Does G-d Have Hands?
On the walls of our Sanctuary, there are the first Hebrew words of the Torah (on the right), about G-d’s creation of the world, and the last Hebrew words (on the left), the last verse from Deuteronomy, that speaks of G-d’s power and miracles. The Torah expresses the idea of G-d’s awesome power with the idiom הַיּדָ הַגְּ ֹ דלָה hayyad hagedolah, the great hand). But what does this mean? Does this mean that G-d has hands?
The “Great Hand” denotes the great
power which G-d had exercised. There
are many meanings that are appropriate
to the expression יָד (yad, hand) but all
of them really signify the actual hand.
Translating a word does not always yield an accurate
meaning, as anybody who has used a translation app
knows. The Bible often describes G-d as having “body
parts”. In terms of literal translation, G-d has a heart,
hands, arms, eyes, ears, a brain, etc. But in terms of
actual meaning, every single one of these is meant to be
understood metaphorically as symbols of G-d’s power,
justice, wisdom, compassion, etc.
Why do our scriptures speak with idioms that could lead
us to believe that G-d is a corporeal being, a heretical
idea that is unacceptable for all Jewish people, no matter
their theology or community? The answer is, as numerous
Sages have argued throughout the ages, “The Torah speaks
the language of humans.” The Torah speaks idiomatically
because that is how we humans speak.
Now maybe you’re asking yourself, “So what difference
does it make if the Torah speaks idiomatically or not?” In
my opinion, the Torah’s idiomatic language is important
because once we have decided to accept the Torah’s
meaning rather than its translation, we have already
cast aside the notion of scriptural literalism, a scourge
upon the Earth that appears in some religions. People
who say, “I believe in the literal word of scripture” do
damage to the faith they claim to love.
Then it came to me: We are G-d’s hands. Can you suggest
how we can be G-d’s hands? I can. When we are kind,
when we help others, we are doing G-d’s work in our