Remember when the Egyptians
handed over their treasures to the Bnei Yisroel during
Yetziat Mitzrayim? Well, over 1000 years later, the Egyptians
had the opportunity to haul the Bnei Yisroel to court
over the matter! That's right! The Egyptians and Jews went head
to head in a battle for the "bullion" in the court of Alexander
The Great. Here's what happened:
Our story begins way back in the days of Avrohom Avinu.
Hashem reveals to our forefather that his descendants
are destined to become a great nation. There is just one catch.
In order to become that great nation, they would have to be
strangers in a strange land, becoming slaves and live in bondage
for 400 years. But there's good news: Hashem promises
to take these slaves out of bondage and make them very rich
in the process.
Here's the problem: Mitzrayim, the destined strange
land in which Avrohom's descendants would be strangers, is a
very poor country. Well, this just won't do. So Hashem
comes up with the whole famine thing... you know: Yosef, the
dream, seven years of plenty, Yosef storing away the grain for
seven years of famine. People from all over the world come to
purchase food and Mitzrayim becomes the wealthiest
country in the world.
As the revelation goes, Yaakov eventually gets sucked into
the famine vacuum and sends his sons to Mitzrayim to
purchase grain. There, they meet up with their long-lost brother,
Yosef, the viceroy of Mitzrayim. The entire family
ends up settling in Mitzrayim and, as we all know,
the Bnei Yisroel are forced to become Pharoh's slaves.
But then the second part of Hashem's promise kicks
in and the Bnei Yisroel are led out of Mitzrayim.
Now, the wealth acquired by Pharoh and the Egyptians is handed
over to the Bnei Yisroel. First, Moshe instructs the
Jews to ask their Egyptian neighbors for all their silver, gold
and fancy clothes. Many Jews hesitate for fear that the treasure
will weigh them down on the journey, But before the Jews have
a chance to refuse, the Egyptians have already emptied their
safes and force the treasures on their Jewish neighbors.
Fast-forward one thousand years to the court of Alexander
The Great, ruler of the entire civilized world... The Egyptians
send a representative to file a claim that the Jews took all
of Mitzrayim’s treasure. Their proof? It's written
in the Torah!
Now Egypt wants it back.
Okay, it's an old claim, but Alexander will play along. The
Jews are ordered to answer the accusation. Back in Yerushalayim,
the sages wonder how they can answer this claim in a way that
a secular king will understand. Finally, Gevihah ben Pesisa
steps forward and says that he will go before Alexander The
Great's court. Gevihah figures that if he wins, it's
good for the Jews. And if he loses, the sages can always say
he's a renegade who doesn't really represent the Jewish nation.
So Gevihah arrives in court and begins his defense.
"What evidence do you bring that we owe you such a great treasure?"
"From your own Torah," is the reply.
"Hmm, since you use the Torah as a source to show
that we took your treasures, let me use the same source to refute
the claim. Isn't it true that there were 600,000 Jews who left
"Well, I don't -"
"Tut-tut-tut... it says right here in the Torah (Shmot
12:37). So if you accept the Torah as a source for
your claim, you must accept these figures too."
"I suppose so," is the only answer the Egyptian reps can give
or else all claims are lost.
"Then you must also accept that theTorah says the
Jews were in Mitzrayim for 430 years (Shmot
"You got it. But where are you going with this," the Egyptians
and Alexander wonder at this point.
"Here's the thing." Gevihah continues. "Our ancestors
worked as slaves for Mitzrayim for (210 of the) 430
years - for free! It is our claim that the Egyptians owe us
wages for 600,000 workers for (210 of the) 430 years. At minimum
wage, you'd have to empty out all the treasuries (and gold fillings)
of every Egyptian to come up with a minimum wage of one silver
coin a day for 600,000 workers for (210 of the) 430 years -
or 45,990,000,000 (and don't forget the compound interest!).
If we pay your claim, will you pay ours?"
At this point, the Egyptians are powerless to proceed. Perhaps
if they claim that the Jews were slaves, then Gevihah
would have no claim for the money, since slaves don't get paid.
But the Jews were not enslaved the usual way - captured during
a war or imprisoned. They came to Mitzrayim and settled
in Goshen at Pharoh's invitation. Therefore, the claim would
With this, the Egyptians drop their claim.