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The Reason Behind The “Borrowed” Treasures

Isn't it strange why Hashem is telling Moshe Rabbeinu to ask the nation, to go and ask for gifts of silver and gold from Egyptians?

Parashat Bo, 11:2 it says: "דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ - Tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend, and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold."

The Chachamim say that there's a promise that was made by Hashem to Avraham Avinu, and Hashem wants to keep His word. So, when the Jews will ask the Egyptians, they will give gladly. 

But I believe there's much more hidden under such a request. So, please allow me to uncover what may be the reason for such an odd request.

In Parashat Lech Lecha when Lot was taken captive, Avraham Avinu assembled a small army and went to free him. After the battle of 4 against the 5 kings, Avraham Avinu was on the side of the winners. The victorious king made somewhat an interesting request, in Lech Lecha 14:21: "וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֶֽלֶךְ־סְדֹ֖ם אֶל־אַבְרָ֑ם תֶּן־לִ֣י הַנֶּ֔פֶשׁ וְהָרְכֻ֖שׁ קַֽח־לָֽךְ׃ - Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people, and take the possessions for yourself."

To which Avraham Avinu answered in 14:23: " אִם־מִחוּט֙ וְעַ֣ד שְׂרֽוֹךְ־נַ֔עַל וְאִם־אֶקַּ֖ח מִכׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־לָ֑ךְ וְלֹ֣א תֹאמַ֔ר אֲנִ֖י הֶעֱשַׁ֥רְתִּי אֶת־אַבְרָֽם׃ - I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich." It seems like Avraham Avinu wants to attribute his success and wealth to only one source - Hashem, but here I believe - if I may say so - an error was made.

In Parashat Vayeira when the angels visited Avraham Avinu after he had made the Brit, one of the angels said that he had come to execute a judgment against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When they finished speaking to Avraham, they left and went on with their task.

In 18:23-33 it says: "וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַאַ֣ף תִּסְפֶּ֔ה צַדִּ֖יק עִם־רָשָֽׁע׃ - Abraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?   אוּלַ֥י יֵ֛שׁ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים צַדִּיקִ֖ם בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעִ֑יר הַאַ֤ף תִּסְפֶּה֙ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֣א לַמָּק֔וֹם לְמַ֛עַן חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים הַצַּדִּיקִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבָּֽהּ׃ - What if there should be fifty innocent people within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it?" And so Avraham went down in numbers each time, lowering it to 10. Hashem said that He would not destroy if He found 10 righteous individuals in that city, and for their sake, he will not destroy other people.. on this note, they parted.

It seems like this story is talking about Sodom and Gomorrah, but I believe we can look at this incident from a whole different angle. 

Let's imagine for a second that it may be not Sodom and Gomorrah, but it is talking about the generation that is coming out of Egypt, Avraham Avinu is a prophet, and he has realized that he made a mistake. When the King of Sodom asked him to give him people and Avraham should take the gold and silver, Avraham declined. But now he has realized this was a huge mistake. 

In Parashat Lech Lecha 15:13-14 it says: "וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לְאַבְרָ֗ם יָדֹ֨עַ תֵּדַ֜ע כִּי־גֵ֣ר ׀ יִהְיֶ֣ה זַרְעֲךָ֗ בְּאֶ֙רֶץ֙ לֹ֣א לָהֶ֔ם וַעֲבָד֖וּם וְעִנּ֣וּ אֹתָ֑ם אַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃  - And [God] said to Abram, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years; וְגַ֧ם אֶת־הַגּ֛וֹי אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַעֲבֹ֖דוּ דָּ֣ן אָנֹ֑כִי וְאַחֲרֵי־כֵ֥ן יֵצְא֖וּ בִּרְכֻ֥שׁ גָּדֽוֹל׃ - but I will execute judgment on the nation they shall serve, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth." 

And because Avraham Avinu had declined and did not take the wealth - gold and silver offered by the King of Sodom, which he has earned by fighting in a war - where one goes through pain, blood, and death, and by the rules of war - the treasures taken from the enemy are called loot and are shared amongst the winners. Declining  to take the loot, led Avraham Avinu's descendants to go down to the unknown land into slavery, to experience pain, blood, and death, and then be freed by Hashem, and only then bring out that great promised wealth. 

Remember the discussion Avraham Avinu had with Hashem, where Hashem agreed to save the city if He finds 10 worthy individuals? So, since Avraham Avinu's descendants had to go into exile, in the Parashat Shelach, the fate of the men ages 20-60 of that generation was decreed to be buried in the desert. Since in this generation, Hashem didn't find the required 10 people to save the "city" - 12 spies went to Eretz Yisrael and 10 spoke against the Land. Since 2 out of the agreed 10 were worthy to stay alive which were Yehoshua bin Nun and Caleb ben Yefuneh, the rest of the men ages 20-60 have died in the dessert - remember the story of the spies?!

So, at this point, you may ask why such a harsh punishment for not taking gold and silver when they were offered by the King of Sodom? Because Avraham Avinu was raised by a father who was a craftsman, who made idols from clay, wood, gold, and silver. Avraham Avinu should have foreseen the consequences and taken the treasures when he was offered them. Because only he was able to raise them to the levels of holiness to serve Hashem, but since he declined them, those treasures were made into idols and were used to mislead the masses - which eventually led to the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

That is why Moshe Rabbeinu asked people to get silver and gold from Egyptians and brought the treasures out from Mitzrayim. In the desert, he has raised those treasures to the highest levels of holiness, by making them into Holy items like Mizbeach, Mishkan, Menorah, and other Holy vessels to serve Hashem. And those objects were built from the gold, silver, and other materials for which the nation of Israel has paid with their pain, blood, and death

Just like the Gemara in Masechet Berachot 5A says, three things are acquired through hardship: The Next World, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael. So are the artifacts of such enormous proportions of holiness can't be acquired merely by money. They require national effort, sacrifice, and suffering, and only then Hashem's presence will be among the nation - when all are molded as if one vessel, and are together working toward one goal - to serve Hashem in holiness.

PS: The above is the story of how Moshe Rabbeinu was able to elevate the treasures that they brought out from Egypt to the level of holiness. But the same attempts were made by others throughout history as well.

In Parashat Ki Tisa, people approached Aharon HaCohen and asked him to make them an intermediary between Hashem and the people, because Moshe Rabbeinu has delayed coming back from the mountain. Aharon HaCohen asked them to bring him the golden earrings from their wives, thus trying to delay the time, but men gave theirs - exactly those that they have gotten from the Egyptians, the ones they paid for with pain, suffering and death - thus contributing to the sin of the golden idol and cheapening the national efforts of years of slavery and national sacrifice. This action alone has brought us a lot of trouble for which we still atone for till today.

Comes King Solomon and tries to elevate the gold in the service of Hashem. We are told in the Book of Melachim 1, that King Solomon has covered most of the Bet Hamikdash with gold along with most of its vessels. There's opinion, that about 1,086 talents, or about 34 tons of gold were brought to Jerusalem from Ophir by King Solomon's workers. This amount of gold is estimated to have been about half of the world’s known gold supply at that time. The First Temple was the most beautiful building in the world in its time - as the House of G-d should be. But there was another problem. King Solomon had around 1000 wives, and for each of his wife he built a palace which also required gold to make them feel "royally accepted" in the society. So each of the wives' palaces were also looking golden and sparkly. But later in life, his wives started to worship their idols in each of their palaces, so all that vast amount of gold in the time of King Solomon wasn't elevated in holiness and did not achieve it's intended purpose.

The Second Bet Hamikdash, had plenty of its own issues, so let's not discuss it right now. 

So where do we go from here? 

We got another shot at it, and it is a Third Bet Hamikdash. When the time comes, under Mashiach's supervision we will build the Third Temple. And this time, we will also use gold, and lots of it too. The Third Bet Hamikdash - The House of G-d will attract people from all over the world as it says in Sefer Yeshayahu, it needs to look awesome and most importantly - holy - according to the Jewish Law. But why you may ask? The beauty of that scale and aggrandizement of it should be used to serve and elevate the Honor and Name of G-d. Because, if anyone that deserves the praise and fanfare, that would be not us - the mere men, it is only Him alone - Hashem, G-d Almighty.

Shmuel Katanov

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