Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5774 2014

Before leaving Egypt Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the Israelites:

וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ אִישׁ מֵאֵת רֵעֵהוּ “…let each man request of his neighbor…silver vessels and gold vessels.” (Ex. 11,2) It is interesting that non-Jewish translations of this Biblical verse translate the word וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ as borrow. Hence many people ask the question, “How could the Jews borrow vessels when they never had intention to return them?”

The Jewish Biblical translations explain the word as “request” or “ask”. Actually the Hebrew word can be interpreted in both ways. The Jewish translation in this instance, however, is more accurate because the Israelites would never have been told by Hashem to borrow with the intention not to return the items.

In the Book of Psalms the word שאל appears in a passage we recite during the month of Elul. אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת יְקֹוָק, “One thing have I asked of Hashem”. (Ps. 27,4) Here the word certainly does not mean borrow.

This emphasizes the fact that one cannot rely on translations but must go straight to the original Hebrew to get the true meaning.


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