"G-d gave the people favor among the Egyptians. Moses was also very highly respected in Egypt , both by Pharaoh's officials and by the people" (11:3). Pharaoh had waged a relentless war of anti-Semitism against his Jewish citizens, warning the people that the Jews constitute a fifth column waiting to destroy Egypt . His demagoguery fell on deaf ears. The land of Egypt and the people of Egypt had undergone tremendous hardship and suffering. Their economy had been destroyed their material possessions depleted and their empire shown to be vulnerable. While the worst was yet to come the death of the first born the mood in Egypt could not have been one of joy. No doubt an international aid effort would be needed to help Egypt rebuild. And all this at the hand of a few Jews. Yet the Egyptian on the street did not blame the Jews. And Moses gets special mention for his high rating in the Egyptian popularity polls. What is happening here? Could it be that the common man understood the real source of their suffering was the actions of their own leaders and not the Makot inflicted by Moshe?
"There was a great outcry, since there was no house where there were no dead" ( 12:30 ). Yet immediately thereafter the Torah tells us that "G-d made the Egyptians favor the people and they granted their request" (for gold, silver and clothing) ( 12:34 ). The Egyptians were lying dead on the street, yet they showered presents upon the Jews. Apparently they understood that Moshe was not only liberating the Jewish people, he was also liberating the Egyptians. Persecuting and especially killing others take a tremendous moral tool on the perpetrator. While evil is first directed at foreigners once established as a norm it becomes endemic to society and ends up bringing much harm and grief to its well-established citizens too. Even those in power never know when a bullet in the back of the head will end their career. Thus the exodus of the Jewish people was not only good for the Jews it was good (or at least had the potential to be good) for Egypt . They could now rebuild morally also.
While it is possible that the feeling of goodwill towards the Jews stemmed from a sense of morality and revulsion of the corruption of Egypt, the moral uprightness of the Jewish people was no doubt a factor in promoting this affection. "Moses lifted his hand toward the sky, and there was an opaque darkness in all Egypt . The Israelites however had light in the areas where they lived" (11:22 -23). With no policeman, taskmasters, or national guard to protect the Egyptian people and property imagine what havoc the Jews could have created. We don't have to imagine much as we have been witness to what happens when there is no enforcement of the law. Yet the Jewish slave despite being underpaid and overworked to say the least, did not loot. The riches that they had coming to them would have to be gotten through moral means even if all they were doing would be to correct past wrongs. No doubt this impressed many Egyptians who now realized that the anti-Semitic canards that Pharaoh had accused the Jews were just not true. Perhaps this even explains why we see no objections to the slaughter of the lamb, one of the Egyptian gods. They understood this was a rejection of a corrupt way of life. Those who are honest will in the end earn the respect and even the love of others.
"Zion will be redeemed by justice and her penitents by righteousness (Isiah 1:27 ). These words which we read on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av affirm that the only path to redemption whether from Egypt or from America - is the path of utmost integrity. It is our dealings vis a vis money which will determine the future of the Jewish people. Let us do our best to ensure it glitters with gold. Shabbat Shalom!