Asking for help is a sign of self-worth, strength


Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham, Special to the Jewish Light

Moses relates the commandments the Israelites must fulfill on the fateful eve of Passover in Egypt in our parsha this week, Bo. Can you imagine their fear and trepidation?

This includes the consumption of the paschal lamb. Moses is then told to give the nation an additional instruction. Before the people finally leave Egypt, they must ask the Egyptians for “gifts”:  “Tell the people to borrow, each man from his neighbor and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold.” (11:2)

Commentators ponder this request. The nation was slated to travel to Sinai to receive the Torah. Why would they need Egyptian finery? One modern scholar, Michael Kanovsky, explains that asking the Egyptians for aid represented a crucial step along the Israelites’ path to freedom.

Later in the Torah, we will read in Leviticus (26:13): “I the Lord am your God who brought you out from the land of the Egyptians to be their slaves no more, who broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”


Walking upright implies a sense of pride and self-worth. In other words, physical freedom would not have been enough had the people continued to think of themselves as slaves. In order for the Israelites to become a great nation, they needed to leave Egypt walking upright as proud people with a sense of importance and self-worth.

Kanovsky notes: “The commandment to request items from the Egyptians was in order to upright the stance of the Children of Israel. No longer were the Egyptians the masters and the Israelites the slaves. Rather, the people of Israel were now peers (with the Egyptians as they were instructed to ask) ‘man from his neighbor, and woman from her neighbor.’ … Now the Israelite would be required to walk with a head held high and ask — or even demand — the most expensive items in the house.” 

Kanovsky makes an important insight about asking for assistance. Asking for help requires a sense of self-worth and an understanding that both asking for and receiving assistance represents an understanding of worth and value.

Far too often, we are “too proud” to ask for help from those around us. Whether it is in the workplace, with our families or even in just growing our spiritual selves, we constantly shy away from asking others to help us on our journeys in our lives. We can even ask help from those with whom we have had previous conflicts, as the Israelites do with the Egyptians. 

Our parsha is a good reminder that we are only as good as those with whom we surround ourselves. We are stronger together!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham serves Congregation B’nai Amoona and is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.