Parsha Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)
In this week’s parsha we have the finale of the ten plagues. Pharaoh at long last breaks under the weight of all the first-born in Egypt dying. He reluctantly allows the Jews to leave his country. Before they leave the Israelites are instructed several times to be sure to “borrow” jewelry from their Egyptian neighbors (and former taskmasters).
“Please speak to the ears of the People that they should borrow, each man from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor, artifacts of silver and of gold.”
Please speak – RASHI: The word “na” (in Hebrew) can only mean [here] “please.” [God is saying] I beseech you [Moses], please instruct them about this (i.e. that the Israelites should take the silver and gold vessels of the Egyptians), so that the righteous man, Abraham, should not say “He fulfilled [the promise] ‘and they will enslave and afflict them’ but [the promise] ‘and afterwards they will go free with great wealth’ He did not fulfill.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Let us begin this analysis by first understanding what Rashi is saying.
First, he says that the word “na” in our verse means “please.” He certainly doesn’t mean that this is what the word always means. We know that the word “na” can also mean “now,” as when Avram speaks with Sarai, his wife, and says, “Behold, now (“na”) I know that you are a beautiful woman.” (Genesis 12:11) The word can also mean “uncooked” as, “Don’t eat from [the Pascal offering] (“na”)uncooked.” (Exodus 12:9). So Rashi is telling us that in this verse the word means “please.”
He then explains why God was beseeching (“please”) Moses to tell the Israelites to take the silver and golden vessels from the Egyptians. The reason: So that Abraham won’t have a complaint against God.
Now, we’re ready for your questions on this Rashi-comment. What would you ask here?
A Question: Why does Rashi offer this remote drash (taken from the Talmud Brochos 9a)? What is wrong with the simple meaning of the verse i.e. God is asking Moses to tell the Israelites to take the silver and gold from their Egyptian masters before they depart Egypt?
Hint: Are the words in the dibbur hamatchil appropriate in our context?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: God is pleading (“please”) with Moses to tell the people to take “reparations” from the Egyptians, their valuables. The problem is, why the need to say ‘please,’ as if God were asking them to do Him a favor? Taking the precious vessels should be all too readily appreciated by Moses and by the freed slaves. The poetic justice of despoiling the Egyptians after the all the years that the Egyptians had despoiled them – physically, monetarily and morally – would certainly cause the Israelites to fulfill this mitzvah without any prompting. Why then the need for the term “please”?
How does Rashi’s drash deal with this problem?
An Answer: Rashi tells us that this was a special request from God, Who wanted the freed slaves to take the gold and silver so that Abraham would not accuse Him of not keeping His word completely.
Does that make sense to you? It shouldn’t! What would you ask on this midrash which Rashi quotes?
QUESTIONING THE DRASH
A Question: If God promised Abraham that his offspring would leave Egypt with great wealth, why is God concerned that his promise be fulfilled only “so that the righteous man, Abraham, won’t complain”? If God promised Abraham, then He should keep his promise whether Abraham would complain or not. Is God concerned with Abraham’s opinion more than He is with His moral obligation to keep His word?
Do you have an answer? Think! The answer depends on common sense.
Hint: The source of this drash, as we pointed out above, is in the Talmud, Tractate Brachos page 9a. If you look it up, you will see the continuation of the drash. This should answer the question.
What does it say there?
UNDERSTANDING THE DRASH
Answer: The drash continues (after the part quoted by Rashi):
“They (the Israelites) said to him (Moses, after he told them to take the vessels): ‘Oh! That we ourselves should get out of here!’ This is similar to a man who was in jail and they said to him ‘we will free you tomorrow and then you will receive a lot of money.’ He answered them ‘I beg you, free me now and I’ll gladly forgo the money.’ ”
In light of the completed midrash can you now answer the question?
The Answer: The parable of the man in jail makes it abundantly clear that the Israelite slaves wanted to get out of Egypt as soon and as sure as possible. They would have gladly forfeited the “great wealth” promised Abraham, just to get their freedom NOW.
In that case, it was not a question of God keeping His promise or not, since the beneficiaries of that wealth would have willingly forfeited it, just to escape as soon as possible from their imprisonment in the Land of Bondage. Had God allowed them to leave without the wealth, they would have been grateful and would not have complained. This would not be interpreted as God reneging on His promise.
However, since God wanted to be faithful to Abraham and to the promise He made to him, He therefore beseeched (“please”) Moses to convince the people to take the time and effort to take the wealth from the Egyptians so “that the righteous one, Abraham” would have no complaints to God.