Shemot, Siman 23 שמות, כ״ג
1 א

וַיִּקַח מֹשֶׁה אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת בָּנָיו וַיַּרְכִּבֵם עַל הַחֲמֹר. כְּאָדָם שֶׁאוֹמֵר, יָצְאוּ הַבֶּהָמִין. וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת מַטֵּה הָאֱלֹהִים. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: טֹל מַטֶּה זֶה בְּיָדְךָ וְכָל נִסִּים שֶׁאַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה בּוֹ. הִכָּה בּוֹ אֶת הַיְאוֹר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וּמַטְּךָ אֲשֶׁר הִכִּיתָ בּוֹ אֶת הַיְאוֹר. פְּעָמִים שֶׁהוּא קוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ מַטֵּה הָאֱלֹהִים, וּפְעָמִים שֶׁהוּא קוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ וּמַטְּךָ.

And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass (Exod. 4:20). The singular form ass is employed here, as when a man says: “Lead out the animal” (though he may have many). And Moses took the rod of God in his hand (ibid.). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Take this rod in your hand, for with it you will be able to perform any miracle you desire. He struck the Nile with it, as it is said: And thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand (Exod. 17:5). Sometimes Scripture calls it the rod of the Lord and at other times thy rod.

2 ב

וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה בְּלֶכְתְּךָ, הֶרְאָה לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת כָּל הַנִסִּים וְאֶת הָאוֹתוֹת וְהַמּוֹפְתִים. אָמַר לוֹ: מַזֶּה בְיָדֶךָ. אָמַר לוֹ: מַטֶּה. אָמַר לוֹ: הַשְׁלִיכֵנוּ אַרְצָה, וַיְהִי לְנָחָשׁ. לָמָּה נָחָשׁ וְלֹא דָּבָר אַחֵר? אֶלָּא אָמַר לוֹ: כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַנָּחָשׁ נוֹשֵׁךְ וּמֵמִית, כָּךְ מִצְרַיִם נוֹשְׁכִין וּמְמִיתִין אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְאַחַר כָּךְ נַעֲשָׂה כָּעֵץ, כָּךְ יִהְיוּ הַמִּצְרִים לְעֵץ יָבֵשׁ. אָמַר לוֹ: הָבֵא נָא יָדְךָ בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וְהִנֵּה יָדוֹ מְצֹרַעַת. מַה הַצָּרַעַת דָּבָר טָמֵא, כָּךְ הַמִּצְרִים טְמֵאִין וּמְטַמְּאִין אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל. וַיָּשֶׁב יָדוֹ אֶל חֵיקוֹ וְהִנֵּה שָׁבָה כִּבְשָׂרוֹ, כָּךְ אֲנִי מְטַהֵר אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִטֻּמְאַת מִצְרַיִם. וְלָקַחְתִּי מִמֵּימֵי הַיְאֹר וְהָיוּ לְדָם, כָּךְ אֲנִי מַכֶּה מִצְרַיִם בְּמַכַּת דָם.

And the Lord said unto Moses: When thou goest (ibid. 4:21). The Holy One, blessed be He, revealed all the miracles to him, all the signs and wonders it would perform. He asked him: What is in your hand? (ibid. 2). A rod (ibid.), he replied. Cast it to the ground (ibid., v. 3), said the Holy One, blessed be He, and it will become a snake. Why a snake and not something else? Moses asked. He replied: Just as a snake bites and destroys, so the Egyptians bite and destroy the Israelites. After that He turned it into a tree, for the Egyptians were to become like a withered tree. Now, place thy hand into thy bosom (ibid., v. 6), He told him. When he withdrew it, his hand was leprous, for just as leprosy is impure, so the Egyptians were impure and were making the Israelites impure. When he replaced his hand in his bosom the flesh returned to normal. Thus shall I cleanse the Israelites from the impurities of Egypt. said the Holy One. Even as when you smote the water of the river and it turned into blood, so shall I afflict the Egyptians with the plague of blood.

3 ג

דָּבָר אַחֵר, אָמַר מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: וְהֵן לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי. אָמַר לוֹ: מַזֶּה בְיָדֶךָ. מִזֶּה כְּתִיב, שֶׁמִּזֶּה שֶׁבְּיָדְךָ אַתָּה צָרִיךְ לִלְקוֹת, שֶׁאַתָּה מוֹצִיא לָשׁוֹן הָרָע עַל בָּנַי. כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַנָּחָשׁ הוֹצִיא לָשׁוֹן הָרָע וְאָמַר: כִּי יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים וְגוֹ' (בראשית ג, ה). וּבָנַי מִיָּד מַאֲמִינִים, שֶׁהֵם מַאֲמִינִים בְּנֵי מַאֲמִינִים. מַאֲמִינִים, דִּכְתִיב: וַיַּאֲמֵן הָעָם. בְּנֵי מַאֲמִינִים, דִּכְתִיב: וְהֶאֱמִין בַּה' (בראשית טו, ו) וּמַה הַנָּחָשׁ הִלְקֵיתִי אוֹתוֹ בַּצָּרַעַת, אַף אַתָּה הָבֵא נָא יָדְךָ בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וַיָּבֵא יָדוֹ בְּחֵיקוֹ, וְהִנֵּה יָדוֹ מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג. וְהָיָה אִם לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ וְלָקַחְתָּ מִמֵּימֵי הַיְאֹר וְהָיוּ לְדָם. רָמַז לוֹ רֶמֶז, שֶׁעָתִיד לִטֹּל אֶת דִּינוֹ בַּמַּיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: הֲמִן הַסֶּלַע הַזֶּה (במדבר כ, י).

Another comment on this matter. Moses said to the Holy One, blessed be He: But perhaps they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice (Exod. 4:1). And He said: What is that in thy hand? (ibid., v. 2). The word is written as mazeh (“what is this?”), but it may be read as mi-zeh (“with this”): “With this that is in your hand you will be punished,31Indicating that he would be punished for striking the rock with the rod (see Num. 20:7–13). for you have spoken slanderously against My children, just as the serpent spoke slanderously.” And He said: For God doth know (Gen. 3:5) that My son’s children are believers, and the descendants of believers. They are believers, because it is written: And the people believed (Exod. 4:31), and the descendants of believers, because it is written: And he believed in the Lord (Gen. 15:6). Just as I smote the snake with leprosy, so you shall be smitten by it, place your hand in your bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and behold, when he withdrew it, it was leprous and as white as snow (Exod. 4:6). And if it shall come to pass that they do not believe you (ibid., v. , 8), then you shall smite the waters of the Nile and they shall turn into blood. This was also a sign to him that he would be judged in the future because of water, as it is said: Out of the rock, etc. (Gen. 20:8).