We are at the end of the plague series. In our parashah we find the last 3 plagues: locusts, darkness and, of course, the worst of all, the death of the firstborn.
But of the three, the one that seems to be out of place is the 9th, darkness. The darkness that suddenly occurred in Egypt according to the Torah was an almost tangible darkness. Some suggest that it could even have been the Hamsin, that sand-laden wind that blows in from the desert and darkens everything in seconds.
This is another darkness, though. The text is telling us a story that goes in a crescendo, from minor to major. The Kadosh Baruch Hu increases His severity with each passing plague. The first ones, we could even say that they were soft. With the plague of locusts, what was happening was that the food reserves that had already been affected by the blood in the Nile from the first plague, frogs and hail, were destroyed. The locusts themselves were a food for the Egyptian people. But even that meager food that seemed to come from heaven to destroy everything suddenly ceased to be available when the plague ended, leaving everything desolate.
After all the growing harshness of each plague, the darkness seems to be a rest before the terrible end.
But it’s not like that.
The god of the Egyptians was Amon-Ra, the sun god. And his son was none other than Raamses, the son of Ra, the Pharaoh. The darkness was that which faced the sun god, in an open and proclaimed challenge to the power of the supreme god of Egypt: the luminosity that the sun gives, precisely.
And the message does not end there.
Both the god Ra and his son Raamses had allowed the God of Israel to transform the fertility of the Nile into blood. The same fertility goddess, Heket, represented by the image of a frog, was transformed into a token of terror, disease and death in the second plague, that of frogs.
It was a blow not only to the daily life of the Egyptians, but to their culture of fertility, well-being and abundance.
Faced with Pharaoh’s attack on the continuity of the People of Israel, trying to kill their offspring, their fertile fruits, by decreeing that the first-born Hebrews be thrown into the Nile, the Lord retaliates with the fertility symbols of the oppressor people.
The darkness is a final sign for Pharaoh and the Egyptian people to understand that the God of Israel opposes and does not allow any fertility to be destroyed. After defeating their gods, the end comes with the death of the firstborn, attempting against the continuity of the Egyptians.
We live in a time in which children are still defenseless and vulnerable in various places and not so far from us. It’s up to us to define which side we choose to be on. We either choose the side of those who look the other way and allow continuity and transcendence to be interrupted in vulnerable children, or we choose the side of the Kadosh Baruch Hu that fights and imposes justice so that all peoples have the possibility of transcending.
The choice, as always, is yours. The decision is up to each one of us, in search of a better world, an improved world in the kingdom of God.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier