Wednesday, April 04, 2012
The phrases which take up two words each match up to two plagues, and the individual words written in plural form refer to the minimum number of plagues, namely two. This is simply mechanical and mathematical.
I am tempted to try match up each pair of plagues to the specific source word or phrase. The idea would be something like: zeroa netuya should match up to where Moshe / Aharon is commanded to stretch out his hand with the staff. But there are more than just two.
The enumeration of the makos in full is just good sipur yetzias mitzrayim. If we are going to mention the 10 makos, then we should list each individually. Alternatively, it is a good transition to what follows from Rabbi Yehuda -- the simanim.
Which brings us to:
What is the reason for bringing these simanim?
It might be as a mnemonic. Just as Arami Oved Avi is a shorthand to be expanded, so is detzach adam ba'achav. Or, it can function as a mnemonic not related specifically to the mitzvah of sippur yetzias mizrayim. Rabbi Yehuda actually created simanim for other things as well. Thus, in maseches Menachos we see: רבי יהודה אומר: שלא תטעה, זד"ד יה"ז. And I recall from R' Reuven Margolias a nice explanation in which a cryptic statement by Rabbi Yehuda about יין נסך, which confounded everyone until that point, was wonderfully set right once we realize that יין נסך was an acronym for six items to which the particular law applied.
In the Sifrei, there was a skip of analysis of several pesukim, all the way from ויהי שם לגיו, and no explicit analysis of the present pasuk of ביד חזקה. But right before analyzing ויביאנו, it cites the solitary statement of Rabbi Yehuda. But it says בהם in בהם סימנים, which strongly implies a context.
One final suggestion. We can say that ובאותות refers to the ten plagues, because each of them is designated by an אות, a letter, in Rabbi Yehuda's mnemonic. And a midrash indeed casts Rabbi Yehuda's mnemonic into the Biblical narrative. These letters were engraved on Moshe's staff, which he pulled from the ground from Yisro's backyard. And thus we can still say that ובאותות refers to the mateh, even as it refers to the letters of the plagues.
We should not look for a deeper meaning in the mnemonic.