These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on January 27, 2012 by Barer

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In this week’s parsha, the story of the ten plagues ends, and Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) finally leave Egypt.  One source of potential moral consternation is the collecting of all sorts of goods on the part of the Israelites from their (former) Egyptian slave-masters.  Hashem gives the instructions for the fulfillment of a promise made to Avraham in 11:2, and one word stood out for many commentators (I owe this d’var to Neima Novestky via the Pardes Podcast) – the word “please” when Hashem says “Please speak in the ears of the nation, and they will ask/borrow from their fellows…”  The question is clear: why would Hashem have to say “please” to ensure that Bnei Yisrael amass such wealth for themselves before leaving Egypt – “please” implies that they might not otherwise be interested!  Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch offers a fascinating response.  We have, at this point, just finished reading about the plague of darkness, where the texts says that for three whole days there was absolute darkness for the Egyptians, while there was light for the Israelites.  The darkness was so thick that the Egyptians could not get out of their houses.  Here, says R’ Hirsch, was the perfect opportunity for the Israelites to do whatever they wishes to their slave-masters of many generations, and yet we read of no incidents.  Clearly, if there was a time to take advantage of the Egyptians, it was during the plague of darkness.  So Hashem feels the need to request of the Israelites to borrow/ask for goods to take from the Egyptians, after they showed such moral restraint during the last plague.

Slaves for year; darkness

Gives the perfect chance to act

Yet, their hands are stayed