hline

The Staff of Moses

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

hline

 


Prince. 3

Moshe’s Staff 3

Staff and Serpent 5

Moshe marries Zipporah. 6

The Staff and the Plagues. 10

A Staff in the Hand. 13

The Sword in the Stone. 16

Miracles. 16

Mashiach (Messiah) and the staff 17

hline

 

The Torah contains some of the most awesome concepts buried in the most unlikely places. I believe that the reason for this, is to save the diamonds for those who would “mine” (intensely study) them. The jewels, so to speak, are not left out in the open for casual gathering.

 

In this study I would like to examine the staff,[1] or rod, of Moshe (Moses) in an attempt to expose some deeply hidden diamonds. In the process, we will also find that there is a very intriguing origin for some of the world‘s myths. My suggestion is that the parables of the Midrash are often changed by the world into the myths that we learn as children.

 

 

So, lets get some background on this staff. The first use of staff (Hebrew: matteh) is found in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 38:18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that [is] in thine hand. And he gave [it] her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

 

In this first use of “staff”, we see the conception of the kingly and Messianic line. Tamar has engineered this encounter to produce the Kings of Israel, and the Mashiach. The staff is used to guarantee Yaaqov’s acknowledgement of his offspring. It is used to show the greatness of Yaaqov who will stand up and admit the sordid details despite the cost. This amazing encounter will also lay the foundation for the tikkun, the correction by Ruth and Boaz, as we have discussed in our paper on Ruth. Thus we see that that the staff is intimately related to kingship and to exercise of the authority of a king.

 

The Zohar also shows this staff as a symbol of authority by describing it as a spear:

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 6b The next verse reads: “And he smote an Egyptian, a man of good appearance, etc.” The mystical meaning of this verse is that every time Israel sins, God leaves them and withholds from them all the blessings and all the lights which illumined them. “He smote an Egyptian”: this signifies the light of Israel’s great luminary, to wit, Moses, who is called an Egyptian, as it is written, “And they said, an Egyptian delivered us, etc.” (Exod. II, 19), for there he was born, there he was brought up and there he was vouchsafed the higher light. “A man of good appearance” (mar’eh) also signifies Moses, of whom it is written “ou-mar’eh (by clear appearance) and not in dark speeches” (Num. XII, 8); so too “man” (ish), as he is called “man of God” (Deut. XXXIII, 1), the husband, as it were, of the Divine glory, leading it whereso he would upon the earth, a privilege no other man had ever enjoyed. “And the Egyptian had a spear in his hand,” to wit, the divine rod that was delivered into his hand, as we read: “With the rod of God in my hand“ (Exod. XVII, 9), which is the same rod that was created in the twilight of the Eve of Sabbath, and on which there was engraven the Divine Name in sacred letters. With the same rod Moses sinned by smiting the rock, as we read: “And he smote the rock with his rod twice” (Num. XX, 11). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him “I have not given the rod for that purpose; by thy life, from henceforward it will not be in thy hand any more.” Immediately “He went down to him with a rod”, i.e. He judged him rigidly, “and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand,” for from that moment he lost it and never more regained it. “And slew him with his spear,” i.e. through the sin of smiting the rock with that rod he died without entering the Holy Land, and thereby that illumination was withheld from Israel.

 

Strong’s defines staff as:

 

4294 matteh, mat-teh’; or (fem.) mattah, mat-taw’; from 5186; a branch (as extending); fig. a tribe; also a rod, whether for chastising (fig. correction), ruling (a sceptre), throwing (a lance), or walking (a staff; fig. a support of life e.g. bread):-rod, staff, tribe.

 

The KJV translates this Hebrew word as staff, rod, or tribe. In fact, this word is more often translated as “tribe“, than any other way. So, our first task is to try to understand how a staff is related to a tribe. Further, matteh comes from a Hebrew word which means branch. In order to bring this concept home in a very sharp manner, it is instructive to note that there is a second Hebrew word that means branch.

 

07626 שבט shebet shay’- bet

from an unused root probably meaning to branch off; n m; AV-tribe 140, rod 34, sceptre 10, staff 2, misc 4; 190

1) rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, sceptre, tribe

1a) rod, staff

1b) shaft (of spear, dart)

1c) club (of shepherd’s implement)

1d) truncheon, sceptre (mark of authority)

1e) clan, tribe

 

Shevet is used in the following Torah pasukim:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 49:10 The sceptre <07626> shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 49:16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes <07626> of Israel.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes <07626> of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.

 

Here again we see that a tribe and a staff (branch) are related. Chazal teach that if we have two meanings for the same word, then the two meanings are really just one meaning with two perspectives or manifestations.

 

According to most of our classical commentaries, shevet is to be defined as a ruling rod whereas matteh is a supporting staff.

 

A staff is a branch which bends away from a tree, which has been smoothed and sized for the owner. A tribe is the descendants of a particular person. So, Yaaqov would be like a main branch of a tree, with his twelve sons being “staff” sized branches which bend away from their father. In the course of their lives, HaShem has given His Torah to these sons in order that they might be smooth and properly sized.

 

Both a tribe and the staff are tools used by the hand of HaShem to accomplish His purposes. From the definition given to us by Strong’s, we can see that there are several uses for the staff, and therefore for the tribes.

 

From our understanding so far, we can see that there is a very deep concept behind a seemingly insignificant staff.

 

Prince

 

Avraham was the shepherd of Israel.

Yitzchak was the shepherd of Israel.

Yaaqov was the shepherd of Israel.

Yosef was the shepherd of Israel.

 

These are the Patriarchs of Israel. They are the men with whom HaShem restated His covenant.

 

Avraham lived 175 years

Yitzchak lived 180 years

Yaaqov lived 147 years

Yosef lived 110 years

 

Each of these men were considered a prince, a ruler. Avraham was called a prince by the inhabitants of the land.

 

For example, the sons of Chet replied to Avraham saying to him:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 23.6 Hear us my master, you are a prince of G-d in our midst.

 

It follows that upon the death of Avraham, Yitzchak would be considered a prince, and upon the death of Yitzchak, Yaaqov would be considered a prince, and upon the death of Yaaqov, Yosef would be considered a prince.

 

Now both a shepherd and a prince rule. Both are leaders. The rod that a shepherd and a prince carry is a point of identity. When Avraham died, Yitzchak officially carried his father’s rod of leadership. When Yitzchak died, Yaaqov officially carried his grandfather’s and father’s rod of leadership. When Yaaqov died, Yosef officially carried his great grandfather’s, grandfather’s and father’s rod of leadership. This is why the Torah states, “A new king came into power over Mitzriam who did not know Yosef“. {Exodus 1:8} In other words, he did not know Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaaqov or Yosef. He did not recognize their rod of leadership. After Yosef‘s death it was as if the rod disappeared. From Yosef to Moshe we do not read of a leader in Kal Israel. That was a period of 59 years. Yosef‘s older brother, Levi, lived twenty-three years after Yosef‘s death. After Levi’s death thirty-six more years passed before the birth of Israel’s next leader, Moshe.

 

Moshe’s Staff

 

The staff of Moshe first appears in Torah when Moshe encounters the burning bush:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:16 – 4:5 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, HaShem God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and [seen] that which is done to you in Egypt: And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, HaShem God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to HaShem our God. And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put [them] upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians. And Moshe answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, HaShem hath not appeared unto thee. And HaShem said unto him, What [is] that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moshe fled from before it. And HaShem said unto Moshe, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that HaShem God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

 

The midrash comments on the reason for delivering the staff to Moshe. After persuading a reluctant Moshe to accept his mission, God delivers the staff and informs Moshe that it will be the apparatus for performing the miracles. The midrash comments that HaShem informed Moshe, "even if you are unwilling to fulfill my mission, this staff, inanimate as it is, is capable of executing My will". This sobering message should ideally assure Moshe's continued commitment despite his lingering ambivalence. It also depersonalizes Moshe (which may contribute to his conviction). If the staff is fully capable of miracles, there is little reason to impute these powers to Moshe. In this light, referencing the staff on the night of Pesach is strategic. Moshe's name is conspicuously absent from the seder – and for good reason. This is the night of HaShem; as the well known derasha confirms, "I alone, without any intermediary agent." Just as the association of angelic agents is suppressed, so is Moshe's mortal agency. To emphasize the absence of a human intermediary, the staff and its message is mentioned.

 

Implicit yet a third imagery of the mateh is provided by the continuation of that same midrash. Having delivered the staff to Moshe, HaShem informs him of a post-Egypt role for the staff in producing heavenly manna, water, clouds of glory and various other gifts. A staff which had been so clearly aligned with plagues and human suffering would also be pivotal in ensuring human welfare. It is an icon of "otot - signs", many different forms of miracles and not merely of plagues; Moshe must be aware of these potentials even as he wreaks havoc upon Egypt though the mateh's curses. After the Exodus, religion may have been miscast by some as centered around death and suffering. In announcing himself to the ancient world, HaShem destroyed the cradle of civilization and riddled them with months of misery. It is crucial that religion be viewed as a contribution to the human condition and that this Divine staff be responsible for wellbeing and human benefit as well. This broader role is already announced prior to the Exodus, well before any of those benefits will be necessary, to ensure a holistic view of the staff. It is a staff of life not a rod of death.

 

The Targum pseudo Yonatan also describes this event and adds a very interesting detail:

 

1. And Mosheh answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to me; for they will say, The Lord has not appeared to you. 2. And the Lord said to him, What is that in your hand? And he said, The rod. 3. And He said, Cast it on the ground; and he cast it to the ground, and it became a serpent; and Mosheh fled from before it. [JERUSALEM. And He said, Cast it on the ground; and he cast it on the ground.] 4. And the Lord said to Mosheh, Stretch forth your hand and seize (it) by its tail. [JERUSALEM. And grasp the place of its tail.] And he stretched forth his hand and grasped it, and it became the rod in his hand. 5. In order that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Izhak, and the God of Jakob, has revealed Himself to you.

 

We will be talking at length about this rod, but it is important to note that the rod was simply a tool in Moshe’s hand. Notice the following:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:20 So Moses took his wife and his sons, mounted them upon the donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

 

The Targum goes on to emphasise that it was Moshe’s hand that would perform the miracle.

 

Targum pseudo Yonatan to Shemot 4:20 And Mosheh took his wife and his sons, and made them ride on the ass, and returned to the land of Mizraim. And Mosheh took the rod which he had brought away from the chamber of his father-in-law; and it was from the sapphire Throne of glory, in weight forty sein; and upon it was engraved and set forth the Great and Glorious Name by which the signs should be wrought before the LORD by his hand.

 

Engraving always means that what is engraved is of the essence of the object - not applied onto the object as is writing but expressed in the very medium of the object itself.

 

The following verse emphasises, again, that the miracle is in his hand, not in the staff.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you go to return to Egypt, see all the signs that I have placed in your hand and perform them before Pharaoh, but I will strengthen his heart, and he will not send out the people.

 

Rashi add the his voice to the above verse:

 

that I have placed in your hand He did not say this in reference to the three aforementioned signs, for He had not commanded that he [Moses] do them before Pharaoh but before Israel, in order that they would believe him, and we do not find that he performed them before him [Pharaoh]. But [regarding] signs that I am destined to put into your hand in Egypt, such as: “When Pharaoh speaks to you [i.e., asking for you to perform signs], etc.” (Exod. 7:9), do not wonder that it is written: “that I have placed,” [i.e., implying the past tense,] because this is what it means: “When you speak to him, I will have already placed them into your hand.”

 

Staff and Serpent

 

At this point in the story we might think that this is a staff of wood that HaShem miraculously transforms into a serpent. However, a careful analysis of this event reveals that this serpent is so terrifying that Moshe, in the very presence of HaShem, flees from this serpent in terror.

 

Lets think about this. Moshe has an inanimate staff which is transformed into a serpent. Lets assume, for the sake of this argument, that the serpent is extremely venomous and capable of killing Moshe. Lets also assume that Moshe, at eighty years of age, is reasonably intelligent and well trained in the ways of the world. If this is so, then Moshe would know that the best defense for this type of serpent is to freeze in place and not move. What is Moshe’s response? He runs away as fast as his eighty year old legs will allow.

 

Now, lets assume that the serpent is a constrictor type serpent and is not venomous. What would be the proper response to this type of serpent? The proper response is to back away slowly. What is Moshe’s reaction? He quickly flees!

 

This is no ordinary serpent! To understand this serpent we will need to understand this staff which has been transformed into this extremely fearsome serpent. Since the written Torah gives us no background, we will examine the oral Torah.

 

Pirke D’Rebbe Eliezer 40 (a Midrashic work composed by the school of Rebbe Eliezer ben Hyrcanus [c.100]) gives the history of this amazing staff:

 

Created at twilight, before the Sabbath, it was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam gave it to Chanoch (Enoch), who gave it to Metushelach (Methuselah); he in turn passed it on to Noach (Noah). Noach bequeathed it to his son Shem, who transmitted it to Avraham (Abraham). From Avraham to Yitzchak (Isaac), and then to Yaaqov (Jacob), who took it with him to Egypt. Ya’aqov gave it to Yosef (Joseph); upon Yosef‘s death all his possessions were removed to Pharaoh’s place. Yitro (Jethro) one of Pharaoh’s advisors desired it, whereupon he took it and stuck it in the ground in his garden in Midian. From then on no one could pull out the staff until Moshe came. He read the Hebrew letters on the staff,[2] and pulled it out readily. Knowing then that Moshe was the redeemer of Israel, Yitro gave him his daughter Tziporra (Zepporah) in marriage. Then, as a shepherd to Yitro, it was while investigating the phenomenon of the Burning Bush, that HaShem said to Moshe:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:2 “What is in your hand? And he (Moshe) said, ‘a staff’.”

 

The staff which Moshe pulled from the ground in Yitro’s garden had been fashioned by HaShem Himself who had then given it to Adam. It was passed down, after Moshe’s death, to King David and to the succeeding Kings of Judah.[3] This was no ordinary wooden staff.

 

The Zohar elaborates on this fantastic staff (rod):

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 9a “And in the Egyptian’s hand was a spear like a weaver’s beam” (I Chr. XI, 23). This alludes to the divine rod which was in Moses’ hand, and on which there was engraved the divine ineffable Name radiating in various combinations of letters. These same letters were in possession of Bezalel, who was called “weaver”, and his school, as it is written: “Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart... of the craftsman and the skilled workman, and the weaver, etc.” (Exod. XXXV, 35). So that rod had engraved on it the ineffable Name on every side, in forty-two various combinations, which were illumined in different colours.

 

Thus we learn that the staff was engraved with forty-two letter combinations, each in a different color! The Midrash tells this amazing story in a way which gives us insight into this most powerful staff:

 

Moshe marries Zipporah[4]

 

One of the seven maidens whom Moshe saw at the well attracted his notice in particular on account of her modest demeanor, and he made her a proposal of marriage. But Zipporah repulsed him, saying, “My father has a tree in his garden with which he tests every man that expresses a desire to marry one of his daughters, and as soon as the suitor touches the tree, he is devoured by it.”

 

Moshe: “Whence has he the tree?”

 

Zipporah: “It is the rod that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in the twilight of the first Sabbath eve, and gave to Adam. He transmitted it to Enoch, from him it descended to Noah, then to Shem, and Abraham, and Isaac, and finally to Jacob, who brought it with him to Egypt, and gave it to his son Joseph. When Joseph died, the Egyptians pillaged his house, and the rod, which was in their booty, they brought to Pharaoh’s palace. At that time my father was one of the most prominent of the king’s sacred scribes, and as such he had the opportunity of seeing the rod. He felt a great desire to possess it, and he stole it and took it to his house. On this rod the Ineffable Name is graven, and also the ten plagues that God will cause to visit the Egyptians in a future day. For many years it lay in my father’s house. One day he was walking in his garden carrying it, and he stuck it in the ground. When he attempted to draw it out again, he found that it had sprouted, and was putting forth blossoms. That is the rod with which he tries any that desire to marry his daughters. He insists that our suitors shall attempt to pull it out of the ground, but as soon as they touch it, it devours them.”

 

Having given him this account of her father’s rod, Zipporah went home, accompanied by her sisters, and Moshe followed them.

 

Jethro was not a little amazed to see his daughters return so soon from the watering troughs. As a rule, the chicanery they had to suffer from the shepherds detained them until late. No sooner had he heard their report about the wonder-working Egyptian than he exclaimed, “Mayhap he is one of the descendants of Abraham, from whom issueth blessing for the whole world.” He rebuked his daughters for not having invited the stranger that had done them so valuable a service to come into their house, and he ordered them to fetch him, in the hope that he would take one of his daughters to wife.

 

Moshe had been standing without all this time, and had allowed Jethro’s daughters to describe him as an Egyptian, without protesting and asserting his Hebrew birth. For this HaShem punished him by causing him to die outside of the promised land. Joseph, who had proclaimed in public that he was a Hebrew, found his last resting-place in the land of the Hebrews, and Moshe, who apparently had no objection to being considered an Egyptian, had to live and die outside of that land.

 

Zipporah hastened forth to execute her father’s wish, and no sooner had she ushered him in, then Moshe requested her hand in marriage. Jethro replied, “If thou canst bring me the rod in my garden, I will give her to thee.” Moshe went out, found the sapphire rod that HaShem had bestowed upon Adam when he was driven forth from Paradise, the rod that had reached Jethro after manifold vicissitudes, and which he had planted in the garden. Moshe uprooted it and carried it to Jethro.

 

The Midrash also speaks of this staff:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus VIII:3 ‘Go and exact a penalty of him.’ He said to him: ‘How shall I bring upon him the ten plagues? ‘ The reply was: ‘And thou shalt take in thy hand this rod’ (IV, 17). R. Judah said: The rod weighed forty se’ah[5] and was of sapphire[6] and the ten plagues were engraved thereon in an abbreviated form -De Za K, aDaSH, Be’aHa B.1 God said: ‘In this order shalt thou bring upon him the plagues.’ And Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet (VII, 1). ‘Just as the preacher sits and preaches whilst the interpreter[7] sits before him, so shalt thou speak all that I shall command thee, [to Aaron] and Aaron thy brother will speak unto Pharaoh.’ By means of both of them were all these things performed, as it is said: And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh (XI, 10).

 

So, now we discover that this fantastic staff is made out of sapphire, not wood.

 

The Targum Pseudo Yonatan, on Exodus chapter 2, also speaks of this rod (staff):

 

15. And Pharaoh heard this thing, and sought to kill Mosheh; and Mosheh escaped before Pharaoh, to dwell in the land of Midian. And he sat by a well. 16. And the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew, and filled the watering-troughs, to give drink to the flocks of their father. 17. But the shepherds came and drove them away. And Mosheh arose in the power of his might, and rescued them, and gave the flocks drink. 18. And they came to Reuel, their grandfather, who said to them, How is it that you are come (so) early to-day? 19. And they replied, A Mizraite man not only delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, but also himself drawing drew and watered the flock. 20. And he said to his son’s daughters, And where is he? Why did you leave the man? Call him, and let him eat bread. But when Reuel knew that Mosheh had fled from before Pharaoh he cast him into a pit; but Zipporah, the daughter of his son, maintained him with food, secretly, for the time of ten years; and at the end of ten years brought him out of the pit. And Mosheh went into the bedchamber of Reuel, and gave thanks and prayed before the Lord, who by him would work miracles and mighty acts. And there was shown to him the Rod which was created between the evenings, and on which was engraven and set forth the Great and Glorious Name, with which he was to do the wonders in Mizraim, and to divide the sea of Suph, and to bring, forth water from the rock. And it was infixed in the midst of the chamber, and he stretched forth his hand at once and took it. 21. Then, behold, Mosheh was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave Zipporah, the daughter of his son, to Mosheh.

 

Now that we understand that this is a most unusual staff, lets see if the Midrash can shed any more light on this fantastic staff:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus VIII:3 ‘Go and exact a penalty of him.’ He said to him: ‘How shall I bring upon him the ten plagues? ‘ The reply was: ‘And thou shalt take in thy hand this rod’ (IV, 17). R. Judah said: The rod weighed forty se’ah[8] and was of sapphire and the ten plagues were engraved thereon in an abbreviated form -De Za K, aDaSH, Be’aHa B. God said: ‘In this order shalt thou bring upon him the plagues.’ And Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet (VII, 1). ‘Just as the preacher sits and preaches whilst the interpreter sits before him, so shalt thou speak all that I shall command thee, [to Aaron] and Aaron thy brother will speak unto Pharaoh.’ By means of both of them were all these things performed, as it is said: And Moshe and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh (XI, 10).

 

The Targum Pseudo Yonaton also describes this sapphire rod:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:20 And Mosheh took his wife and his sons, and made them ride on the ass, and returned to the land of Mizraim. And Mosheh took the rod which he had brought away from the chamber of his father-in-law; and it was from the sapphire Throne of glory, in weight forty sein; and upon it was engraved and set forth the Great and Glorious Name by which the signs should be wrought before HaShem by his hand.

 

From this Midrash we learn that this sapphire staff weighed forty se’ah. Forty se’ah is the amount of water used in a mikveh (baptismal) to immerse an object or a person. To put it mildly: This sapphire staff weighed six hundred and seventy-two pounds! No ordinary man could even pick it up much less pull it out of the ground or wave it around.

 

Lets look at exactly what the World Book Encyclopedia[9] can tell us about sapphire:

 

Sapphire, a hard and clear gem, is a variety of the mineral corundum. The best-known sapphires are blue. Their color results from small amounts of iron and titanium in the stone. Sapphires are also found in many other colors, including yellow, green, white, black, violet, and orange. Non-blue sapphires are called fancy sapphires. The red variety of corundum is known as a ruby.

 

The most valuable sapphires once came from Kashmir, in India. They are a magnificent cornflower blue, the color to which all sapphires are compared. Today, Thailand is the most important source of blue sapphires. Blue and fancy sapphires are also found in Burma, Sri Lanka, Australia, and the state of Montana in the United States.

 

Star sapphires contain needles of the mineral rutile that reflect light in six star like rays. The most highly prized star sapphires are blue. Black or white star sapphires are less valuable.

 

Among minerals, sapphires and rubies rank second only to diamonds in hardness. For this reason, sapphires are sometimes used as abrasive or polishing agents. Large numbers of inexpensive imitation sapphires are manufactured every year. But the natural stones have maintained their high value because of a demand for the real gems.

 

The Throne of Glory was also seen as made of sapphire.[10] This stone is related to wisdom,[11] and the Hebrew word sappir is related to sefer, a book (Tzioni). It is also related to vision.[12] Some say that this “sapphire” is like a “third eye,” through which mystical vision is attained,[13] and indeed, this third eye is associated with a sapphire blue color.

 

The Hebrew word for sapphire is Sapir. The Hebrew word “sefirah” has several meanings. The famous Kabbalist, the RaMak,[14] in his monumental work the “Pardes“, writes that “sefirah” comes both from the root “counting” (mispar, number) and “sipur”, as in relating a story. A third root of “sefirah” is “sapir”, a sapphire stone, which is a translucent crystal that shines brightly.

 

During Iyar, when the first plague began, the “lower reality” is slowly refined to become a proper vessel able to receive the revelation of the essence of the “higher reality.” This is accomplished by fulfilling the commandment of sefirat HaOmer (“the counting of the omer; the word for “counting,” sefirah is from the same root as “sapphire,” the brilliant stone known as ‘even sapir’, denoting the light scintillating from within lowly materiality).

 

So, now we know that sapphire is extremely hard. Engraved, not just written, on this, extremely hard, sapphire staff are the abbreviations for the ten plagues. At this point, we need to understand a bit about the plagues in Egypt in order to gain some insight into this staff:

 


The Staff and the Plagues

 

The purpose of the first group:

 G-d’s existence.

 

These were initiated by Aaron, with the staff of Moshe, and they involved water and land.[15]

The purpose of the second group:

Divine providence.

 

These were initiated by G-d, without the staff of Moshe, and they involved those dwelling on the land:[16]

The purpose of the third group:

A universal G-d.

 

These were initiated by Moshe, with his staff, and they revealed G-d’s power to strike from the air:[17]

 

 

 

1. Blood        - Exodus 7:14-25

4. Beasts      - Exodus 8:20-32

7. Hail/Fire   - Exodus 9:13-35

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

“…in the morning…” Exodus 7:15

“… in the morning…” Exodus 8:16

“…in the morning…” Exodus 9:13

“…you shalt know that I am HASHEM Exodus 7:17

“…you will know that I, HASHEM, am in this land.” Exodus 8:22

“… so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.

Paro hardened his heart. - Exodus 7:22-23

Paro hardened his heart. Exodus 8:28

HASHEM hardened the heart of Paro. Exodus 9:27,34,35 - Exodus 10:1

Reduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.[18]

Reduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.

Reduced the Egyptians in their own land to the insecure existence of strangers.

2. Frogs                    - Exodus 8:1-15

5. Plague      - Exodus 9:1-7

8. Locusts     - Exodus 10:1-20

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

Preceded by a warning

“Go in to Pharaoh…” Exodus 7:26

“Go in to Pharaoh…” Exodus 9:1

“…Go in to Pharaoh…” Exodus 10:1

Paro hardened his heart. Exodus 8:11

Paro hardened his heart. Exodus 9:7

HASHEM hardened the heart of Paro. Exodus 10:20

Robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possessions, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.

Robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possessions, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.

Robbed the Egyptians of their pride, their possessions, and their sense of superiority, reducing them to lowly submission.

3. Lice                       - Exodus 8:16-19

6. Boils                       - Exodus 9:8-12

9. Darkness - Exodus 10:21-29

No warning! Exodus 8:16

No warning! Exodus 9:8

No warning! Exodus 10:21

Paro hardened his heart. Exodus 8:15

HASHEM hardened the heart of Paro. Exodus 9:12

HASHEM hardened the heart of Paro. Exodus 10:27

Imposed upon the Egyptians actual physical suffering.

Imposed upon the Egyptians actual physical suffering.

Imposed upon the Egyptians actual physical suffering.

10.       Death            - This was brought on by G-d:[19]       - Exodus 12:29-33

HaShem hardened the heart of Paro Exodus 14:4-5

 


From the above chart, we can see that six of the ten plagues were performed with this staff. Further, we see that EVERY plague initiated by men, was initiated with THIS sapphire staff. The only plagues not initiated with this staff, were initiated by HaShem Himself. Never the less, since this staff was fashioned by HaShem, we can understand why it was not necessary for those plagues which demonstrated Divine providence.

 

The Midrash also speaks of this division of the plagues:

 

 Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4 AND MOSHE STRETCHED FORTH HIS ROD TOWARD HEAVEN (IX, 23). Three of the plagues came through the agency of Aaron, three through Moshe, three through God, and one through the united efforts of all three. Blood, frogs, and gnats, being on the earth, were through Aaron; hail, locusts, and darkness, through Moshe, because they were in the air and Moshe had power over earth and heaven; the swarms, the murrain, and the plague of the firstborn through God, and the boils-- through all of them.

 

The Midrash also gives us some insight into the engraving on this staff:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus V:6 AND HaShem SAID UNTO MOSHE: WHEN THOU GOEST BACK INTO EGYPT, SEE THAT THOU Do BEFORE PHARAOH ALL THE WONDERS, etc. (IV, 21). To which of the wonders did He refer? Should you say to the serpent, to the leprosy, or the blood, well, did not God tell him to perform these wonders only before Israel? Moreover, we do not find that Moshe performed these wonders before Pharaoh?[20] The meaning of ALL THE WONDERS WHICH I HAVE PUT IN THY HAND (ib.) is the rod on which were inscribed the Ten Plagues, for it had inscribed upon it the abbreviations De Za K, ‘a Da SH Be’a Ha B.[21] God said unto him: ‘These are the plagues which I have put in thy hand; do them before Pharaoh with this rod.’

 

The plagues were performed in the following order on the date specified:

 

Nisan 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the first plague: Blood. Exodus 7:19 Seder Olam 3 (Sapphire staff)

 

Iyar:                No plague.

 

Sivan:              No plague.

 

Tammuz:        No Plague.

 

Av 1:               Egypt was afflicted with the second plague: Frogs. Exodus 8:2 Seder HaDorot (Sapphire staff)

 

Elul 1:             Egypt was afflicted with the third plague: Lice. Exodus 8:16 Zikhron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Tishri 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the fourth plague: Beasts Exodus 8:24 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Cheshvan 1:   Egypt was afflicted with the fifth plague: Cattle plague Exodus 9:3 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Kislev 1:         Egypt was afflicted with the sixth plague: Boils. Exodus 9:9 Zichron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Tevet 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the seventh plague: Hail and fire. Exodus 9:24 Zichron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Shevat 1:        Egypt was afflicted with the eighth plague: Locusts. Exodus 10:4 Zichron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Adar 1:           Egypt was afflicted with the ninth plague: Darkness. Exodus 10:21 Zikhron Yemot Olam. (Sapphire staff)

 

Nisan 15:        Egypt was afflicted with the tenth plague: Death of the firstborn. Exodus 33:3-4 (HaShem)

 

Later, in Shemot (Exodus) 4, we see this sapphire staff again:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:17,20 “And you shall take in your hand this staff (matteh), with which you will work wonders ... and he took the staff (matteh) of G-d in his hand.”

 

In this pasuk we see that HaShem intends to use this staff for wonders. From our look at the plagues, we can see that this staff was, indeed, used to perform some of the most miraculous wonders the world has ever seen.

 

In Shemot 4, we see the first “wonder” performed with this staff:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:1-5 And Moshe answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, HaShem hath not appeared unto thee. And HaShem said unto him, What [is] that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moshe fled from before it. And HaShem said unto Moshe, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that HaShem God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

 

This sapphire staff was turned into a serpent, and not just any serpent, as we have already seen. This was the serpent that tempted Eve. This was the same staff/serpent that set off the ten plagues; that divided the Reed (Red) Sea; and that brought forth water from rocks. Made of sapphire with HaShem‘s ineffable Name written upon it, this staff was no ordinary staff, its origin was part of the creation process. It was the agent of creation in that it controls creation. This staff was able to put the world on it’s track of goodness.

 

This staff is capable of transforming evil into it’s good form, and of transforming good into it’s evil form. This is graphically demonstrated when Moshe casts the staff down and it is converted into THE primal snake. When he grasps The primal snake’s tail, it is converted back into a staff. In his hand it is a staff. On the ground, out of his hand, it is THE primal snake.

 

Since this sapphire staff was part of creation, it comes as no wonder that when it was transformed, on the ground (not in his hand), it became the serpent of the creation story. The Midrash tells us why this particular serpent was used in this demonstration:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus III:12 AND MOSHE ANSWERED AND SAID: BUT, BEHOLD, THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE ME (IV, 1). Moshe then spoke not befittingly; for God had said to him: ‘And they shall hearken to thy voice’ (III, 18), and he said: BUT, BEHOLD, THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE ME. Whereupon God answered him on his own lines and gave him signs according to his words. See what it says after this: AND THE HaShem SAID UNTO HIM: WHAT IS (MAZEH) THAT IN THY HAND? AND HE SAID: A ROD (IV, 2), that is to say: ‘Thou art worthy of being smitten with that (mizzeh) which is in thy hand, for thou didst speak slanderously of my children who are believers and the sons of believers.’ They are believers, as it says: And the people believed (Ex. XIV, 31); and the sons of believers, as it says: And he believed in the Lord (Gen. XV, 6).[22] Moshe had followed the example of the serpent who had spoken slanderously of his Creator, as it is said: For God doth know (ib. III, 5); so just as the serpent was punished, so will he be punished. See what is written: AND HE SAID: CAST IT ON THE GROUND. AND HE CAST IT ON THE GROUND AND IT BECAME A SERPENT (IV, 3). Because he had copied the example of the serpent, God showed him the serpent, as if to say: ‘ Thou didst do the thing that this serpent did.’

AND MOSHE FLED FROM BEFORE IT. A Roman lady once boasted to R. Jose: ‘My God is greater than yours.’ ‘In which way?’ he asked. She replied: ‘For when your God revealed Himself unto Moshe at the thorn-bush, he merely hid his face, but when he beheld the serpent, who is my god, immediately he fled from before it.’ To which he replied: ‘Woe to her. When our God revealed Himself at the thorn-bush, there was no room for him to flee anywhere. Where could he flee? To the heavens? Or to the sea, or dry land? See what it says in reference to our God: Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord (Jer. XXIII, 24).[23] Whereas, your god, the serpent, a man can escape from merely by running away a few paces; for this reason does it say, AND MOSHE FLED FROM BEFORE IT,’ Another reason of his flight is because he had sinned by his words. Had he not sinned, he would not have fled, for not the serpent brings death, but sin, as it is written in the story of R. Hanina b. Dosa.[24] AND THE HaShem SAID UNTO MOSHE: PUT FORTH THY HAND, AND TAKE IT BY THE TAIL (IV, 4). We have already explained what the serpent implied for Moshe; but what did this sign signify for Israel? R. Eleazar opined that the rod was converted into a serpent as symbolic Of Pharaoh who was called a serpent, as it says: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh King of Egypt, the great-dragon (Ezek. XXIX, 3). He is also referred to as the leviathan the slant serpent (Isa. XXVII, 1), because he hit Israel. God said to him [Moshe]: ‘ Dost thou see Pharaoh who is like a serpent? Well, thou wilt smite him with the rod and in the end he will become like wood; and just as the rod cannot bite, so he will no longer bite’; hence: PUT FORTH THY HAND AND TAKE IT BY THE TAIL. THAT THEY MAY BELIEVE THAT THE LORD, THE GOD OF THEIR FATHERS... HATH APPEARED UNTO THEE (IV, 5). Go and perform before them this miracle that they should believe that I appeared unto thee.

 

So, midda kneged midda, measure for measure, HaShem punished Moshe’s slander with the one who first slandered. From the above Midrash we can see that HaShem accomplished multiple tasks with this “serpent” sign.

 

Lets look again at this passage in Shemot 4:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:17,20 “And you shall take in your hand this staff (matteh), with which you will work wonders ... and he took the staff (matteh) of Elokim in his hand.”

 

This pasuk indicates that the “staff of Moshe” was, in reality, the staff of Elokim (G-d). Elokim again reminds us of creation where HaShem used this name for creating. The Midrash gives some insight into G-d’s staff:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus VIII:1One must not make use of the sceptre of a mortal king, but God handed His sceptre to Moshe, as it says: And Moshe took the rod of God in his hand (Ex. IV, 20). …

 

A Staff in the Hand

 

As we have noted several times, the action of the staff when it is in the hand of Moshe or Aaron is far different that the action of the staff when it is on the ground. Note that when Moshe went to Egypt, he took the staff, as we read in the Targum:

 

TARGUM PSEUDO JONATHAN Sh’mot (Exodus) ‎‎‎4:20. So Moses took his wife and his sons, mounted them on the ass, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took in his hand the rod which he had taken from the garden of his father-in-law. It ­was of sapphire from the throne of glory, its weight was forty seahs, and the great and glorious name was clearly engraved on it, and with it miracles were performed fr­om before the Lord.

 

While it is in Moshe’s or Aaron’s hand it performs the most amazing wonders, the wonders of creation:

 

It separates the waters and creates dry land:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.

 

Versus:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:21 And Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea; and HaShem caused the sea to go [back] by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry [land], and the waters were divided.

 

It creates animals and swarming creatures on the Earth:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

 

Versus:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:20-21 And HaShem said unto Moshe, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith HaShem, Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms [of flies] upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms [of flies], and also the ground whereon they [are].

 

And:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:2-15 And if thou refuse to let [them] go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs: And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneading troughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And HaShem spake unto Moshe, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.

 

And:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 8:16-17 And HaShem said unto Moshe, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 17:4-6 And Moshe cried unto HaShem, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. And HaShem said unto Moshe, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moshe did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

 

So, in the hand of Moshe and Aaron, two great Tzaddikim (righteous men), this sapphire staff had the power of creation. It was called Elohim’s staff because Elohim is the name HaShem uses when executing strict justice (The world was created with strict justice).

 

This link to creation is also shown when Moshe let go of the rod and cast it to the earth. At this point, the staff transforms itself into the serpent who tempted Eve. Out of Moshe’s hand, this staff becomes unspeakable evil. When Moshe confronts his fear and takes the serpent in his hand (taking control so to speak), the serpent becomes again an instrument of creation:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:2-5 And HaShem said unto him, What [is] that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moshe fled from before it. And HaShem said unto Moshe, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that HaShem God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

 

When we take a hold of creation to perform the will of HaShem, we create a G-dly reality. When we relinquish control to the base things of this world, we unleash unspeakable evil on the earth. It is my fervent tefillah, prayer, that we grasp and use creation correctly, for the glory of HaShem.

 

The Zohar speaks of this staff as a spear, divine rod, Moshe’s rod, and the ‘rod of God’:

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 6b The next verse reads: “And he smote an Egyptian, a man of good appearance, etc.” The mystical meaning of this verse is that every time Israel sins, God leaves them and withholds from them all the blessings and all the lights which illumined them. “He smote an Egyptian”: this signifies the light of Israel’s great luminary, to wit, Moses, who is called an Egyptian, as it is written, “And they said, an Egyptian delivered us, etc.” (Exod. II, 19), for there he was born, there he was brought up and there he was vouchsafed the higher light. “A man of good appearance” (mar’eh) also signifies Moses, of whom it is written “ou-mar’eh (by clear appearance) and not in dark speeches” (Num. XII, 8); so too “man” (ish), as he is called “man of God” (Deut. XXXIII, 1), the husband, as it were, of the Divine glory, leading it whereso he would upon the earth, a privilege no other man had ever enjoyed. “And the Egyptian had a spear in his hand,” to wit, the divine rod that was delivered into his hand, as we read: “With the rod of God in my hand“ (Exod. XVII, 9), which is the same rod that was created in the twilight of the Eve of Sabbath, and on which there was engraven the Divine Name in sacred letters. With the same rod Moses sinned by smiting the rock, as we read: “And he smote the rock with his rod twice” (Num. XX, 11). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him “I have not given the rod for that purpose; by thy life, from henceforward it will not be in thy hand any more.” Immediately “He went down to him with a rod”, i.e. He judged him rigidly, “and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand,” for from that moment he lost it and never more regained it. “And slew him with his spear,” i.e. through the sin of smiting the rock with that rod he died without entering the Holy Land, and thereby that illumination was withheld from Israel.

 

The Zohar speaks of this staff as the staff of God, Metatron, and the Oral Law:

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 27a Similarly of Moses it is written, “And the staff of God was in his hand.” This rod is Metatron, from one side of whom comes life and from the other death. When the rod remains a rod, it is a help from the side of good, and when it is turned into a serpent it is hostile, so that “Moses fled from it”, and God delivered it into his hand. This rod typifies the Oral Law which prescribes what is permitted and what is forbidden. When Moses struck the rock God took it back from him, and “he went down to him with a rod” (II Sam. XXXIII, 21), to smite him with it, the “rod” being the evil inclination, which is a serpent, the cause of the captivity.

 

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 48a BUT LIFT THOU UP THY ROD, AND STRETCH OUT THINE HAND OVER THE SEA, AND DIVIDE IT. This signifies: “Lift up thy rod, on which is engraved the Holy Name; stretch out thine hand with the side bearing this Holy Name, so that the waters, beholding it, may flee before the power that is in its letters. The other side of the rod will be used for other ends.” Said R. Eleazar: ‘How is it that the rod is termed sometimes “the rod of God” and sometimes “the rod of Moses”?’ R. Simeon replied: ‘In the book of R. Hamnuna the ancient it is rightly remarked that the two names are equivalent, the purpose of the rod in either case being to stir up the powers of Geburah (Might, or Judgement). “Thine hand“ indicates the Left Hand, which is that connected with Geburah. Woe’, R. Simeon continued, ‘unto those who are deaf to the lessons of the Torah, which it proclaims to them every day. Water originates from the side of Geburah and issues thence. Now, therefore, that God desired to dry up the water, why did He bid Moses use his left hand? The answer is that Moses was bidden to “lift up his staff” to dry the waters, and to “stretch forth his hand“ to bring them back on the Egyptians, through the agency of Geburah-the two operations being distinct. What is called here “sea” is later called “deeps” (Ex. xv, 8). This shows that God performed one miracle within another: causing the deeps to congeal in the heart of the sea, so that “the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea“ (xv 8, 19).’

 

The Sword in the Stone

 

By now, I am sure that most of you have made the connection between Moshe’s staff and Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur. In this myth, Arthur becomes king after he removes a sword named Excalibur, from a stone which miraculously held it. Because he was able to do this, Arthur was made king. As king, Arthur redeemed the people of England from all their enemies.

 

The parallels between Moshe’s staff and Excalibur are striking. Moshe removes the staff from Yitro’s (Jethro’s) garden (bed room), where it had been miraculously held. After doing this feat, Moshe is recognized as the redeemer of HaShem‘s people. Moshe eventually becomes like a king over the Jewish people. Instead of using a sword to vanquish his enemies, Moshe uses the staff of God. Instead of a round table with thirteen knights, Moshe has a “round” camp with “thirteentribes.

 

The truth of the parable of Moshe, though, is far more profound and powerful than the myth of King Arthur. There is some hint that most of the myths of the world are mere knockoffs of the truth found in the Midrash.

 

The Staff of Power

 

It appears that the origin of the magic wand, was Moshe’s rod.

 

This rod, in the hand of Moshe, was an instrument of creation. When thrown to the ground, out of Moshe’s hand, it became a serpent of indescribable evil. It became the serpent which tempted Eve in the garden of Eden.[25] These same thoughts are a part of the myth of the magic wand: That which is taken in the hand to do good or evil.

 

The differences between the magic wand and the staff of Moshe are manifest:

 

 

Miracles

 

Shemot (Exodus) 7:23 Behold, I shall strike the waters that are in the River with the staff that is in my hand, and they shall change to blood‘.

 

In the Pesach Haggada, we say that Moshe’s staff performed “otot - אות”, “signs“. Also, we refer to the plagues as “moftim”, “wonders”. What do these terms mean? R’ Yitzchak Isaac Chaver z”l[26] explains:

 

The miracles that HaShem has performed for Israel fall into two categories. The first is called, “otot”, “signs“, which describes miracles intended to foretell or even bring about a future event. For example, in II Kings 13:15-19, the prophet Elisha tells King Yoash to shoot arrows toward the Kingdom of Aram as a sign that Yoash would defeat Aram. When Yoash obeys only partially, the prophet tells him that he will weaken, but not destroy, Aram.

 

Moshe’s staff was a “sign“ because the names of all of the plagues were carved into it, thus foretelling what would occur. Also, the staff was a sign of HaShem‘s desire to fulfill the will of the righteous, because the staff represented a king’s scepter, and its being in Moshe’s hand foretold that HaShem would turn over a certain amount of control over the world to Moshe and Bne Israel, i.e., that the world‘s future would depend on the quality of Bne Israel’s deeds.

 

“Moftim”, on the other hand, are miracles that HaShem performs directly without a “sign“ preceding them and without any participation by the righteous on earth. These are not meant to prove anything, but serve other purposes. The plagues in Egypt, concludes R’ Chaver, were both otot and moftim. They were “signs“ because they were meant to prove a point, namely that HaShem gives control of the world to deserving righteous men, information that would encourage Bne Israel to receive and observe the Torah. They also were moftim, miracles that were designed to punish the Egyptians.[27]

 

Mashiach (Messiah) and the staff

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis LXXXV:9 AND HE SAID: WHAT PLEDGE SHALL I GIVE THEE? AND SHE SAID: THY SIGNET AND THY CORD, AND THY STAFF THAT IS IN THY HAND (XXXVIII, 18). R. Hunia said: A holy spirit was enkindled within her. THY SIGNET alludes to royalty, as in the verse, Though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon My right hand, etc. (Jer. XXII, 24); AND THY CORD (PETHIL - EKA) alludes to the Sanhedrin, as in the verse, And that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread (pethil) of blue, etc. (Num. XV, 38) AND THY STAFF alludes to the royal Messiah, as in the verse, The staff of thy strength the Lord will send out of Zion (Ps. CX, 2). AND HE GAVE THEM TO HER... AND SHE CONCEIVED BY HIM-men mighty like himself and righteous like himself. AND JUDAH SENT THE KID OF THE GOATS (XXXVIII, 20). R. Judah b. Nahman quoted in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: Laughing in His habitable earth, laughing always before him (Prov.VIII, 31, 30). The Torah laughs at men. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Judah: ‘ Thou didst deceive thy father with a kid of goats; by thy life! Tamar will deceive thee with a kid of goats.’

 

In this next passage we see that the staff is meant to bring life:

 

Pesachim 68a R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Jonathan’s name: The righteous are destined to resurrect the dead, for it is said, There shall yet old men and old women sit in the broad places of Jerusalem, every man with his staff in his hand for very age; and it is written, and lay my staff upon the face of the child.[28]

 

The Sforno also associates this staff with life in his commentary on Exodus chapter 3 and 4:

 

מַה-זֶּה בְיָדֶךָ – Here is a staff which is an inert object, and the hand which is something very much alive. I will demonstrate that I can kill that which is alive and bring to life that which is dead. I will make your hand useless and your staff will suddenly come alive.

 

In the Rambam’s work titled, “The Laws Concerning Mashiach“, the Ramban also associates this staff with Mashiach.

 

There is also a reference [to Mashiach] in the passage concerning Bilaam, who prophesies about the two anointed [kings]: the first anointed [king], David, who saved Israel from her oppressors, and the final anointed [king] who will arise from among his descendants and save Israel [at the End of Days]. The following [quoted] phrases are from that passage: [Bamidbar 24:17-18]

 

“I see it, but not now” - This refers to David; “I perceive it, but not in the near future“ - This refers to King Mashiach.

 

“A star shall go forth from Yaaqov “ - This refers to David; “and a staff shall arise in Israel” - This refers to King Mashiach.

 

A concluding thought:

 

Sanhedrin 99b R. Abbahu said: He who causes his neighbour to fulfill a precept is regarded by Scripture as though he had done it himself, for it is written, [The Lord said unto Moshe . . . take . . . ] thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river:[29] did Moshe then smite it? Aaron smote it! But, he who causes his neighbour to fulfill a precept, is regarded by Scripture as though he had done it himself.

 

* * *

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 

 



[1] The mishna in Avot lists the staff as one of ten elements created by HaShem during twilight immediately succeeding the six days of creation. According to the Rambam, this signifies that the miracles themselves which the staff would catalyze were already inserted within the natural order. As they are deviant from the normal system, they had to be “created” during the final twilight of Creation and not during the six days proper. However, as they were still “natural”, they must be rooted in those original six days.

[2] The Shem HaMeforash of Hashem (the 42 letter name of HaShem) and the abbreviations for the 10 plagues carved on it - בְּאַחַ”ב עַדַ”שׁ דְּצַ”ךְ . Also engraved on the staff were the names of the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, as well as the names of the six Matriarchs, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah. Also included were the names of Yaakov’s twelve sons, Reuben, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yissachar, Zevulun, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yosef and Binyamin.

[3] “The Midrash Says – The Book of Shemot”, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman.

[4] This excerpt is taken from “Sefer HaAggada”.

[5] A measure of volume for dry objects and for liquids; cf. Sot. 34a. It probably means: the weight of 40 se’ah of water (v. Glos.). This miraculous staff weighed 40 se’ah, that is 240 okkas (672 pounds). The Turkish oka is a measure of weight, equivalent to 2.8 pounds. According to this, a se’ah is 16.8 pounds. Since one gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds, a se’ah in liquid measure is then approximately 2 gallons.The specific gravity of sapphire is 4, and therefore, if the staff weighed 672 pounds (305kg), it had a volume of 76,000 cubic centimeters, 4638 cubic inches, or 2.68 cubic feet. If it is assumed that the staff was 8 feet long, it would have had an average thickness of seven inches. – The Torah Anthology, Yalkut Meam Loez , Exodus I, volume 4.

[6] Rashi Commentary for: Shemot (Exod.) 17:6 and you shall strike the rock Heb. וְהִכִּיתָ בַצּוּר. It does not say עַל-הַצּוּר, upon the rock, but בַצּוּר, [lit., into the rock]. From here [we deduce] that the staff was of a hard substance called sapphire, and the rock was split by it.-[from Mechilta]

[7] Heb. Amora. The teacher or lecturer whispered his points to the amora, who then amplified them to the congregation.

[8] A measure of volume for dry objects and for liquids; cf. Sot. 34a. It probably means: the weight of forty se’ah of water (v. Glos.).

[9] Contributor: Robert I. Gait, Ph.D., Curator, Department of Mineralogy, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

[10] Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1

[11] Bachya on Exodus 28:18

[12] Bachya loc. cit.

[13] Raavad on Sefer Yetzirah 1:1

[14] R. Moshe Kordevero, d. 1570

[15] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[16] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[17] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[18] Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

[19] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XII:4

[20] Radal: But before Israel. For on his first visit to Pharaoh there is no mention of a miracle at all, whilst the miracle performed on his second visit was not on account of this general command but was specially enjoined (v. Vll, 9): similarly the plague of blood (ib. 16 f.), while there is no mention of leprosy at all as having been performed before Pharaoh.

[21] The letters באח״ב עד״ש דצ״ך which are the initials of the names of the Ten Plagues in Hebrew.

[22] The reference is to Avraham.

[23] The verse begins thus: Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Cf. also Ps. CXXXIX, 7.

[24] Ber. 33a.

[25] Midrash Rabbah - Exodus III:12

[26] 1789-1852; Rabbi of Suvalk, Lithuania

[27] Haggadah Shel Pesach Yad Mitzrayim.

[28] II Kings 4:29. The staff was employed to revive the child (ibid. seq.), and the same purpose is assumed for it in the first verse.

[29] Ex. XVII, 5.