Braid the Parashah


What does it mean to be enveloped by a darkness that can be touched and felt? Most people have moments in their lives they describe as dark… perhaps a period of grief or heartbreak… maybe collective trauma or war. The language of “darkness” is also often used to describe a clinical state of depression.  This use of the term has nothing to do with the sun and the moon or being able to physically see. It is metaphorical - describing a state of being. 

One commentary suggests that it is precisely this type of “darkness” that fell upon the Egyptians during the 9th plague. According to the commentary, the entire universe still operated normally, the sun rose and set and all was normal for the Israelites and other nations.  But God took away each Egyptians’ ability to receive light in all its forms, sending them into a state of darkness felt in every part of their mind, spirit, and body.  

When understood through this lens, it is no wonder this is the penultimate plague.  Temporary physical blindness may be challenging but not so much to warrant taking place 9 out of 10 on the list. But the thought of being thrust into an overwhelming state of depression… really, what could be worse, besides of course the final plague - the loss of a child.

This insight is profound, particularly in a world that still treats physical ailments as more legitimate than ailments of the mind and spirit.  It is also a reminder that earlier generations were more forward thinking than we give them credit for. 

The plague of darkness is (almost) as bad as it gets. But it doesn’t need to be forever and there are things that can be done to address the plague.   I’ve never believed that things happen for a reason or that going through a period of darkness inherently makes a person stronger in the long-term.  Experiencing darkness is not a good thing, it is not thrust upon people who can “handle” it, and it doesn’t happen for any positive reason.  What makes a person stronger is finding the support they need to get them through dark periods, so if this is you, or someone you know, I hope you’ll take those first steps.  If you don’t know where to start, I can share resources. 

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