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Favor in their Eyes

"Please speak in the ears of the people:  Let each man request of his fellow and every woman from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels.  And G-d granted the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians." (Bo, 11:3-4)

Before leaving Egypt, Moses commanded the Jewish nation to borrow silver and gold vessels from their Egyptian neighbors.  The Egyptians, suffering as they were under the plague of the firstborn, were desperate to have the Jews leave, and showered them with valuables to hasten their departure.  Thus, the Jews left Egypt with great wealth, as per G-d's promise to Abraham:  "They will enslave and oppress them... and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth." (Lech Lecha 15:15)

The Jews had suffered under Egyptian enslavement and oppression for over two hundred years.  Now that they were on the brink of leaving that accursed land, surely they were eager to leave as quickly as possible.  Yet Moses delayed their departure so that they could accumulate wealth from the Egyptians, in a manner that would "find favor in their eyes!"  After all the oppression that the Egyptians had inflicted on the Jews, why did the Jews need to make any effort to leave on good terms with the Egyptians?

To explain this, we must understand the entire purpose of the exile and subsequent redemption.  Both were part of the process of making the physical world into a dwelling place for the Divine.  Making the world a "dwelling" means that the physical merges with the spiritual to become one unit, with no conflict between the two.

The treasures that the Jews took with them from Egypt represented the sparks of holiness that they had mined during the years of their enslavement.  Each good deed that they performed while under slavery, each verse of Torah studied, accomplished a purification of the Egyptian impurity.  When they had completed their task and were ready to leave Egypt, it was important that their departure be facilitated in a peaceful manner.   This would indicate that the purification had taken place with the permission and consent of the physical world itself - in this case, the Egyptians.

Despite the precautions of the Jewish people to leave the Egyptians on good terms, their redemption was nevertheless not peaceful in the fullest sense.  The nation had to escape from Egypt at midnight, with the evil of Egypt still at the height of its potency.  We see that the Egyptians later chased down the Jews, until they were drowned in the sea.

In contrast, the future redemption will unfold in a totally peaceful way.  The nations of the world will fully support and agree with our goals, to serve G-d fully and devotedly.  We will not leave exile in haste, for G-d will cause the spirit of impurity to depart from this world, and we will go out in a relaxed and peaceful manner.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Bo 5752)


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