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The Great Exodus and the jewelry


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Sivan 11, 5773
Dear Rabbi, I have often wondered if Pharoah’s palace and all the taskmasters and leader’s homes were plundered or if these key individuals gave of their substance as well based on the following two scriptures: Exodus 12:35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36 And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians. Looking forward to hearing your response!
Shalom. The scripture doesn’t differentiate, so apparently many leaders also gave their jewelry willingly like the rest of the Egyptians. In fact, Shmot 11, 2-3, infers that just as the Egyptians willingly gave to the Israelis, those close to Pharaoh did so, as well. The commentary Meshech Chochma (on Breishit 47, 23) stresses that Pharaoh enslaved the Israelis for 210 years without salary, so it’s logical that they did ask Pharaoh as well for gold etc. for at least partial payment for so many years of forced labor. He points out that during the famine in Joseph’s time, the Egyptians sold all of their possessions and land to Pharaoh (Breishit, ibid), so even the property which the Israeli’s requested (and received) from the Egyptians, actually belonged to Pharaoh, and was just payment. In addition, as usual, it’s always important not to learn through translations, for in the original Hebrew, v. 35 reads that the Israelis “asked (not necessarily “borrowed”, although that could fit into v. 36) of the Egyptians…”. Also, in v. 36, neither (!) of the two possible Hebrew words for spoil or plundering (“biza” or “shallal”, see Esther 9, 15 and Shmot 15, 9) are mentioned, so the last phrase you mentioned from the end of v. 36 is also a clearly inaccurate translation. You should definitely invest the time and effort necessary to learn Hebrew, and that way you can learn the Book of Books more accurately and with intellectual honesty in the age-old original words of God Himself, and not through the opinionated words of one particular human translator who inevitably makes mistakes. How much more so, not through a translation of another religion who has an “agenda” of its own and often purposely twist words. With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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