Parshas Bo, 5778
In this week’s Parsha, there is a very odd arrangement of Pasukim. Hashem told Moshe to speak to the people to tell them to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and silver. Hashem assured them that the Egyptians would look at the Jewish people favorably and that they would fulfill the request. At the end of this Pasuk, Moshe was described as גדול –great- in the eyes of the Egyptians and the people. The question that the Sharei Orah poses is why the Torah added this line that Moshe was great at the end of the Pasuk, as it doesn’t seem to be connected to the first part of the Pasuk.
To answer this question, he suggests an interesting idea of the definition of the word גדול. He cites the use of the word in Devarim to describe Hashem. In this case, Rashi states that this is an allusion to the goodness that Hashem provides to us. In bentching, ובטובו הגדול references the idea that when Hashem provides for people, this is described as גדול. The Sharei Orah explains further that Avraham is the first person about whom the Medrash refers as גדול. Clearly, the trait of Avraham was to be kind to others. He concludes that whenever the Torah describes someone as great, it is because of a dedication to others. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the Torah to use that description regarding Moshe, since he chose to care about the plight of the Jewish people and went out to help them in their work.
What connects the description of Moshe as “gadol” to the beginning of Pasuk regarding the Jewish People’s being received favorably by the Egyptians when requesting their valuables? Frequently, when people are lacking a certain character trait, they look negatively at others who possess that trait, and rationalize the other person’s having this trait. For example, if a very stingy person sees someone who gives generously, he thinks of ulterior motives such as seeking honor to explain and diminish this generosity. When Moshe began to try to help the Jewish people, the Egyptians, who were not able to understand why a person would try to help another, thought that it must be that Moshe was doing this for his personal honor or glory. When Hashem caused them see the Jewish people in a positive light, to give them gold and silver, they also started to view Moshe in a positive light and, therefore, recognized that he truly was a גדל— great because he wanted to help others.
We need to try to honestly evaluate our motives when we view something in a negative light to be sure that this is not a reflection of our own negative character traits.