[Rafi Farber, a friend and faithful blog reader, is a director at zoara.com. In this, his third post on these pages, he continues to expound on the connection between the TaNa"CH and jewelry. CS]
There are always previously un-thought of connections to be made and the map of the Torah never ceases to reveal new patterns as one generation builds upon the preceding one. So here is the connection between the plague of darkness, Egyptian jewelry, and Hashem‘s covenant with Abraham 430 years before the Exodus took place.
The plague of darkness was rather setting the ground for the death of the firstborn and the imminent Exodus from Egypt than it was a plague in and of itself. It was one day before the darkness – the tenth of Nissan – when Moses relayed the Divine command to tie a sheep to the bedpost, in preparation for its sacrifice and the death of the Egyptian first born. The Israelites were commanded to tie up the sheep before the darkness set in, so that the Egyptians could clearly see what they were doing.
Further, our sages say that during the plague of darkness, four fifths of the Jewish people actually died – those that did not intend on leaving. They couldn’t be allowed to simply stay behind and cause a desecration of the Almighty’s name, nor could they be allowed to die in sight of the Egyptians and lead to the same. Hakadosh Baruch Hu had other plans in bringing the darkness upon Egypt – to prepare the ground and to take care of some back-issues, so to speak, with Israel.
But there was one other thing the darkness was made to do, as emphasized by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch in the 19th century. During the plague of darkness, no Egyptian moved an inch. The darkness was so thick it was tangible. If a front door was open, it stayed open. If a gate was unlocked, it stayed unlocked. Everything – every Egyptian possession, treasure, valuable, was available for the taking. And yet, when the darkness cleared and the light of night began to “shine,” relatively speaking (the darkness ended at night), nothing had moved. All valuables were still there, nothing was stolen, and everything was where it should have been. The Israelites didn’t steal a single Egyptian penny.
This, more than anything else, showed the moral superiority of the Israelites. The Egyptians suddenly realized who they had been enslaving, who they had been brutally murdering for the past 210 years. A decent, moral people who wouldn’t steal even from their enemies.
At that point, God makes a request of Moses. He actually says please. “Please,” says God, “Tell the Israelites to ask their neighbors for their possessions, their riches, their jewelry, their clothing, please take it all.
No wonder the Egyptians immediately shoved everything they owned at the Jews. They didn’t take anything during the darkness, but now they were asking nicely? Take it! Take it all!
But why did God say “please?”
RaSH”I explains that Hashem said “please” because He didn’t want Abraham coming to Him accusing Him of reneging on the promise of the Brit Beyn HaBetarim – that the Jews would leave Egypt with great wealth. Therefore, He asked us to cover His back and finish the redemption process.
It’s the same with any redemption. We always have to take the last step. Otherwise nothing works. Without us completing the process, nothing even makes any sense. Ultimately, we’ll finish it, just like we did with the Paschal Lamb and the blood on the doorpost so God would pass over our houses; just like we did at the Red Sea when Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped in; just like we did with the Egyptians’ jewelry and just like we will do, eventually, in the State of Israel.