Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bo by Reb Jay

In this week’s parsha are the final three makkos: arbeh, choshech and makkos bechoros.

The Zohar Hakadosh writes (2, 184a) that there is no light except for that which comes from darkness. That is why the world was started from evening and not morning. This is also true on a personal level. This is the reason that a person’s principal inclination when he is young is the yetzer hara. Only when a person matures (for a boy thirteen years of age, and a girl twelve) does their yetzer begin to develop. (This does not mean that children below these ages cannot do good things. What it means is that at these ages it is a child’s natural tendency to be self-centered, and only through inculcation of positive character traits will their good inclination begin to assert itself.)

And this is certainly true on a national level, that Klal Yisrael will undergo much darkness, till they will experience light.

What is this concept coming to teach us?

There are three distinct ways that we can look at suffering. The first, and least productive way, is to see it as an obstacle to what we are trying to accomplish in life. The second way is that we see problems and suffering as things that make us stronger, and overall, we are better for the experience. This is a positive way of viewing obstacles.

But there is a third way. This way is to see problems and suffering not as obstacles but as an integral part of us. For example, when a person loses his job. To see the loss of the job as a positive thing, as a sign that this job was not for him and to make the most of his new opportunity.

And for us as Jews to see all our suffering in our many dark exiles, not as something we had to undergo to achieve the final redemption, but as part and parcel of the final redemption. That we are who we are not in spite of our trials, but because of them.

So when Hashem was finishing up the ten plagues, He specifically chose to end with darkness and the killing of the first born. This was to show that the darkness (killing of first born also is darkness to a large degree), is really part of the light of our redemption from Egypt and our receiving of the Torah.

In order for us to truly appreciate this concept, that light comes from darkness, we must observe the twists and turns of our history. When we look at it honestly, it will lead us to believe in and trust Hashem, and to see that all that He does is for the best.

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