Of Light And Darkness
Written by the rabbi
As the severity of the 10 Plagues increases in intensity, our Sedra describes what may be the most frightening one of all: Choshech – Darkness. For 3 days, Egypt is shrouded in thick, palpable darkness. To imagine what this must have been like, try blind-folding yourself for just 30 minutes and walking around your house!
This plague was the only one that was not reserved exclusively for the Egyptians. Rashi remarks that there were wayward Jews, who did not want to leave Egypt. They died during the darkness, so the Egyptians wouldn’t see their demise and say, "The Jews are affected no less than we are!"
But hang on a second; we know that even in the desert there were wicked Jews (informants, idolaters, etc.) among the populace. So why did THEY survive the darkness, and only those Jews who refused to leave Egypt perished?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe offers a fascinating insight based on Yom Kippur. That day is so powerful, he says, that it atones for any sin a person may have committed, with ONE exception: the transgression of Yom Kippur itself! If one willingly eats or works on Yom Kippur, he nullifies the day’s saving power and will be held fully accountable for the sin.
Similarly, the courageous decision to leave Egypt was sufficient to atone for whatever sins a person had done and to merit their being saved. But - if someone declared that he did not wish to follow Hashem’s directive to exit that debased land, then he forfeited the merit to be redeemed and died in Egypt during the darkness.
This past week, our Central Bureau of Statistics announced that Israel’s population increased by almost 2% in the last year, and now stands at more than 8 million citizens (of which more than 75% are Jewish). 163,000 babies were born, and we are on course to reach 11.5 million people in just two decades. Already the largest Jewish community in the world, our increasing fertility rate – soon to exceed 3.0 – guarantees that we will IY"H grow exponentially.
Just by living in Israel – Chazal tell us repeatedly – we increase our wisdom and spirituality. Here, we walk down streets like Har Sinai and Nerot Shabbat; the Jewish festivals are our national holidays; it’s hard to find a supermarket that isn’t kosher! Yes, we surely have our challenges, but the twin societal cancers that have ravaged Diaspora Jewry – assimilating into the Gentile world and marrying out of the
faith – are virtually non-existent here. As the Gemara succinctly says, "The Land of Israel itself atones for us."
Darkness, the Gerer Rebbe once said, is not only a physical phenomenon. Even the "brightest" people may walk in darkness, if they stubbornly refuse to see the light.
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