With Great Wealth

דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃

Please tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver utensils and gold utensils.

– Hashem to Moshe, Shemos 11:2

This verse raises a compelling question. Here we are, at the end of some 210 years of slavery. So now Hashem has the Jews leave wealthy. For what? Is anyone really going to say, “Oh, it’s all better now. The suffering, the whipping, the murdered children… I got mine. I’m okay.”?

In the past I offered a Mussar message using a “chassidishe Torah” style:

Chazal say that Hashem said “na” (please) because He “needed a favor” (so to speak) in order to fulfill His promise. Avraham, the master of lovingkindness, would hear Hashem’s promise of “great wealth” and expect Him to lead his children to kindness. So read the verse, “say ‘please’ into the ears of the nation”, teach them to say please. The wealth was that Moshe put the word “na” in the ears of the people — teaching them to say “please”, even in this situation.

My second thought was based on the Netziv on the word  “re’ehu — his friend”. How did a Jew have friends among his Egyptian oppressors. And back in ch. 3, Hashem says it will be mishekeino — from his neighbor”, what changed in between? The Netziv suggests that during Makas Choshekh “Yisrael, who were a light in their homes, put out (hoshitu) before them food and everything they needed. And through this, Yisrael obtained a great grace in their eyes.” So theory 2: what’s the “great wealth”? The generosity to help someone in need.

But I had a third thought this morning, one based on this paragraph by Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher (translation Widen Your Tent, pg 301, 316):

ותחלת קבלת התורה על ידי משה רבינו ע״ה היתה דמות ואות לכל בני ישראל מקבלי התורה, שכמו שאמר הקב״ה למשה רבינו ע״ה ״פסל לך שני לוחות אבנים״, כל כך הוא רמז לכל מקבלי התורה, שיכין כל איש ישראל לוחות לעצמו, לכתוב עליהם דבר ה׳, וכפי הכשרתו בהכנת הלוחות, כן תהיה קבלתו, מתחילה וכן גם אחרי זה אם יתקלקלו אצלו הלוחות, אז לא תתקיים התורה,

ולדעתי יש להמתיק בזה מה שדרשו חז״ל בנדרים (דף ל״ח ע״א) על הכתוב ״פסל לך״, ״לא העשיר משה אלא מפסולתן של לוחות״, והוא ענין נפלא שלא מצא הקב״ה סבה אחרת להעשיר את משה רק על ידי פסולת של הלוחות, ועל פי האמור, יש לפרש ענין זה,

שעל פי השתנות הכנת הלוחות, ניתן מקום למקבלי תורה לפחוד, לקבל עליהם עול תורה, …

ולענין זה הראה הקב״ה שיהיה משה רבינו ע״ה לאות לכל מקבלי התורה שיזמין ה׳ להם פרנסתם בתוך עשית הלוחות איזה פסולת שעל ידי זה יתפרנסו.

The beginning of the Receiving of the Torah through Moshe was a symbol and sign for all of the Jewish people who receive the Torah [since], for just as Hashem told Moshe, “Carve for yourself two stone tablets,” so too it is advice for all who receive the Torah. Each must prepare Tablets for himself, to write upon them the word of Hashem. According to his readiness in preparing the Tablets, so will be his ability to receive. If in the beginning or even any time after that his Tablets are ruined, then his Torah will
not remain.

To my mind, one can use this idea to elaborate what our Sages explained in Nedarim (38a) [commenting] on the verse, “Carve out for yourself.” Moshe only became wealthy through the extra pieces of the Luchos. This is an amazing idea—[is it possible that] Hashem couldn’t find any way to make Moshe wealthy except through the extras of the Tablets? But through what we said, we can explain this.

Because of this change in how Tablets were prepared, it provided opportunity for those who receive the Torah to fear, to accept upon themselves the yoke of Torah. …

For this reason, the Holy One showed Moshe as a sign to all who accept the Torah that He would prepare their income for them through the making of the Tablets; any “extras that are carved away” will provide them with income.

Rav Shimon’s question about the disconnect between the grandeur of the luchos and the mondanity of Moshe needing an income may be akin to our question.

Rav Shimon says that income and Torah should go hand-in-hand. The point of earning money is that the process of earning money is really more about the character refinement, the yir’as shamayim, it elicits from us. That yir’ah gives us a “surface” upon which to write the Torah we learn.

The Jews went through far more process to get this money. They were through a crucible that refined them into Hashem’s nation.

The rechush gadol of yetzias Mitzrayim is that synthesis — the process of exile brought the middos necessary to use the money constructively as well as the Torah necessary to know what “constructively” even means.


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