The Lord Is My LightDecember 31, 2013 - 5:00 am
“No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”—Exodus 10:23
The Torah portion for this week is Bo, which means “come,” from Exodus 10:1–13:16, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 46:13–28.
A blind yet insightful Helen Keller once said: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” As Helen learned and taught throughout her life, having sight and having vision are two very different things.
In this week’s reading, we come across the ninth of the ten plagues: darkness. This was no ordinary darkness, not just a temporary blackout with no candles to be found. This darkness was so thick that it could be felt. For three days, the Egyptians were completely paralyzed. In the meantime, “the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.” The children of Israel were able to see.
Truth be told, according to Jewish tradition, not all the Israelites enjoyed the light. You see, four-fifths of the Israelites had no intentions of leaving Egypt. They saw no point in following Moses and God into the desert and the unknown. They planned to stay in a place that at least was familiar to them, even if the conditions were horrible. Stepping into the wilderness without a clear plan of how they would live was not an option for them.
So what happened to them?
The Sages teach that during those three days of darkness, when the Egyptians could not see and gloat, these Israelites passed away and were buried. They succumbed in the darkness and there they remained. Only one-fifth of the Israelites who were prepared to follow God into the unknown enjoyed the light and lived to see the day when they would walk free.
The story of the ninth plague is deeply symbolic. As Helen Keller noted, sight and vision are not the same. The plague of darkness represents experiencing the unknown – the times in our lives that are filled with confusion and doubt. This kind of confusion has the potential to freeze us, to cause us to be stuck in one place. We can physically see, but we lack insight, purpose, and direction. And with no visibility on the horizon, we remain stuck where we are — much like the Israelites who chose to stay in Egypt.
On the other hand, there are those who are just as confused, yet they have vision, and so they have light. These are the people who have faith in God. For them, He is their light. As it says in Micah: “Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light” (7:8). When we are willing to follow God into the unknown – into the wilderness without a plan and without clarity – then we will have light even in the darkest of days.