Over Yom Tov, I came across a refreshing new understanding of a well-known aspect of the story of Yetziat Mizraim. We read that G-d promised Avraham that his descendants – after being enslaved for 400 years – would leave “b’richush gadol” (with much property). Ostensibly, this is a reference to gold and silver treasures received from their Egyptian neighbors on the eve of the exodus. The Ktav V’hakabala, however, notes that the term “rav” is used by the Torah when it’s referring to wealth. The term “gadol” denotes not a physical, but a spiritual greatness. So, for instance, our people is referred to as a “Goy Gadol”; joining the Jews at the onset of their desert trek, Yitro notes “Ata Yadayti Ki Gadol Hashem M’kol ha’elohim” (Now I know that Hashem is the greatest of all gods”) In these two examples, the Torah focuses on a status that flows from spiritual greatness, and not physical size or number.
What meaning does this then have for the term “richush gadol”?
Hashem is promising Avraham that B’nai Yisrael will leave Mizraim with the spiritual predisposition to receive the Torah. The experience of Yetziat Mizraim will pave the way for Matan Torah – the giving of the Torah, which, after all, is the goal of the exodus.
Reading the verse this way, we can perhaps now understand G-d’s promise to Avraham Avinu: Though Jewish deliverance from Egytian bondage would no doubt be marked by the “chen” (grace) we would find in Egyptian eyes – prompting them to shower us with riches, this physical “richush” merely represented their appreciation of B’nai Yisrael … as the Mizrim witnessed us growing into our new role as the People of the Book.