This week’s Torah portion is Bo – Ex. 10:1-13:16, and begins with the last four plagues and the final blow — the death of the firstborn. The ninth plague is the plague of darkness – choshekh. The Egyptians were in total darkness for three days — so thick, it could be felt; but there was light in the dwellings of the Israelites. (Ex. 10:21-23) What was the nature of this darkness? How was this darkness different from all other darkness?
Our tradition teaches that God’s first act of Creation was bringing forth light, but the sun, moon, and the heavenly luminaries were not made until the fourth day. What kind of light was that light of the first day… and how was it different from the light of the sun, moon, and stars? Our tradition teaches that the light of the fourth day was ordinary light by which we are able to see. The light of the first day was the light of ultimate awareness. It was a light so powerful, that one could see from one end of space to the other… from one end of time to the other. Tradition also taught that God set this light apart (hid it) for the righteous in the world to come.
Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk teaches that during the plague of darkness, that light must have been that primordial, hidden light.
And why at this time, was this hidden light made known to the Israelites? Redemption was soon to come; they were now able to see things that had been there all along… they would now be ready to leave the slavery of Egypt.
Perhaps this also teaches us that in the darkness of slavery and oppression (however they are manifest in our individual lives… or in the lives of a people), there comes a time when light does dawn – bringing to light an awareness that the time has come to take action. One has to be ready. One has to see that there truly is no other way out. Only forward…