Bo 2

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Light from Darkness 

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


In this week’s portion are the final three plagues, locust, darkness and the death of the first born. 

Obviously 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 represent.

The 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.)

This is certainly true on a national level. The Nation of Israel will undergo much darkness until it experiences light.

What does this concept teach us?

There 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 of viewing obstacles.

But 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.  

Similarly, 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 them.

So 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.

In 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.

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