In the Torah portion of Shmos, we read how Moshe beheld two of his brethren arguing. He said to one of them: “Evil person! Why would you smite your brother?”1

As the verse states “why would you smite” rather than “why have you smitten,” our Sages deduce2 that “If one but raises his hand against his neighbor, even if he does not actually hit him, he is still considered ‘evil.’ ”

When one raises a hand against another, he is doing more than threatening to inflict pain; he is acting in an evil and ugly manner. Thus, the very act of lifting one’s hand is intrinsically wrong, and a person who does so is considered “evil.”

On a deeper level, the reason such behavior is considered evil is as follows: Man was created to “serve his Maker,”3 by performing Torah and mitzvos with each of his limbs and organs; the hand, for example denotes giving. In fact, we can say that the hand’s ultimate purpose is to give unstintingly.

When one raises a hand against another, however, he is using that limb in the most demeaning manner, thereby sinning against G‑d as well as against man. For instead of using his hand for kindness, he is using it for cruelty.

Moreover, since most of the commandments involve action, the hands are thus what performs most of the mitzvos. When a person uses his hands in an antithetical manner, he is thereby contradicting the purpose of his creation — that is, “to serve his Maker.”

With regard to G‑d, the sin begins as soon as the hand is lifted against a fellow, for in so lifting, the hand is being used for something that is completely contrary to the purpose of its creation.

Since Torah preceded the world,4 and in this state sin does not exist, we must say that in every Torah matter there is also an inner dimension that is entirely good. So too, lifting one’s hand against one’s fellow can be explained in a wholly laudatory manner:

There are actually several explanations: When a person “raises his hand” in order to cut another person as part of a life-saving operation, for example, then the act is all for the good.

Moreover, in light of the earlier explanation that the evil involved in raising one’s hand is the use of the hand in a manner at odds with the reason for which it was created, we may say that the same can occur in a positive sense. This means that a person can use his hand for doing goodness in an unnatural manner; his level of giving going far beyond his natural inclinations.

By doing so, he is “raising” his hand, as it were, to a more elevated spiritual level, so that he now gives his friend even more than necessary.

Thus we find5 that there are two ways of providing for another’s needs: “Providing the person with that which he is lacking,” and “Making the other person wealthy.”

Herein lies the practical lesson in our own lives: Aside from the clear instruction that we are to distance ourselves from any semblance of violence against our neighbors, there is also a lesson to be learned with regard to the raising of one’s hand in a positive manner:

We are to see to the needs of our neighbors and perform for them acts of kindness and goodness in a way that exceeds our natural inclination. Furthermore, we are to do so to such an extent that we raise and elevate our hands — and our very beings — to a level that surpasses all limitations.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXI, pp. 1-7.