Monday, January 22, 2007

Parshas Bo

וּבְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל עָשׂוּ, כִּדְבַר מֹשֶׁה; וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ, מִמִּצְרַיִם, כְּלֵי-כֶסֶף וּכְלֵי זָהָב, וּשְׂמָלֹת.

“The B'nei Yisrael did as Moshe said, and they requested of the Egyptians silver articles and gold articles and clothing.” (Shemos, 12:35)

Rashi: “For he had told them in Egypt, "Each man shall borrow from his neighbor."

The Gra in his “Kol Eliyahu” wants to understand what exactly Rashi is telling us here. According to the Gra, it is pashut that this is what “..as Moshe said” means; it could only be referring to that which the Torah says earlier (Shemos, 11:2), “Each man shall borrow from his friend.”

The Gemara in Bava Kama (36b) states that in a case where an ox owned by a Jew injures an ox owned by an Egyptian, the Jewish owner doesn’t have to pay the Egyptian anything. This is learned out from the verse later in Shemos (21:35) which states, “If a man's ox injures his neighbor's ox and it dies…”. The Gemara comes to exclude Mitzrim from this rule, being as the pasuk specifically says “neighbor” – seemingly, we don’t consider Egyptians our “neighbors”. This however is a huge contradiction to Rashi’s note, who says that when the Jews took the gold and silver from the Egyptians, they were doing as Moshe said; to “borrow from his neighbor.” Furthermore, asks the Gra: why did they need to ask for these gold and silver items from the Egyptians? You’d think that after all the Jews had been through at the hands of the Mitzrim, they wouldn’t have asked for their possessions.

The Gra answers that the Jews were only able to act in such a manner because they were accustomed to acting this way with one another. The Tana D’Bei Eliyahu notes that when the Jews were in Egypt they sat together and make a covenant that they should constantly do Gemilas Chasadim/acts of kindness with one another. Since they were used to acting this way with one another, it was only natural that they acted this way with the Mitzim upon their exit. True, they didn’t have to ask to take anything, but it was so engrained in their nature, that that’s what they did. Furthermore, while they technically weren’t considered our “neighbors”, as we saw from the Gemara in Bava Kama, the way the Jews acted towards the Mitzrim in this manner made it appear as if they were.

The lesson to take out from this is that when you become accustomed to acting in a certain manner, either bad or good, this behavior becomes engrained in who you are and will lead to similar actions in other situations. Even though the Jews suffered so much under the Egyptians, because they were accustomed to acting kindly with one another beforehand, it was inevitable that this was the way they would act upon their exit. I hear a lot from people, “I don’t know how you (non-specific) find time for learning; for minyan, etc. The answer is obvious to those who engaged in these activities– if that’s just what you do, then you continue to do it. Sure, you’re going to have trouble getting up for minyan, davening, whatever, if that’s not a regular action for you. But if you work hard to make that, or any other action/trait, engrained in you, it has to be a constant thing.

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