Pesach vort Faith, the True Wealth Strength of the Righteous Women Rav Elya Svei

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    Faith, the True Wealth. Strength of the Righteous Women

    ונתתי את חן העם הזה בעיני מצרים והיה כי תלכון לא תלכו ריקם:
    ושאלה אשה משכנתה ומגרת ביתה כלי כסף וכלי זהב ושמלת ושמתם על בניכם ועל בנתיכם ונצלתם את מצרים
    I shall grant this people favor in the eyes of Egypt, so that it will happen that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. Each woman shall request from her neighbor and from the one who lives in her house silver vessels, golden vessels, and garments; and you shall put them on your sons and daughters, and you shall empty out Egypt (Shemos 3:21-22).
    The Gemara (Sotah 11b) writes that it was in the merit of the righteous women in that generation that Bnei Yisrael were redeemed from Egypt. When the women went to draw water, Hashem prepared small fish inside. They heated the water and cooked the fish, and brought them both to their husbands in the fields; this was at great risk, since the Egyptians had deliberately separated the men from the women. The women then helped their husbands wash up and gave them to eat and drink, and in this way they built their families. When it was time to give birth, the women went back to the fields, delivered their babies, and left them there — where Hashem sent His angels to care for them. In the zechus of the women’s mesirus nefesh to tend to their husbands and to give birth to babies under such dangerous conditions, the Gemara adds, Bnei Yisrael were also zocheh to the spoils of Egypt at the time that they were redeemed.
    Why were the spoils the Jews received specifically in the merit of the valorous women?
    Before we answer this question, several other questions arise, particularly in regard to the spoils Bnei Yisrael took with them. First, in Parashas Bo (11:2), Hashem said to Moshe, “Daber na be’oznei ha’am ve’yishalu ish mei’eis rei’eihu ve’ishah mei’eis re’usah klei chesef u’chlei zahav — Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels.” The Gemara (Berachos 9a) tells us that Hashem asked Moshe to plead with the Jews to take gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors before leaving. Hashem used the term “na,” a lashon of bakashah, request, because He did not want Avraham to later say that He fulfilled the first part of His promise, that Bnei Yisrael would be enslaved (Shemos 15:13), but not the second part, that He would punish the Egyptians and that the Jews would leave with great wealth (v. 14). Why did Hashem have to plead with Bnei Yisrael to take the wealth? Aren’t most people interested in acquiring wealth without being begged?
    This brings us straight to our next question: If Hashem both wanted and needed to supply the Jews with wealth, did He have no other means of providing it? Hashem later rains manna from Heaven — let Him rain money from Heaven; hundred dollar bills could have fallen at their feet, saving them the effort of knocking on the doors of the Egyptians and asking for their wealth. If the goal was for Bnei Yisrael to leave with riches, this could have been accomplished in many other ways.
    Finally, we take note of a discrepancy in the three pesukim that discuss the actual collection of the wealth of Egypt. In the original pasuk cited above (3:22), Hashem told Moshe that the Jews will ask their Egyptian neighbors for their gold and silver vessels, as well as their clothing. Then in Parashas Bo (11:2), when relaying the request that Moshe was to deliver to the Yidden, Hashem left out any mention of the clothing, asking them to borrow gold and silver only. Yet later, when Bnei Yisrael actually carried out the request to collect the wealth (12:35), the Torah describes how they took gold and silver vessels, plus clothing. How do we account for the switch?
    In Ruach Eliyahu (pp. 332-335), Rav Elya Svei resolves all these difficulties. It is true, he acknowledges, that taking the gold and silver from Mitzrayim was actually a risky thing to do. Had the Jews left without taking all of Egypt’s wealth along, perhaps the Egyptians may not have given chase. Hashem specifically wanted Bnei Yisrael to provoke the Egyptians by taking their wealth, causing them to run after them. As the Seforno explains (Shemos 11:2), the Jews were not to worry about taking Egypt’s wealth along, thereby giving the Egyptians more of a reason to chase them, because Hashem promised them that through this action they would be saved. Hashem wanted to push the envelope and raise the stakes, to enable the Yidden to demonstrate their emunah in Him and help make them worthy of redemption. By following orders, the Yidden were showing that they believed that even if the Egyptians were to chase them, Hashem would help them and bring about their salvation.
    This explains why Hashem requested of Moshe to ask Bnei Yisrael to take the wealth. He knew that Bnei Yisrael may say to themselves, “Why should we ask the Egyptians for their wealth, thereby giving them a reason to come after us? Taking the gold and silver is a risky business. Why play with fire?” Yet, as we have explained, asking the Egyptians for their wealth was not merely one way for Hashem to fulfill His promise to Avraham. Rather, this was the bait to ensure that the Egyptians would chase the Jews, and through which the Jews could show that they believe in Hashem and in His ability to save them. That is why it was crucial for the Jews to fulfill His request and collect the wealth.
    But Moshe was not sure that Bnei Yisrael’s emunah was on such a high level. Therefore, though Hashem had originally said that they would ask their neighbors for gold, silver, and clothing (in Parashas Shemos), since Hashem did not specify the clothing in the official request (in Parashas Bo), Moshe did not plan on demanding of the Jews that they ask for the clothes. As Rav Elya explains, in order to ask for clothing, an even higher madreigah of emunah was necessary. Rashi (12:35) explains that the Egyptians’ clothes were very precious to them, more than their gold and silver. And it was clear that when the Jews took the clothing, the Egyptians would surely be spurred on to chase them. After all, they were kind enough to remove their precious clothes to lend them to the Jews, and now they had the nerve to run away with them!
    Yet Klal Yisrael showed their mettle. They understood the reason behind the request for them to ask for wealth — to show their trust in Hashem — and on their own asked for the clothing, too, knowing full well that the Egyptians would give chase. Yet they also knew full well that Hashem would save them. Thus, in Parashas Shemos, Hashem already told Moshe what would end up happening, that the Jews would ask for gold, silver, and also clothing.
    From where did the Jews find the reservoir of faith, to take not only precious metals but also clothing, knowing that it would incite the wrath of Mitzrayim?
    Rav Elya explains that it all stemmed from those nashim tzidkaniyos, who were willing to go to the fields to greet their husbands and later to deliver children. The courage for the Jews to do the right thing, knowing the danger involved, came from the courage and strength exhibited by the righteous women in the fields. Though they knew that their babies could be thrown in the river or perhaps entombed in a wall, they still had families; they still had trust that they would somehow prevail. And as the Gemara in Sotah teaches us, miracles occurred and those children survived.
    According to this explanation, when the Gemara tells us that the spoils of Egypt were in the merit of the righteous women, it is not referring to monetary wealth, but the wealth of emunah. The wealth of Mitzrayim was not in the zechus of those nashim tzidkaniyos. Rather, the emunah to take the wealth was in the zechus of those nashim tzidkaniyos.
    And that is true wealth.

    Reb Eliezer

    1he Righteous women gave birth under dire circumstances thereby making up the extra years through multiplication having more people working.

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