Parshas Bo 2019: True Wealth
The final three makos (plagues) were brought on the Mitzriyim (Egyptians) and finally the Jewish people were set free from bondage.
After the last and most persuasive “plague of the firstborn,” Pharaoh, a first born himself, gave in to Moshe and his brother Aharon. He told them to take the Bnei Yisroel and leave. The people left with haste, so much so that their dough didn't even have time to rise. Six hundred thousand men began the journey and they brought with them their wives and children. Their departure included a massive sum of gold and silver which the Egyptians had given the Bnei Yisroel on their way out.
If you recall, Hashem promised Avraham Avinu (Abraham) that his children would suffer greatly as slaves in foreign land (Egypt). Hashem also promised Avraham that they would “go forth with great abundance of wealth”. Our Sages explain that Hashem was promising Avraham his children would be leaving with the “unearthly” wealth of the Torah they’d receive at Har Sinai (Mount Sinai). If this is so, why then were the B’nai Yisroel commanded to ask the Egyptians for their physical wealth of money and jewels before leaving?
The Maggid of Dubno provides an answer to this problem with a mashal (parable):
A young boy hired himself out to a wealthy merchant for six years at the end of which, he was to receive a bag of silver coins. When the six years came to a close it occured to the merchant that the boy was deserving of far more than just a small bag of silver coins, so he wrote him a check for the value of the silver and then some. When the young boy got the check, he was disappointed and stuffed it into his pocket. He was promised a bag of silver coins and now he felt cheated. The following day the young boy’s father came to speak to the merchant and thanked him for being so kind and generous with his son. He then reasoned with him, that his son doesn’t yet understand the value of a check and his sights were set on a bag of silver coins but after all was done he only received a piece of paper. “I would be most grateful if you could at least give him some of his wages in silver” the father said.
Similarly, after Hashem's promise, Avraham countered that (while no material wealth could compare to the Torah) his descendants would be far to “young” and inexperienced to comprehend the full value of the Torah.
If the Jews were to emerge from slavery empty handed they would certainly recognize that Hashem fulfilled His promise but they would have felt cheated out of wealth with “just the Torah”. To prevent this Hashem had the Jews collect Egypt’s wealth on their way out. This way they could have something small to appreciate in the meantime until they received their full wealth (the Torah) and could understand its magnanimity.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Jews nowadays are either non-observant or assimilated so comprehending the true value of the Torah, (this amazing gift and opportunity) is extremely difficult. Just like the young boy without proper maturity to understand the value of a big check we too, sometimes need further knowledge and understanding of how great our gift truly is. Every Jew has the responsibility to himself and his creator to learn the Torah and live by it. If you have not yet been privileged to study from the Torah with a well educated individual (a.k.a. a rabbi)… it’s never too late!
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters