YAD (Heb. יָד). The word yad, in addition to its primary meaning of "hand," has three secondary meanings in Hebrew.
(1) The pointer used by the reader to indicate the place during the reading of the Torah (see *Torah Ornaments). The yad, however, of which there are many artistic designs, is more than an ornament. In order to ensure that the scroll would not be touched by the bare hands because of its sanctity, the rabbis enacted that hands which touch the scroll (see *Sefer Torah) become unclean in the second degree (Yad. 3:2 and 4:6, where Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai answers the satirical question of the Sadducees about this apparently paradoxical law that the holiest of articles should render unclean). Although the laws of ritual cleanness no longer apply, the Talmud states "He who holds a Sefer Torah naked will be buried naked" (Shab. 14a), and as a result the yad was introduced.
(2) A memorial or a monument (cf. Isaiah 56:5). In II Sam. 18:18 it is stated, "Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the king's valley… and he called the pillar after his own name and it is called the Yad of *Absalom unto this day." On this basis the word is used in modern Hebrew for memorial. It is, however, largely applied to a memorial institution rather than to a monument. Thus the institution set up in Jerusalem to commemorate the victims of the Nazi Holocaust is called *Yad Vashem, the memorials for fallen soldiers Yad la-Banim, and for individuals, Yad Ben-Zvi, Yad ha-Rav Herzog, and so on.
(3) The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides is most commonly referred to as the Yad, the first word of the phrase "yad ha-ḥazakah" (the "mighty hand" – cf. Deut. 34:12). Maimonides did not give this name to the work. It refers to the fact that it contains 14 books, the numerical equivalent of yad being 14.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.