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Our (Jewish) National Debt

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

With all the miracles that took place in Egypt, one would think that there could be a better way to get rich.

Moshe in the name of God commands and even begs the People of Israel to “borrow” as much gold and silver as they can from the Egyptians. We have no apparent intention to return these valuables - so we finally leave Egypt as a Nation of Thieves!

To make matters worse, what did we end up doing with all this gold, silver and valuable cloths? We used it to build a Tabernacle for God in the desert. We used it to house the Tablets which Moshe brought. Why would the holy of holies be built with tainted gold?

For almost all of history Egypt was considered the seat of culture. Because of the Nile, because of Joseph and because of lots of free Jewish slave labor, the Egyptian economy was brilliant. The Pharaoh’s were the most powerful men in history. They were even considered gods!

Moshe came to Pharaoh and asked him to give it all up.

‘You are not God; God is God. These are not your slaves; they are slaves of God. This is not your fertile crescent, God can turn the Nile into blood. You don’t need rain for produce to grow, but God’s hail can destroy it all. You are not God’s gift the world - the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are. Pharaoh - give it up!’

Pharaoh’s response was logical and predictable; perhaps even responsible.

“God who?”

By the time God’s Operation Plagues campaign had completed in Egypt, we had the Egyptians convinced.

And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.

And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And they despoiled the Egyptians.

The Egyptians said: ‘we’ll invest! Take everything we have. Do your job as the chosen Nation and get the Torah; build a sanctuary; move to Israel; bring the Shechinah, teach the world; bring peace; anoint a Moshiach; Gan Eden. We will “lend” you everything - just fix the world!’

Did we deliver? We built a Tabernacle with their money but we also built a Golden Calf with their gold. We built a Temple in Jerusalem, but because of our sins it was destroyed.

When we returned to Israel with Ezra, during the time of Alexander the Great - the Egyptians asked for their money back. (Talmud Sanhedrin 91a).

‘We gave you our gold and silver. Did you deliver? Is there peace in the world? Are we back in Gan Eden?’

We put them off - but the question remains: Did we deliver? Is there peace in the world? Are we back in Gan Eden?

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