this week’s portion are the final three plagues, locust, darkness and the
death of the first born.
these three punishments were not chosen at random. They were chosen, as
with everything else in the Torah, for a specific purpose. We are going to focus
on darkness, followed by the death of the Egyptian firstborn, and what they
Zohar says (Volume 2, 184a) that there is no light except for that which comes
from darkness. That is why the world was started from evening and not morning.
This is also true on a personal level. This is the reason that a person's
principal inclination when he is young is the evil inclination. Only when a
person matures (for a boy 13, and a girl 12) does his good inclination begin to
develop. (This does not mean that children below these ages cannot do good
things. What it means is that at these ages it is a child’s natural tendency
to be self centered, and only through inculcation of positive character traits
will his good inclination begin to assert itself.)
is certainly true on a national level. The Nation of Israel will undergo much
darkness until it experiences light.
does this concept teach us?
are three distinct ways that we can look at suffering. The first, and least
productive way, is to see it as an obstacle to what we are trying to accomplish
in life. The second way is to see problems and suffering as things that make us
stronger, and overall, we are better for the experience. This is a positive way
there is a third way. This way is to see problems and suffering not as obstacles
but as an integral part of us. Consider, for example, how this can be applied
when a person loses his job. It is possible for a person to see the loss of the
job as a positive thing, as a sign that this job was not for him and that he
should make the most of his new opportunity.
we as Jews may see all our suffering in our many dark exiles not as something we
had to undergo to achieve the final redemption, but as part and parcel of the
final redemption. We are who we are not in spite of our trials, but because of
when G-d was finishing up the ten plagues, He specifically chose to end with
darkness and the killing of the first born. This was to show that the darkness
(killing of first born also is darkness to
a large degree) is really part of the light of our redemption from Egypt
and our receiving of the Torah.
order for us to truly appreciate this concept, that light comes from darkness,
we must observe the twists and turns of our history. When we look at it
honestly, it will lead us to believe in and trust G-d.
Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.