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Parshat Bo


"Daber-na be'ozney ha'am, veyish'alu ish me'et re'ehu ve'ishah me'et re'utah kley-chesef ucheley-zahav." Before they leave Mitzrayim, Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael to each "request of his fellow, and each woman from her fellow, silver vessels and gold vessels" (Shmot 11:2). Hashem had promised Avraham in the Brit Bein Ha-betarim that after all the years of slavery, Bnei Yisrael would leave bi-rchush gadol (with great wealth). If so, why did Bnei Yisrael need to ask – why didn't Hashem give Bnei Yisael the r’chush freely? Surely, it would have been simple to impose another plague of darkness, during which Bnei Yisrael could then run into the houses and take whatever they desired. Why ask?

The Rashash proposes a phenomenal answer to this question: He explains that, had Bnei Yisrael gotten the r’chush through a miracle, it is true that they would now be wealthy, but they would not have gotten back their self-esteem. Being slaves for 400 years had eroded their self-respect. Before Hashem took them out of Mitzrayim, therefore, He wanted them to regain it. It was therefore crucial that the possessions come directly from their masters, who oppressed and tortured them.

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald adds that Bnei Yisrael’s asking for the r’chush from the Egyptians is to be looked at as a therapeutic exercise. By forcing Bnei Yisrael to boldly confront their former taskmasters, Hashem was hoping to rid the people of their "slave mentality." Building up the courage to request the r’chush from their masters, the former slaves are gaining back the self-esteem that they lost over the years.

It wasn’t enough to leave as a rich people; they needed to also be a people with pride. Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu commanded that we ask the Egyptians for payment face to face, for with the payment, we received also our dignity.




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