Why did Moshe Rabeinu tell Pharaoh that the Jews wanted to leave for three days if really his intention was to never return?
That’s a good question. When Moshe Rabeinu proposed to leave Mitzraim he said three days. And by the way, when they took the items from the Mitzrim, they borrowed them. They told the Mitzrim that they were just borrowing. It’s a good question.
You have to understand that everybody knew that once they would get out of Mitzraim, they weren’t coming back. Everybody knew that. Only that in order not to be insolent – you’re talking to a king after all – so Moshe Rabeinu said three days. Now, Pharaoh understood that they were trying to escape. He understood that. That’s why he said, “Who’s going with you?” He asked Moshe, “Will you leave over the children? Will you leave your cattle here?” So Moshe said, “We’re leaving nothing here. Nothing.” “Nothing?” said Pharaoh. “If that’s the case then I won’t send you out.” Pharaoh knew what was going on. He understood. So Moshe Rabeinu said three days, because that was the polite way. The polite way was to ask, “Let us go for three days.” It’s really just a polite way of saying, “Goodbye! Forever.” (The Rav laughed)
And when the Jews came to their Mitzri neighbors to borrow. What about that?! A Jew came to his next door neighbor and asked, “Can you please lend me your golden necklaces?” Lend? Sure, lend! The Egyptian was standing there mamash malei eimas ma’ves. He was afraid that he was going to die. Mamash full of fear. Hashem was killing them. The Mitzrim were being killed on all sides. The firstborn were dying on all sides. “U’mitzraim mikabrim es asher hi’kah Hashem” (Bamidbar 33-4). All over Egypt they were burying their dead. So what do you expect this Egyptian to do? Not to give him the gold necklaces?! But just to be polite, the Jew said, “Can you lend me your necklaces?” (The Rav laughed) It was only a polite way of taking the necklaces.