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‘From A Friend’


Rabbi Binyomin Rabinowitz[1] related the following story about his father, Rabbi Yisroel Rabinowitz ztl.[2]

“During his adolescence, my father learned in the Lomza Yeshiva in northeastern Poland. When the Germans began bombing in 1939, the air-raid sirens immediately began blaring, and everyone in the town would immediately escape into the shelters.[3] The shelters were located in the middle of the street. Everyone would climb down a ladder into the shelter and tensely wait for the bombing to cease.

“During one such raid my father was with a large group of people in the shelter, where a baby kept crying. The relentless wailing intensified the already tense feeling in the shelter, but the baby could not be soothed. After some time my father approached the man holding the baby and asked him what was bothering the baby. The father replied that the baby was thirsty and they had no water to give him. My father turned around and started heading for the ladder leading to the street. The father called after him, ‘Where are you going? If anything I should be the one going to risk my life for my son.’ My father replied, ‘You have a family. If anything happens to you, you will leave behind a widow and orphans. But I am just a bochur. My parents are far away. If anything happens to me no one will have to cry for me.’

“With that my father climbed out of the shelter and began hastily running towards the nearest building. As he did so he noticed a German plane flying frightfully low.  As it neared him it let loose a barrage of bombs. One of those bombs fell directly into the shelter he had just departed from, instantly killing everyone inside.”Staum-010314-Table

The time of the redemption had finally arrived. Just as G-d had promised, the night before Pharaoh had aimlessly circulated the streets of Goshen desperate to locate Moshe.  When he found him, he begged him to leave the country immediately. The Egyptian pride had been shattered and the former captors hurried the Jews to leave their land.

The Torah then relates: “Bnei Yisrael carried out the word of Moshe; they requested from the Mitzriim silver vessels, gold vessels, and garments. G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Mitzriim and they granted their request; and they emptied Egypt.[4]

Rashi notes that they carried out Moshe’s earlier instruction to adhere to G-d’s command,[5] “Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his friend and each woman from her friend silver vessels and gold vessels.”

Truthfully, the verse seems to be redundant. If in fact the Torah already recorded that Bnei Yisrael solicited the gold, silver, and clothing of the Egyptians, why does the Torah repeat it again just prior to their hastened departure?

The Vilna Gaon explains that Rashi was bothered by the wording of the earlier verse, “Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his friend and each woman from her friend.” How can the Mitzriim be referred to as friends after all of the tormenting and oppression they had subjected Bnei Yisrael to?[6] Furthermore, why did G-d need to initiate this instruction by asking them to “please” do it? Wouldn’t they be more than happy to demand of the Mitzriim a small portion of compensation?

The Gaon answers that in order for Bnei Yisrael to be granted their request they had to merit it. First, they had to demonstrate selflessness and love to each other. That was G-d’s original request, that Moshe “please” speak to the people and request that they borrow and share with their own friends – their fellow Jews, and demonstrate fraternity and devotion. Because they did so, they were indeed able to ask the Mitzriim for their wealth. This is the deeper meaning of the latter verse, “Bnei Yisrael carried out the word of Moshe” i.e. which was to create a spirit of kindness and devotion, and therefore, “They requested from the Mitzriim … G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Mitzriim and they granted their request.”

About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.

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