Parshas Beshalach

Rabbi Gidon Goldberg's picture

Dear Parents,

As someone who is involved in fundraising, I have the opportunity to meet with affluent people. While many of them give with a tremendous open heart, one can sense the challenge that affluence brings them as they are sought out by various yeshivos and charities on a daily basis. One donor shared with me that 10 percent of his daily work time is spent on dispensing charity.

When the Jews left Mitzrayim they were faced with sudden wealth, which we will see led to challenges of its own. In an essay on this week’s parshah, Rabbi Yissocher Frand discusses the instant wealth bestowed upon the exiting Jews.

The Torah tells us that Moshe took the bones of Yosef out of Mitzrayim. The Gemara (Sotah 13a) comments, “How dear the mitzvos were to Moshe — for all of Israel was busy taking the booty out of Egypt, and he occupied himself with mitzvos.” The Gemara cites this as a personification of the passuk (Mishlei 10:8), “Chacham lev yikach mitzvos — the wise-hearted man will take mitzvos.”

The Gemara contrasts the nation’s preoccupation with the mitzvah of collecting booty to Moshe’s preoccupation with the mitzvah of retrieving Yosef’s remains. What is the connection?

The Jewish people received two instructions regarding taking things from Egypt. They were commanded to take out gold and silver utensils (Shemos 11:2) because G-d foretold to Avraham that his children would be enslaved for 400 years and would eventually leave with great wealth (Brachos 9b). In addition, they had sworn to Yosef that when they would be redeemed, they would take his remains with them (Shemos 13:19).

This means that each Jew had a dual obligation to take something with him upon leaving Egypt. They needed to choose whether to occupy themselves with the first obligation (taking out booty) or the second obligation (taking out the remains of Yosef).

The Gemara tells us that virtually the entire Jewish nation chose the first option and went for the booty. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, opted for the second option — Yosef’s remains. Regarding Moshe’s choice, the Gemara comments, “The wise-hearted man will take mitzvos.” Furthermore, the Midrash elaborates, “Look at the piety and the wisdom of Moshe — he took the bones and everyone else took the money.”

We can understand why this should be considered an act of piety on Moshe’s part. But why is this action repeatedly referred to as an act of wisdom? What does taking the bones rather than money have to do with wisdom?

We see from this Midrash that Moshe’s decision was indeed wise. For who is the wise man? A wise man is one who foresees the future (Tamid 32a). Moshe Rabbeinu was a wise man because he knew what money could do to a person. He knew not only what money could potentially do, but he foresaw what money would, in fact, do to the Jewish people. For what, ultimately, did the Jews do with the booty that they took out of Egypt? They made it into a Golden Calf.

This was Moshe’s wisdom. He knew something that we all know in theory, but which is very difficult for us to act on — namely, that money is one of the root causes of all evil. Affluence is one of the greatest tests of religiosity. Moshe Rabbeinu said, “I don’t want the money, because I know it’s hard to handle.” Moshe’s wisdom was this firm knowledge of what too much money can lead to.
The Nesivos Shalom remarks in many of his essays that the goal of every Jew is to uplift his material possessions and acquisitions to become something holy. The lesson learned from the exodus is that while the Jews were meant to become rich, they had to know how to deal with their newfound wealth. (As a fundraiser for the school I am happy to help anyone with this decision of how to deal with wealth.)
Please join us this week at the school choice event being hosted by our school. It is crucial that we show our support at this event.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman