15 January 2016
When they were younger, our kids asked us to leave the light on in the hallway so they could “sleep better”. Darkness for them – as it is for most of us – is unnerving, and even scary. It obscures the clarity we need to navigate rooms, roadways and even life itself. We naturally seek light – or create it – to mitigate darkness and create transparency.
This week’s parasha, Bo, continues the story of the plagues visited upon the Egyptians as Pharaoh defies Moses’ demands to let the Israelites go. The ninth plague is that of darkness, while the eighth (locusts) brought darkness upon the earth, and the tenth, the slaying of the firstborn, brought darkness to all the houses of Egypt. The three final plagues, and their common theme of darkness, set us up for the profound exodus of the Jews – from the darkness of slavery to the light of freedom.
The theme of darkness also requires that we focus our attention on the suffering of the Egyptians caused by the stubbornness of Pharaoh. Leaders should do everything possible to help alleviate pain among their people, yet all too often, we see despots visiting suffering upon their country by obscuring light and promoting darkness.
What does it take to pierce darkness? Light, while effective, is only temporary: the candle burns out, the flashlight battery expires. Darkness, and its concomitant insecurity, is overcome by truth, and – as the Israelites would come to learn – by faith, which guides us, provides comfort and even help us sleep better….