By: Solomon Brainin
In this week’s parsha Hashem punishes the Egyptians with the final three plagues, (locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn) which lead to the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people. We see that these three plagues all have a similarity of darkness. When the locusts struck, it says, “It covered the sight of the entire land and the land was darkened.” The plague of darkness continues this theme by taking darkness to a whole new level, as it says, “Stretch forth your hand and there shall be darkness upon the land of Egypt, and the darkness will become darker.” Finally, by the death of the firstborn, it says, “It was at midnight, and Hashem smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt.” So what is the significance of darkness shared by these last three plagues?
If we go back to the beginning of the parsha, when Moshe asked Pharaoh to let the Jews go to the desert to give sacrifices to serve Hashem, Pharaoh responds, “So be Hashem with you when I will send you and your children! See that evil faces you. Not so; let the men go now. Serve Hashem for this is what you request!”. What is this evil that Pharaoh is talking about? Rashi explains that this evil that Pharaoh was talking about was the Egyptian god Ra’ah. Ra was no minor figure in the Egyptian society: Ra was the sun god, the most powerful of all the Egyptian deities. The last three plagues should be seen as an attack on the Egyptians’ most central beliefs. Just as the first three of the first four plagues attacked the Nile and shook the Egyptians’ belief in the powers of the god who ruled the Nile, so to, the final three plagues were direct attacks on the Egyptian sun god: The plague of locusts turned day into night and the sun god was defeated. The plague of darkness went one step further, exploding the myth of the sun god completely: three days of darkness, days completely devoid of sunlight, destroyed the reputation of the sun god. And the final plague, death of the firstborn, took place at midnight, the darkest time of day.
Hashem showed the Egyptians that there is no other god or higher power except for Him. This is a valuable lesson we can all take to heart in modern day, to ignore the darkness in our lives and to internalize true light.
Solomon Brainin is from Brooklyn, NY and is involved with NY NCSY