dvar for parasha Bo 5783
“And the L-RD said unto Moses: ‘Stretch out thy hand toward the heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.’ And Moses stretched forth his hand toward the heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”– Exodus 10:21-23, JPS 1917 Tanach
This darkness originated in a heavenly place: “He made darkness His hiding-place, His pavilion round about Him; darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies” (Psalms 18:12, JPS; Ohr HaChayim, Shemot Rabbah 14). H’Shem is surrounded and hidden by atmospheric darkness. “Inasmuch as the darkness was of a supernatural kind, Moses did not consider it appropriate to raise his staff against supernatural phenomena” (Ohr HaChayim, Exodus 10:23, sefaria.org).
His presence within the clouds may also refer to our inability to draw close to Him, unless we enter a place of unknowing, wherein we cannot fully rely upon our intellect. Yet, in the darkness, we may gain insight into the nature of His essence. This unfamiliar place, where H’Shem may be found, may manifest on an experiential level, within the circumstances in our lives. Or, on an intellectual level, from new insights and conceptions of Him.
Another view likens the darkness that encompassed Egypt for three days, to the darkness of purgatory (Or HaChayim on Exodus 10:23; sefaria.org). The Egyptians were not able to see beyond the darkness; yet, the Children of Israel, who had light in their dwellings, were also closer to G-d than their neighbors. Without a connection to G-d, we live in a type of purgatory; yet, we can be aware of the lofty nature of G-d, when we seek Him in the darkness of our lives.
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