Article No. 14, 1986
It is written (Exodus 11), “Speak now in the ears of the people that each man will borrow from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor vessels of silver and vessels of gold. And the Lord gave the people’s favor in the eyes of the Egyptians.”
Our sages said (Berachot, 9b), “The disciples of Rabbi Yanai said, ‘‘‘Do’ means please. The Creator said to Moses, ‘Please go and tell them, Israel, to please borrow vessels of silver and vessels of gold from the Egyptians so that that righteous will not say, ‘He kept, ‘And they enslaved them and afflicted them,’ and then, He did not keep ‘And they will come out with many possessions.’’’”
This is perplexing. If the Creator wanted to keep His promise to Abraham, as it is written, “And afterwards they will come out with many possessions,” could He not make the people of Israel wealthy without borrowing vessels from the Egyptians? It seems like fraud, for it seems that they initially borrowed by deceit, meaning without intending to return.
We should also understand why the Creator said to Moses to implore Israel to borrow vessels from the Egyptians, as is said above, that “Do” means please [request]. Also, what is this imploring? It seems to mean that the Creator knew that they would object to it, so He asked Moses to speak to Israel. Thus, we should understand the reason for Israel’s objection to this.
We should also understand the words, “And the Lord gave the people’s favor in the eyes of the Egyptians.” How can we understand such a thing, which is completely contradictory? Although anything is possible from the perspective of the Creator, but from the literal perspective this is difficult to grasp, as it is written (Exodus, 1:12), “And the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, and they detested the sons of Israel.” Our sages said, “It shows that they were as thorns in their eyes” (Sutah, 11).
It follows that from thorns, meaning being unable to stand the people of Israel and seeing them as thorns, they now turned completely around and the Egyptians liked the people of Israel.
In the Creator’s promise to Abraham, “And afterwards they will come out with many possessions,” we should understand the whole matter that is presented there (Genesis, 15:6), “And He said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit it.’ And he said, ‘Lord God, by what will I know that I will inherit it?’ And He said to Abram, … ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years … and afterward they will come out with many possessions.’”
Here, too, we should understand the answer that Abraham received to the question, “By what will I know that I will inherit it?” since the Creator’s answer was to this question, as it is written, “And He said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years … and afterward they will come out with many possessions.’” Thus, the question was about guarantees on the inheritance, and the answer to the guarantee was that the people of Israel will be in exile. But is exile a guarantee for inheriting the land?
Baal HaSulam explained the meaning of this question: It is known that there is no light without a Kli [vessel]. That is, it is impossible to receive filling if there is no lack. A lack is called a Kli, and when Abraham saw what the Creator wanted to give his sons, he said, “I do not see that my sons will have a need for that spiritual inheritance of the land.” He said, “If they receive a small illumination they will be content because the smallest degree in spirituality brings more pleasure than all the corporeal pleasures in the world. Accordingly, when they receive some small illumination they might think that there are no greater degrees than what they have attained, and will therefore have no need to ask for anything more.”
And because of this, Abraham’s question to the Creator was, “By what will I know that they will have the need to inherit the spiritual land?” Thus, he was asking the Creator to tell him how it might happen that they will have light without a Kli. Abram understood that the Creator gives the light, but the Kelim, meaning a desire for greater lights than they already received, who would make them see that they need to achieve greater ascension than they feel now?
There is a rule in spirituality that anything spiritual that comes to a person makes him feel unsurpassable wholeness, since anything spiritual is a complete feeling, without any deficiency. Otherwise it is not regarded as “spiritual,” for only in a corporeal matter can there be pleasure, and still we feel that there is a greater pleasure. This is not so in spirituality.
Thus, Abraham wondered how and through what they would have a need to ask the Creator to give them greater degrees, called “inheritance of the land.” He said that the Creator’s reply to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs” means that from here, meaning from the exile in Egypt they will have a need to ask the Creator to give them greater strength each time.
The reason is that when a person begins to advance in the work of the Creator and wants all his actions to be in order to bestow, he sees that he cannot prevail. At that time one asks the Creator to help him, as our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided,” and the holy Zohar asks, “How is he aided? With a holy soul.”
Indeed, everything that they overcame in the work sank in the earth, as he says about their building of Pithom and Ramesses. That is, each day they had to start their work anew because everything they built went into the abyss and they always saw themselves as though they had never begun to work because they did not remember any word of Torah that concerns work and always reflect on themselves, “Where is our work, the efforts we put into the work? Where did they go?”
It is even more difficult to understand how the Klipa [shell/peel] of Pharaoh could swallow all their work to the point that they did not feel that they ever engaged in serving the Creator, that their goal was to achieve wholeness, and they knew what they wanted. Suddenly, they have come to a state where they forgot everything and no Reshimot [recollections] remained in them from their work.
All this was deliberate. The Creator has prepared a Klipa for this purpose so as to constantly keep them in a state of beginning. It is known that all beginnings are tough, so they will be forced to ask the Creator to help them, as said above, that “He who comes to purify is aided,” and as the holy Zohar says that each time they receive a “holy soul,” which is a force from above, meaning that each time they receive additions to the soul. This accumulates into a great amount, as it is known that “What is given from Heaven is not taken back” (Hulin 60).
However, although each illumination received from above departs for the time being, in the end, when he completes the amount of labor that one must do, as in “Everything that is in the might of your hand to do, that do,” he receives at once everything he had received one at a time. He thought that it all went to the Klipot, but then he receives everything back.
According to the above, it follows that the whole matter of the exile in Egypt was in order to receive Kelim [vessels] and a need for the great lights, called “inheritance of the land.” This is what Abraham was perplexed about and said that he did not see that his sons would have a need for these great lights. And since there is no light without a Kli, it turns out that even if there is a desire to give them, they have no Kelim in which to receive.
For this reason they were given the exile in Egypt where through the questions and arguments of the Egyptians they will be continuously emptied from what little Kedusha [holiness/sanctity] they had acquired, for they suckled from them. For this reason they will always need to ask the Creator to illuminate their way for them so they can go forward. But they say that they kept going backwards, which is why the ARI wrote that at the time of the exodus from Egypt the people of Israel were in forty-nine gates of impurity until the King of Kings appeared to them and redeemed them.
This seems to contradict reason, since it is known that Moses and Aaron came to Egypt and spoke to the sons of Israel about the Creator wanting to bring them out from Egypt. They performed all the tokens in Egypt, and they saw the ten plagues that the Egyptians suffered, and this must have brought Israel closer to Kedusha, and not the opposite—that they kept falling to a deeper gate of Tuma’a [impurity], to the point that when it was time to come out of Egypt, meaning when they had to have the best preparation for reception of the light of redemption, we see that when they received the light of redemption they were in forty-nine gates of Tuma’a. Is this possible?
As Baal HaSulam explained, the exile in Egypt was in order to obtain the Kelim of the Egyptians. But it was only to borrow, and later to return to them. He interpreted that this matter of the Creator saying to Abraham, “Your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs,” was a guarantee of the inheritance. This meant that they would have a need to receive the abundance from the Creator, since wanting to come out of the enslavement of the Egyptians can be only through the help of a holy soul. Then they will need the Creator’s help each time, and from this they will have a need to draw higher degrees.
Now we will explain the meaning of the exile in Egypt and the borrowing of the Kelim from the Egyptians. We see that when Moses and Aaron came to the sons of Israel, as it is written (Exodus, 4:29), “And Moses and Aaron went and gathered all the elders of the sons of Israel, and Aaron said all the words that the Creator had said to Moses, and performed the tokens before the eyes of the people, and the people believed and heard.”
We see from this that as soon as Moses and Aaron came to the sons of Israel they accepted all the words that the Creator had said to Moses with faith above reason. And everything that the Egyptians made them understand with all the questions and doubts about the faith of Israel did not count at all because they went above reason. For this reason, the fact that the whole time they were in exile could not impact them at all now.
That is, once Moses and Aaron came to the sons of Israel with the Creator’s desire to take them out of exile, they promptly took it upon themselves not to listen henceforth to the arguments of the Egyptians, who came in the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt—that it is better for them to remain under their governance, and who tried to make them see that the way of the Egyptians was true and they should not listen to what Moses and Aaron were telling them. “We see that you are yelling, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ This made you think that you should leave Egypt and follow them. And we understand that you want to listen to all that they are telling you with eyes shut. Can this be, while we are making perfect sense? You have nothing to reply to us, yet you insist that you are willing to go all the way according to the words of Moses and Aaron.”
From this we see that after Moses and Aaron came with the message of the redemption—that now they were coming out of enslavement, for they were unable to do the holy work, they were happy with this message and did not need any exaggerations of flavors of Torah and Mitzvot. Rather, they were happy precisely with this, meaning with being able to simply observe in practice. This gave them complete satisfaction and they delighted in doing their Master’s will, as it is written, “Therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God’” (Exodus, 5:8).
It follows that now that they are coming out from the exile in Egypt with Kelim that do not need anything, but as it is written, “And the people believed and heard,” and they have no need to inherit the land that the Creator had promised to Abraham, as it is written, “Know for certain … and afterwards they will come out with many possessions,” meaning that the exile was a guarantee that they would have the need to receive the delight and pleasure, which is the inheritance of the land that the Creator sought to give to his descendants but they still did not have the Kelim for this and were content with little.
This is why, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak now in the ears of the people that each man will borrow from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor vessels of silver and vessels of gold.’” According to what Baal HaSulam interpreted, we should say that it means that they will take the vessels of silver and vessels of gold that the Egyptians have, meaning take their desires and longings, namely all the doubts that they had about the way of the people of Israel.
The Egyptians were always demanding that everything you do must be with reason and understanding, and your engagement in overcoming in order to exit self-love and to do everything in order to bestow is the wrong way because the Creator is good and does good. When He created the world, He certainly did it to benefit His creations, meaning that we, creatures, will enjoy the delight and pleasure. But you are leaving the right path and taking on a path that is completely against the purpose of creation. You are telling us that this is the true way, that you do not need anything for self-love but to do everything in order to bestow contentment upon the Maker.
But whenever the people of Israel heard the Egyptians slandering the path of bestowal they would run from them, meaning they ran from these thoughts when they came to confuse the thoughts of the sons of Israel and instill their views in the hearts of the sons of Israel.
For this reason, the Creator knew that they would not want to hear Egypt’s questions and doubts of “who” and “what,” but they did not have the Kelim in which to place the many possessions, since there is no light without a Kli. That is, a person cannot be given anything for which he has no desire. Therefore, if He were to ask the sons of Israel, “What do you want Me to give you?” They would say, “We do not want anything from You. On the contrary, our only aspiration is to give to You, and not that You will give to us.” Thus, how can they receive the delight and pleasure, called “many possessions,” which is considered that He wants to give them Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Haya, Yechida? They have no need for this!
This is why the Creator wanted them to take the Egyptians’ Kelim, meaning their questions and doubts, and all their desires, which are the Kelim of the Egyptians. But they were not to really take those Kelim, only borrow them. That is, they would take the Egyptians’ Kelim only to have a need to satisfy those deficiencies, but not to really keep those Kelim because the Kelim, meaning these thoughts and desires do not belong to the people of Israel. It is only a temporary borrowing, so as to later return to them.
That is, afterwards, meaning once they received the filling that belongs to these questions, precisely through them it will be possible to bestow upon them the filling. This is similar to receiving the lights that belong to their Kelim, which are called “vessels of reception in order to receive.” However, they promptly threw away their Kelim and used the lights that belong to their Kelim, but received everything in order to bestow contentment upon the Maker.
This is similar to what Baal HaSulam interpreted regarding Haman and Mordechai. He said that we see that when Ahasuerus wanted to glorify Mordechai, as it is written (Esther 6:3), “And the king said, ‘What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordechai for this?’ … and the king said to him, ‘What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?’ … Haman said to the king … let them bring royal apparel.’”
Accordingly, he asked, “How can such a thing be? If the King wants to honor Mordechai, he asks Haman ‘What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?’” He answers that this implies to the order of imparting abundance upon the lower ones. The Creator certainly wants to give honor and greatness to the righteous, which is Mordechai the righteous. But should He ask the righteous, “What do you want Me to give you?” the righteous will say that he does not want to receive anything. On the contrary, all he wants is to bestow upon the King.
This is why he had to ask the Haman in him, who understands that it is good to receive, and then he said, “And do so to Mordechai the Jew,” meaning that he will receive the honor and greatness not in the Kelim of Haman, which are called “receiving in order to receive,” but in receiving in order to bestow.
Similarly, we should explain concerning the borrowing of the Kelim from the Egyptians, when the Creator asked Moses to ask Israel to borrow Kelim from the Egyptians. We asked, “Why did the Creator have to ask Israel for such a thing? Why would the people of Israel not want to borrow these Kelim?” The answer is that when Moses and Aaron came as the Creator’s emissaries to bring the people of Israel out from the exile, it is written, “And the people believed and heard,” meaning with faith above reason. They did not need anything or had any desire for high degrees. They were content with being able to engage in Torah and Mitzvot without any disturbances from the Egyptians.
This is similar to what we said above, that he said that if the king were to ask Mordechai the righteous, “What honor and greatness do you want me give you?” He would reply that he does not want to receive anything from the king, but on the contrary, he wants to give to the king. This is why the king asked Haman what to do with a man whom the king desires to honor. Haman knew what to ask. He said, “Let them bring royal apparel which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed.” This is why the king needed Haman’s Kelim, meaning what Haman understood that one should receive from the king.
For this reason he had to ask Moses to ask Israel for a favor—that they will borrow the Kelim of the Egyptians, meaning temporarily, so they will have desire and craving to satisfy all the lacks that the Egyptians demanded to satisfy. He had to ask because the people of Israel would settle for what they had and would always run from their thoughts and desires, but now they are told to listen to the questions and doubts of the Egyptians.
And since He promised Abraham that afterwards they will come out with many possessions, He needed them to take the Egyptians’ Kelim only as borrowing and then give them back. That is, they have nothing to do with their borrowing, and what they took was only temporarily, to be able to receive the lights, called “inheritance of the land,” which the Creator had promised to Abraham.
Now we can understand what we asked about how the matter was turned from one end to the other, since the writing says, “and they detested the sons of Israel,” meaning that they were as thorns, and afterwards, “And the Lord gave the people’s favor in the eyes of the Egyptians.” Wanting to hear their questions gave “favor” because they thought they were going their way. “And the Lord gave the people’s favor” by telling them to borrow the Kelim from them, since this was what the Egyptians wanted.