May I Please Borrow a Cup of Sugar?

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It’s a sure fire way to meet your new neighbors. Walk next door with a measuring cup in your hand and say, “Hi. We just moved in. I want to bake cookies, but I can’t find the sugar. May I please borrow a cup of sugar?”

Of course, they’ll say yes and you are well on your way to forming a new friendship.

That’s great when you’re new in a community. Does the same thing work when you are leaving?


This week’s parasha describes the last three plagues that Hashem inflicted on the Egyptians. After the death of the first born, Paro and the Egyptians were only too glad for the Jewish people to leave Egypt as quickly as possible.

But before this last plague, Hashem gave Moshe a brief command. Here’s the Judaic Classics translation of Shemot 11:1-3:

1. And the Lord said to Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; when he shall let you go, he shall certainly thrust you out from here altogether.

2. Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow from his neighbor, and every woman from her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.

3. And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.

Let’s not think that just because a passage is short that there’s no meat there.


Several of my questions are based on the Hebrew words. I’m going transliterate the Hebrew and put the Judaic Classics translation in parenthesis.

Shemot 11:1

Why is the name Hashem used here? If the plagues are a punishment for the Egyptians, then shouldn’t the name Elokim be used instead?

Why is the word negah (plague) used here? Has this been the normal word used when speaking of the plagues?

Why does it say mi-zeh (from here)? If the reference is to the land, shouldn’t the word be mi-zot?

What is the best translation of the word kalah? As best as I can tell, Judaic Classics does not explicitly translate the word!

Why the double language gareish y’gareish (he shall certainly thrust)?

Why is the phrase etchem mi-zeh (you from here) repeated in the middle and at the end of the verse?

Shemot 11:2

Why does Hashem say “na” (now)? This is usually translated now or please. Which meaning is intended here?

What is the intention of “in the ears of the people”?

Which people are meant here? The Jews or the Egyptians?

Why are they asked to borrow objects from the Egyptians? Borrow means to take an object with the intention to return it. Was there a real possibility of returning the objects? If not, wasn’t it dishonest to “borrow” in the first place?

Why men from men and women from women? Also, the words used in relation to the Egyptians are rei’eihu (his neighbor ) and r’utah (her neighbor). These words imply a closeness to the relationship. Did that exist between the Jews and the Egyptians at this time, after the years of slavery and nine plagues?

Shemot 11:3

The word ha’am is used twice in this verse. Who is referred to these two times? Clearly the first time it means the Jewish people. The second time, is it the Jews or the Egyptians?

Why is Moshe here called “the man Moshe”?

In whose eyes was Moshe great? Does that imply that some people did not consider him great? If so, who?

Your Turn

What other questions do you have on this passage? Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

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Photo by from Flickr by D Sharon Pruitt

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