Parashas Bo

This week’s parashah recounts the Exodus from Egypt. Hashem said to Moshe (Shemos 11:1-2): “One more plague shall I bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; after that, he shall send you forth from here. … Please speak in the ears of the people, ‘Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow vessels of silver and vessels of gold.’” The Gemara expounds (Berachos 9a-b):
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Moshe, “Please go and tell the Bnei Yisrael, ‘Please request from the Egyptians vessels of silver and vessels of gold, so that righteous man [Avraham] will not say, “The words ‘they will serve them and they will torment them’ He fulfilled with them but the words ‘and afterward they will go out with great wealth’ He did not fulfill with them.”’”
The great Torah commentators raise an obvious question: Even if Avraham would not have lodged this complaint, wouldn’t Hashem still be bound to fulfill His promise “and afterward they will go out with great wealth”? The Maggid sets out to answer this question.
He explains the matter through a parable. Two kings were at war with each other. After the war had gone on for a long time, they arranged to settle their conflict without further massive bloodshed. Each side would choose a champion, the two champions would duel against each other, and whichever side’s champion won would take over the other side’s country. A deep pit was dug, and the duel consisted of each champion trying to cast his opponent into the pit. The two kings stood on the sideline watching the duel to see who would win. One of the champions grabbed the other and carried him over to the edge of the pit. Suddenly the other champion turned the tables and flung his opponent into the pit. As agreed, the winner’s king took over the other king’s country. Afterward, the victorious king approached his champion and said: “I won’t deny that you fought well, but still I must point out that you caused trouble when you let your opponent grab you and carry you to the edge of the pit, because when I saw this happen my heart pounded within me, and I was struck with fear of doom.”
The parallel is as follows. Hashem told Avraham that his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land, and that the people of this land would enslave and torment them, and He promised that afterward they would go out with great wealth. Now, the Midrash in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:54, expounding on Shir HaShirim 1:11, tells us that the booty the Jews took from the Egyptians when they left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan was nothing compared with the booty they collected shortly afterward, on the 21st of Nisan, at the Sea of Reeds. This being so, it was not necessary for Hashem’s fulfillment of His promise that the Jews take booty from the Egyptians, for the promise would be fulfilled through the booty they collected at the Sea of Reeds. (This reasoning is particularly apt when we consider one of the Maggid’s other comments on the parashah: He says that the redemption came to full fruition only on the 21st of Nisan, when the Egyptians reached the quota of evildoing that would make them worthy of being destroyed, but Hashem had to take the Jews out of Egypt earlier, on 15th, because they could not tarry a moment longer. Thus, when the Jews left Egypt, the time had not yet come for Hashem’s promise of wealth to be fulfilled.) But Hashem was concerned that if Avraham saw the Jews leaving Egypt without great wealth in hand, he would say: “The words ‘they will serve them and they will torment them’ He fulfilled with them but the words ‘and afterward they will go out with great wealth’ He did not fulfill with them.”’” He therefore directed Moshe to tell the Jews to request precious items from the Egyptians, so that this objection would not be made.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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