Parshas Bo is particularly rich in mitzvos and hashkafa to talk about, but that doesn’t mean I have time to write a lot : (
The gemara (Brachos 9) tells us that Hashem wanted Bnei Yisrael to help themselves to the Egyptian wealth “lest Avraham Avinu protest that the prophecy of enslavement was fulfilled through them, but the prophecy that they would escape with great wealth was not fulfilled through them.” Everybody wonders what this gemara means – surely even if not for Avraham’s protests Hashem would have kept his word?
The Yismach Moshe explains that the key word in the gemara is “through them.” Bnei Yisrael cleared Mitzrayim out of all its wealth – it was the accumulated wages owed for generations of servitude which they were collecting (as Chazal later explained to the wise men of Alexandria), not just the wages for the work done that year or the past few years before the exodus. What right did the generation who left Egypt have to collect the wages of their ancestors? The answer is that it was theirs by virtue of yerusha, inheritance. The booty collected from Mitzrayim was proof that there existed a direct line from Avraham down to the generation that left Egypt, that intermarriage and intermingling with Egyptians did not dilute the zera Avraham during their stay in galus. It was this connection that Hashem wanted to demonstrate, not simply the fact that Egypt could be emptied of its gold.
The Lubliner Rav also has an amazing pshat here based on the same diyuk. Hashem promised Avraham that his children will go into galus; Hashem promised that his children will be freed with great wealth. What galus and slavery meant, what great reward meant, was never defined. For a tzadik like Avraham, just having to live in a country like Mitzrayim, to do mundane tasks there, was galus, was avdus. Not so for his descendents, who became less sensitive to degradation of their kedusha. For them, galus and avdus had to entail real oppression to mean anything. The same was true of the promise of great reward. For a tzadik like Avraham, there could be no greater reward than kabbalas haTorah. Yet, his descendents could only be satisfied with a tangible, material reward, the wealth of Mitzrayim.
This is what the gemara means. Hashem could have fulfilled his end of the bargain with the reward of kabbalas haTorah. Yet, were he to do so Avraham would have a ta’anah. Since the punishment of slavery was fulfilled not based on Avraham’s definition of avdus and galus, but rather, “through them,” according to his descendents perception of what galus and avdus meant, according to their needs, the reward also must be “through them,” i.e. in accordance with their definition of what a reward is, not simply a spiritual reward that only the likes of Avraham could appreciate.
It seems that the galus we have to experience is relative to where we are at spiritually. Just riding the NYC subway, even if you are learning along the way, even if you get a seat -- it’s still galus. Sometimes we forget that it’s galus, we become accepting of an environment of tumah that surrounds us 24x7. Worse still, sometimes we embrace galus as an ideal, thinking that not only shouldcertain internet sites or whatever not be banned, but that it’s a mitzvah to look at them, v’kol hamarbeh in page refreshes harei zeh meshubach. When that happens we unfortunately create a need for Hashem to bring about a less subtle galus, and I don’t know if all the gold and silver in the world is worth it.