Posts Tagged ‘plague of darkness’


Nobody noticed when the plague of darkness descended.  Some say that the world was too distracted.  Some say it was already too dark – who could really tell the difference?  Some news commentators refused to believe in the darkness.  They switched on the electric lights in their news studios and broadcast reports about how the darkness was not real.  “How can you say there is darkness,” they stated, “when all you have to do is turn on a light?”  Some columnists wrote editorials saying that the alleged darkness was just another invention of those perpetrating the myth of climate change.  Indeed, many saw no change in the world.  All seemed to go on as usual, so why all the fuss about darkness?  Yet, others insisted the darkness was real, that it was pervasive; that it was the largest tragedy humanity had ever suffered.

Some argued over the cause of the darkness.  Why did it happen?  Was it some kind of punishment?  When did it begin?  Republicans said it was when President Obama was elected. They claimed the darkness was a Muslim socialist plot to deceive the country, cloaking it in darkness to mask a government takeover by a Sharia dominated cabal.  Democrats said it was when Ronald Reagan was elected.  They claimed that the elevation of a “B” grade actor to the presidency degraded the office.  “How can the former star of ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ be qualified to lead the country?” they asked.  Democrats believed the country was lulled to sleep by a theatrical presidency only to wake up in a darkness of corporate dominance.  The only interchange between Republicans and Democrats was to call each other blithering idiots.

Then there were religious leaders.  Many, from all denominations, became very introspective, wondering if they had contributed to the darkness.  Some believed they had not spoken out enough about issues of injustice or of racism.  Some felt they might have misrepresented the word of God.  Some wondered if they had worried too much about the finances of their church or synagogue and not enough about the soul of their congregation.  There were other clergy, however, who saw the darkness as God’s wrath, brought upon people because of false beliefs.  Some believed the darkness started because too much of the world had come to accept same sex marriage.  Others believed it was God’s revenge for those scientists who taught evolution, casting doubt on the creation of the world as depicted in the first chapter of Genesis.  Televangelists used the darkness to raise even more money, convincing their viewers that contributions to their ministry was the only way to lift the darkness.  Even though it wasn’t, people believed and sent money anyway.

In Europe, radical Muslims attacked newspapers and magazines, proclaiming that these publications’ insults to the prophet had ignited God’s anger.  They trumpeted their actions as carrying out the will of Allah against infidels.  Other Muslims blamed the darkness on their terrorist co-religionists; crying out against the coopting of Islam for violent ends.  European government officials were divided on the darkness.  Some thought the darkness came from allowing too many immigrants not from Europe.  Some thought the darkness came from the degraded conditions many immigrants had to endure.  Some blamed the darkness on the economic problems of the European Union.  Dozens of theories were debated, but everyone agreed on one thing – that at least some of the blame for the darkness must be the Jews.  As a result, synagogues were attacked, Jewish owned stores were looted.  Governments issued condemnations but few people cared or listened.  The victims were, after all, only Jews.

Palestinian Arabs blamed the darkness on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.  Israelis blamed the darkness on Arab anti-Semitism.  Terrorist attacks were launched.  Reprisals were made.  Israelis and Palestinians died.  Leaders on each side kept asserting that their reason for the darkness was the only one that was correct and there could be no peace until the other side accepted their version as fact.  The only result was more death.

African Americans blamed the darkness on police brutality.  Police blamed it on the increased risk to their lives demonstrated by targeted killings of police officers.  Tensions increased.  Civil rights spokesmen and police advocates yelled in protest.  No one listened.  Nothing changed.

The NRA said the darkness occurred because people were being prevented from purchasing more guns.  Gun control advocates said the darkness came because there were too many guns.  School shootings happened.  Anyone expressing sadness over the victims was condemned by the NRA as using the shooting for political purposes.  Liberals pushed for more gun control.  Despite the fact that more of the shooters were disturbed students, no one bothered to do anything to improve the schools, to help the students.  The only real concern about schools was to increase test scores.

Blogs were posted.  Editorials were written.   The more thoughtful the piece, the more vile the comments posted by the readers, who only wanted to see who agreed with their own perspective.  Anyone disagreeing was called a liberal fool or a redneck yokel.

While here and there were some glimmers of light, the darkness did not lift.

We learn in Exodus chapter 10, vayahi choshech afeilah bechol eretz Mitzraim.  There are a number of ways to translate choshech afeilah.  One is a “thick darkness.”  Another is a “dark misery.”  Whichever way we translate it, we then learn lo ra’u ish et achiv v’lo kamu ish mitachtav, “no man could see his brother and no man could rise from his place.”  Where did this darkness come from?  Rabbi Yehuda said from the secret places in heaven.  Rabbi Nechemia said from the depths of hell.  Cassuto points out that this plague came without any warning.  Moses just lifted his staff and it happened.

What exactly was this dark misery?  Perhaps we might understand it best if we make a slight adjustment to the Hebrew.  Instead of reading lo ra’u ish et achiv, “no man could see his brother,” perhaps we should read as lo ra’u ish k’ achiv, “no man could see AS a brother.”  The darkness might be each person’s inability to see the person across from him as a brother or sister.  We default to seeing them through a label, liberal or conservative, gay or straight, black or white – the number of labels is infinite.  Instead we sit in our own place, unable to move – unable to rise up and see the light of God in the person across from us.

We are also told that the Israelites had light in their settlements.  What kind of light was that?  Psalm 97 says, Or zarua latzadik ulyishrei lev simcha, “Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright of heart.” Mystics teach this light is the light created at the beginning of creation.  It has been sown throughout creation for us to find, so that we can rise up in the time of darkness.  If we can find the light of the righteous, and lift ourselves out of blindness, perhaps we can then end the plague of darkness.

Kein yehi ratzon – may it be God’s will.

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