וישאלו איש מאת רעהו ואשה מאת רעותה כלי כסף וכלי זהב ושמלות.
“And they should ask - a man from his friend and a woman from her friend - for silver and gold vessels and for garments.” (Shemos 11:2)
Hashem told Moshe to instruct the Jewish people to “borrow” expensive vessels and garments from their Egyptian neighbors before leaving Egypt. Rashi comments on this verse that Hashem told Moshe: “Please, warn them about this, so that the righteous Avrohom should not say that the part of My promise about being enslaved and tormented had been fulfilled in them, but the part about leaving Egypt with a large fortune was not fulfilled in them.”
Rashi’s comment raises several questions. Was it really necessary to warn the Jewish people not to forget about Hashem’s command to take along the most exquisite ornaments from the Egyptians? Which person needs to be prodded to increase his fortune? But even more puzzling is Hashem’s concern about Avrohom complaining. Our holy Avos (Forefathers) never complained or questioned Hashem! In fact, in the previous sidra Rashi interprets the words “And My Name was not known to them” to mean that the Avos never complained. So why was Hashem concerned that Avrohom would have any complaint about the fulfillment of His promise?
Another interesting thing in this verse is the word בהם – fulfilled in them – which is used twice. It would have been enough to say that Hashem’s promise had been fulfilled. Why the additional word “in them?”
There is a deeper message in Rashi’s words. The Mishna (Avos 6:10) says that when a person leaves this world, “he is not accompanied by his silver or gold, but only by his Torah and good deeds.” All of the wealth he acquired in this world stays behind; it doesn’t even accompany him on his journey, let alone go along with him to heaven. The only things a person takes along with him as he departs this world are the Torah he learned and the good deeds he performed. Only these are truly his, belonging to him.
Based on this, we can understand what Avrohom could have complained about to Hashem. The enslavement and physical torture that the Jewish people endured in Egypt were fulfilled in them. It affected them deeply, interfering with their physical existence and also with their spiritual lives. Not only did their bodies suffer, but their souls suffered terribly as well. They were unable to serve Hashem and sank to the depths of Egyptian idol worship. On the other hand, Avrohom will complain, the part of Hashem’s promise about leaving Egypt loaded with fortunes will only be fulfilled in a transient way – it will not be a lasting blessing for them, because of what benefit is material wealth? True, Hashem will take them out of Egypt with great fortunes, but all of that will eventually remain behind, with no lasting gains; it will not accompany them to the World of Truth.
Therefore Hashem told Moshe to especially warn the Jewish people about the command to borrow the Egyptians’ possessions. Due to Hashem’s explicit command, the act of accumulating wealth became a mitzvah and in result, all of their endeavors to fulfill this command were counted as good deeds. Now Hashem’s promise that they would leave Egypt full of wealth was also fulfilled in them – the Jewish people got to keep this mitzvah forever, in this world and in the next world. In other words, the wealth was truly theirs forever, and not just a source of momentary gratification.
I would venture to say, that in our times too it is a mitzvah that every Jew should be blessed with wealth!... May it indeed be Hashem’s will.