Our Portion of the Week, Tzav, deals with instructions specific to the Priests concerning offerings. The gematriah of the word Tzav is 96. Which equals 5 + 91. Five stands for five fingers, a hand and 91 is the gematriah of Amen, meaning I agree. When it comes to bringing an offer, getting closer to G^d, and prayer, the second hand needs to agree to work in tandem with the first. (Furthermore, Amen is the acronym of Keil Melech Ne’eman, G^d is our faithful King. Offers need to be dedicated to Him.)
But we use one hand when we give directions to someone, mean to tell people what to do, try to educate them.
One and Two
This distinction is everywhere in the Torah. I find that most important in the ‘sacrificing of Isaac.’ Abraham stretches out his hand to get to the knife (Genesis 22:10). He’s going slow to let G^d interfere. He knows that he would not kill his son. He just told him: G^d will provide the sacrifice (Genesis 22:8). He was making G^d hurry. The Torah mentions one hand (Genesis 22:12). This is not to deny that to slaughter may always be with one hand but here it specifically mentions it. So, this episode is for education and to say what he wants, not for elevation. But, when the ram appeared, he took it by both horns (Genesis 22:13). How can this be done? Only by both hands. That was an offering, to bring us closer to G^d.
When Moses wanted to lower the Plague of Darkness over Egypt (Exodus 10:22), he lifted his hand — singular. But when he prayed to G^d to remove the Plague of Hail (Exodus 9:33), he threw up both hands.
When we needed G^d’s help to succeed in battle, Moses first lifted one arm (Exodus 17:11) to teach the Children of Israel from where our strength comes. And then, he raised both hands, in prayer (Exodus 17:12).
When Eliezer wanted to commit to his task, he put one hand on Abraham’s loins (Genesis 24:9). But when he put bracelets on her arms (Genesis 24:22, 24:30, 24:47), he consecrated her. These were not free gifts and it was more than asking her to follow him — otherwise, it would have only mentioned one arm. She was still asked to agree (Genesis 24:58), though.
The procedure of the suspected wayward wife is to elevate the couple to unity. So it mentions that she’s holding with both hands the offering. But the Priest is holding the bitter waters in one hand (Numbers 5:18) because he is there to educate her (Numbers 5:19-22). He will take the offering from her hand (Numbers 5:25) — singular — she has now been informed.
Two — Elevating and Getting Closer
So, with consecrating animal sacrifices, both hands would lean on their heads (Leviticus 1:4, 8:14, 8:22, 16:21).
Moses took the Stone Tables with two hands (Exodus 32:15, Deuteronomy 9:17) to elevate us. When he saw the scene around the Golden Calf, he threw them down with both hands (Exodus 32:19, Deuteronomy 9:17) because it did not appear to be the time — apparently not to educate us.
But the hands are Esau’s hands (Genesis 27:22-27:23). They’re not just dissimilar in will or ability from Jacob but on a totally different moral level.
When Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:13-14, 17-18), he uses both hands at the same time. The Priests use two hands when the bless the congregants (Leviticus 9:22). When parents bless their children, they sometimes have the custom to use one hand when they’re not Cohen out of modesty, but the principle stays that the ideal way is with two hands. This is for elevating the blessed, not for telling them what to do.
When Isaac and Jacob dug wells, they must have used both hands. This was not to educate or force their will but to elevate the Land to be fit for habitation.
One — Telling You What to Do
We should not have a chance to stretch out our hand to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22). You can want it but I’m letting you get it.
When G^d took us out of Egypt, He did that with a strong hand (Exodus 13:16, 15:6), directing us. The phylacteries on our hand are to teach (remind) us of that (Exodus 13:16). Making us holy would come later, at Mount Sinai.
When G^d wanted to educate Moses, He shows it at his hand (Exodus 4:2-7).
The Angels took Lot inside with their hand (Genesis 19:10). When the Angels left Sodom to rescue Lot, his wife and two daughters, they took each by the hand (Genesis 19:16).
And when Joseph escaped his master’s wife, she showed his garment in her hand (Genesis 29:12-13).