuyah’ to mean that Hashem, once he started the redemption phase, never put down His Arm of protection from over us.

There is a beautiful Chassidic interpretation of the Outstretched Arm. They explain that this refers to the miracle of Basya’s arm that telescoped four hundred amos as she attempted to retrieve Moshe Rabbeinu in his little ark from the waters of the marsh. This miracle indeed allowed Moshe Rabbeinu to be saved and the redemption to begin. In a similar beautiful fashion, they explain that this is also the intent of what we say in our morning prayers, “Vayar Yisrael es haYad Hagedolah asher asah Hashem b’Mitzrayim” – Yisrael saw the Big Hand which Hashem made in Egypt.” What Big Hand did Hashem make in Egypt? Now we understand! It refers to Basya’s hand that became greatly enlarged in order to bring the greatest of Jews to the shore and begin the great miracle of the Exodus. What a beautiful thought to have in mind when wearing tefillin each day!

The Medrash HaGadol defines Zeroah Hanetuyah as the miracle of the Red Sea that includes both the devastating end of the nine million Egyptians who drowned there and the miraculous escape of Klal Yisrael through the perilous and tempestuous waters of the Red Sea. This definition fits in very well with the fact that the tefillin recalls specifically the Outstretched Arm for it is the miracle of the Yam Suf that is the climax of the entire series of miracles of the Exodus. It is only then that we were finally and completely saved from our tormentors of almost two centuries.

But there is much more here than at first meets the eye. Because, of what merit did the Red Sea split? The Medrash informs us that initially the Red Sea was reticent to interrupt its natural behavior. In Tehillim, and as we say in Hallel, Dovid HaMelech poses the question, “Mah ra’ah hayam she’yanus – What did the sea see that it fled?” The Medrash answers this with a very short statement. “Nas mipnei haNas” – It fled from before the one that fled.” This means that when the Sea saw the Jews carrying the coffin of Yosef and saw his power of breaking his nature and not succumbing to the powerful temptations and seductions of the wife of Potifar, it too reacted by going against its nature and splitting its water.

Thus, we see that the miracle of the Yam Suf was achieved through the righteous ability of conquering the temptations of one’s heart. This is exactly the intent that we are taught to have when we put on the tefillin upon our arm. As the Lesheim Yichud continues, “Al haYad lezichron zeroah hanetuyah, u’kneged haleiv l’shabeid b’zeh taivos u’machashavos libeinu la’avodoso” – …And towards the heart to subjugate the desires and emotions of our heart to Hashem’s service.”

Thus, it all fits together! The tefillin on the upper biceps recalls Hashem’s Outstretched Arm at the Red Sea that we earned through Yosef’s moral strength in combating his passions. And this is what we commit ourselves to attempt to emulate when we wear our tefillin daily opposite our heart.

This further fits in beautifully with another Medrash. The pasuk says, “Vahamayim lahem choma, miyminom um’smolam” – The waters were like a wall on their right and their left.” The Medrash points out that the word choma is written defectively – without a vav. It therefore can be read “cheima” which means anger. Homiletically therefore, this verse conveys the meaning that the waters of the Yam Suf were raging against the Jews in order to drown them, for, as the Angel said, they too worship idolatry like the Egyptians. But, the pasuk concludes that they were spared because of that which was to their right and to their left. To their right refers to the Torah, which Hashem gave from His Right Hand, and to their left refers to the tefillin, which we put upon our left hand.

Thus, we find that the tefillin, which we put on to remember the miracle of the Red Sea, was indeed one of the reasons why we merited the miracle in the first place. The Gemara in Menachos tell us that the pasuk, “Hashem Alechem yich’yu,” refers to putting on tefillin. In the merit of our donning the tefillin and all our other mitzvos, may we be zoche to a wonderful Acharon Shel Pesach, good health, happiness, and everything wonderful.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.

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Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss is now stepping-up his speaking engagement and scholar-in-residence weekends. To book him for a speaking circuit or evening in your community, please call Rabbi Daniel Green at 908.783.7321. To receive a weekly cassette tape or CD directly from Rabbi Weiss, please write to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, P.O. Box 658 Lakewood, New Jersey 08701 or contact him at [email protected]. Attend Rabbi Weiss’s weekly shiur at Rabbi Rotberg’s Shul in Toms River, Wednesday nights at 9:15 or join via zoom by going to and entering meeting code 7189163100, or more simply by going to Rabbi Weiss’s Daf Yomi shiurim can be heard LIVE at 2 Valley Stream, Lakewood, New Jersey Sunday thru Thursday at 8 pm and motzoi Shabbos at 9:15 pm, or by joining on the zoom using the same method as the Chumash shiur. It is also accessible on Kol Haloshon at (718) 906-6400, and on To Sponsor a Shiur, contact Rav Weiss by texting or calling 718.916.3100 or by email [email protected]. Shelley Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.