We read in last week’s sedrah that when HaShem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to lead Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt, He said, “Go and gather the elders of Israel and say to them… ‘HaShem has appeared to me… saying, “I will bring you up from the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Emori… and the Jebusite, a land flowing with milk and honey”’” (Shmos 3:16, 17).
Was this really such an important point to tell them about? Were they looking for, did they expect, anticipate, or desire at this point of their national life “a land flowing with milk and honey”? They presumably had but one thought: Get us out of Mitzrayim, let us be free of our oppression! Did they even care where they would be headed?
And the pesukim there continue in that vein! “And I shall grant the people favor in the eyes of Egypt… so that they not go out empty-handed… And each woman shall request from her neighbor, and from the one who lives with her, silver and golden vessels, and garments… and you shall empty out Egypt” (Shmos ibid:22). Was this really something which concerned them?
And just before the last plague, HaShem told Moshe Rabbeinu, “Please speak to the Nation, telling them that each person should ‘borrow’ from her neighbor…” (Shmos 11:2). And the Gemara in Brachos actually teaches us: “Why is the word ‘please’ used? For HaShem says to Moshe Rabbeinu, ‘Please ask Bnei Yisrael to do this [borrow money and vessels], so that Avraham Avinu won’t have reason for complaint, that whereas I fulfilled the prophecy of servitude and oppression quite literally, I did not do so regarding the ‘great wealth’ that was also promised, since Bnei Yisrael had no interest. Imagine a prisoner being told, ‘Gather together your things, for you will be freed tomorrow and given a bonus of money.’ Surely the prisoner will respond, ‘Can we change that to freedom today, and I will gladly go out empty-handed…’ That is why Bnei Yisrael had to be pleaded with to borrow money and vessels.”
This last exchange with Moshe Rabbeinu took place after the oppressive work for the Egyptians had already ceased; it would be relevant only after makas bechoros. When Pharaoh was urging them to leave Egypt, they were then to stop a moment and start borrowing these things. Now, if it was for that moment that they had to be pleaded with, for they would surely have no interest in money in the face of their physical freedom, then surely at this point in time, in the middle of their oppression, when there was no light at the end of any tunnel, why, oh why was the wealth they were to acquire apparently such an integral part of the message?
Looking at the pesukim in this week’s sedrah makes one wonder: at the end of last week’s reading, Moshe Rabbeinu turned to HaShem and said, “My L-rd, why have You done evil towards these people, why have You sent me? And since the time when I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to the people, but You did not rescue Your people.” HaShem responded to this by saying (in this week’s sedrah ), “Therefore, say to the children of Israel, ‘I am HaShem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I shall rescue you from their service, and I shall redeem you… and I shall take you to me for a people… and I shall be a G-d to you and you shall know that I am HaShem… Who takes you out… and I shall bring you to the Land about which I have promised to give it to Avraham… and I shall give it to you as a heritage.” This is an answer? Their burden had just become well-nigh impossible, even more so than before, and Moshe is commanded to talk to them about receiving a Torah, going into Eretz Yisrael? This is supposed to placate them?
Let’s go back to last week’s reading, and we’ll see a pattern starting to emerge. Moshe was commanded to redeem Bnei Yisrael; he expressed doubt that Bnei Yisrael would believe him. HaShem gave Moshe a series of small miraculous signs pointing to the veracity of his mission. Moshe Rabbeinun performed them, and we are told that Bnei Yisrael believed in him. Then there is a dramatic trip to the palace and the first encounter with Pharaoh.
Now, we are told by Chazal that the entering into the palace — the boldness, the courage, the fact that they had no permission to just walk in and start talking to the King — was a result of tremendous nissim which occurred (see Yalkut Shimoni remez 176) . Asks the Alter from Kelm: One would have thought it more logical to change the sequence of events, i.e. having Moshe and Aharon enter the palace first, Bnei Yisrael would see the miracles playing out, and then Moshe Rabbeinu would come to Bnei Yisrael to talk about the ge’ulah process, and presumably they would now believe them, having witnessed themselves what they had just witnessed, and rendering unnecessary the other signs Moshe had been commanded to perform.
Answers the Alter: We see that the passuk stresses, “And afterwards, Moshe and Aharon came to Pharaoh (5:1). After what? After it is written, “and the nation believed [after the performance of the signs].” It was only the merit of the belief, the emunah, that Bnei Yirael indeed exhibited that allowed the ge’ulah process to begin, with the appearance of Moshe and Aharon into the palace of Pharaoh.
We can now understand the back-and-forth with Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe said, “What is happening? Why are evil events occurring after the bright promise of a ge’ulah? HaShem’s reply: to have Bnei Yisrael be mischazek in their emunah. And let Me spell it all out, said HaShem: emunah in the redemption; emunah in Matan Torah; emunah in acquiring Eretz Yisrael; emunah in everything promised to them! Bnei Yisrael were supposed to exhibit emunah in all the promises made to them and, in a self-fulfilling process, that would be the merit through which it would all happen!
This process, and elaboration of it, will im yirtzeh Hashem be further explained next week.