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Take The Money, Please!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 3 5776
"Speak to the nation – please! – to request that they ask the Egyptians for silver & gold." (11:2)

When Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, they took with them various "pitzuim," articles of severance. These included significant amounts of valuables, such as gold & silver. But Hashem uses the word "Na-please," which seems out of place: Was it really necessary to persuade the Jews to
take gold & silver?! Were they not happy to collect it?

Rashi quotes a Midrash that G-d was concerned that His earlier promise to Avraham, "They will leave with great wealth," (BR: 15:13), should be fulfilled no less than the promise of their enslavement. Yet this still doesn’t answer why the Jews should be at all reluctant to take the money!

One obvious approach is that we did not want to "let the Egyptians off the hook," as if to say their giving us large amounts of money could somehow compensate for 117 years of brutal slavery, torture & genocide. This is akin to the debate in the early years of the State of Israel as to whether or not we should accept German reparations for the terrible atrocities of the Nazis. Indeed, many survivors refused to take them; Israel did accept them, but very reluctantly.

The Pninei HaTorah has another explanation. By pressing us to accept the gold & silver, Hashem was creating an opportunity for Bnei Yisrael to perform an act in consonance with G-d’s will, rather than just "do what comes naturally." For every time we react positively to a
Mitzva, a commandment, we show our allegiance to Hashem & strengthen our bond with Him. "Gadol ha’m’tzuveh, mi’mi sheh-ayno m’tzuveh;" Greater is one who is commanded and acts, as opposed to one who acts without being commanded. Had we taken the gold & silver of our own volition, we would have become wealthy, but we would not have come closer to G-d, which is truly the most precious attainment.

This is a valuable lesson in how we should approach every opportunity & situation in life. Hashem constantly gives us the very things we crave; He commands us to eat lavish meals, or to take time off of work to celebrate. He also tells us to avoid doing repulsive things, such as refraining from eating insects. We gladly accept these prizes, but gain extra credit because they are "packaged" in a Mitzva.

Living in Israel creates a unique, no-lose proposition for a practicing Jew. If times are hard, we gain merit for our self-sacrifice, our Mesirat Nefesh. And if times are good – as they generally are! – we rack up points with the Almighty by fulfilling a Mitzva that, say the Rabbis, is equal to keeping the entire Torah!
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