Parshat Bo – Exodus 11:2: God said to Moses “Speak in the ears of the people: they shall ask, each man of his neighbor, each woman of her neighbor, objects of silver and objects of gold.”
Exodus 12:35-36: “Now the Children of Israel had done according to Moshe’s words: they had asked of the Egyptians objects of silver and objects of gold, and clothing;….So did they strip Egypt.”
God instructs the people to ask for objects of silver and gold. Moses goes farther and adds clothing to the request. The people go even farther. They take everything of value. Some commentators explain that the silver and gold was payment for the Israelites’ unpaid labor as slaves. Perhaps. However, they take not only justified recompense, but everything. They felt so wronged, that they felt entitled to revenge. But revenge locks them more tightly into struggle. The Egyptians pursue them, maybe to get back some of the spoils. And even when the Israelites are finally free of Egypt, they are burdened by the spoils. The very first use they make of the gold is to build the golden calf, an idol.
May we see clearly the line between seeking justice and seeking revenge. May we see clearly the difference between our hunger to be valued, and our greed to be proven right.