The beginning of Parshat Beshalach characterizes Yetzi’at Mitzrayim with the term “BeYad Ramah,” “with an upraised hand.” (Shemot 14:8) A similar is phrased is used when, after testing Hashem several times in the Midbar, B’nei Yisrael were attacked by Amalek. During the battle, Moshe went atop a hill, and “VeHaya Ka’asher Yarim Moshe Yado VeGavar Yisrael VeCha’asher Yani’ach Yado VeGavar Amalek,” “Then, whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; but whenever he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.” (ibid. 17:11) What does Yad Ramah symbolize, and how are these two instances related?
Many commentators relate the Yad Ramah of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim to confidence. Rashi (14:8 s.v. BeYad Ramah) explains that this usage of the phrase implies publicity and great strength. He also cites a statement of the Mechilta DeRabi Yishmael (14:8), which teaches that B’nei Yisrael were praising and extolling He to whom war belongs through songs. Combining these explanations formulates this Yad Ramah as an expression of faith, and recognition that Hashem will keep one safe.
With regards to the war with Amalek, most Rishonim contend that Moshe was raising his hands skyward in prayer. Rashi (17:11 s.v. VeHaya Ka’Asher Yarim Moshe Yado) cites a Gemara (Rosh Hashana 29a) that states: “Did Moshe’s hands really win the war? Rather, whenever Yisrael looked upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven they prevailed, and if not, they fell.” Likewise, Rashi (17:12 s.v. VaYehi Yadav Emunah) explained that Moshe’s hands were “faithfully” spread in prayer (while most others translate it, “steadfastly” raised). The message is consistent with the rest of the Parashah: Trust in Hashem, and He will protect and provide for you (as He did with the Manna and water at Marah); failing to do so causes your downfall. Indeed, Rashi commented that Hashem was testing B’nei Yisrael after they doubted “whether Hashem [was] among [them]” (17:7) at Massah UMerivah, and Moshe noted their lack of Yir’at Shamayim leading up to the war (Devarim 25:18).
As he often does, Ramban introduces a revolutionary nuance. He cites Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer (Chapter 44), which states that the warriors would imitate Moshe’s prayer: When he bowed, prostrated, or spread his hands, they would do the same, and when he would say something, they repeated it, “in the manner of a Shaliach tzibur.” Hashem challenged B’nei Yisrael to emulate Moshe, to implement the same Yad Ramah of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim. Throughout this Parashah, they fell short of Moshe; during the war with Amalek, they were charged to be steadfast in their service of and belief in Hashem, like Moshe and his hands. B’nei Yisrael reached a very high spiritual level, one close to Moshe’s, during Yetzi’at Mitzrayim, and they needed to return to that spiritual plateau, to a Yad Ramah, for Ma’amad Har Sinai, the next leg of their journey.
If you establish this Yad Ramah, emulate Moshe, and recognize and trust He to whom war belongs, then you will merit, “And Joshua weakened Amalek and his nation by the edge of a sword” (Shemot 17:13)—Hashem will defend you and provide for you, and He will rescue you from Mitzrayim and bring you to Har Sinai. May we all trust Hashem, and may He redeem us from our current exile, soon and in our days, Amen.