Vol 31.08 - Bo 1 Spanish French Audio Video
Transforming Darkness into Light
According to the Midrash,2 this plague consisted of two separate miracles: a) a miraculous form of darkness that plagued the Egyptians, b) a miraculous illumination that existed only where Jews were found, and which enabled them to see where the Egyptians hid their treasures. G‑d was thereby able to fulfill His promise to Avraham that the Jews would leave Egypt “with great wealth.”3
According to Rashi ,4 however, there was only one miracle: the darkness that G‑d brought upon the Egyptians. And while it was true that the purpose of this miracle was to give the Jewish people the opportunity to search for Egyptian wealth, there was no additional miracle allowing the Jews to see what was in the Egyptian dwellings.5
Why does Rashi differ from the Midrash as to whether the “light in all the places where they were” was one of the miracles of the plague?
The “great wealth” that the Jews took with them from Egypt also alludes to the sparks of holiness found within that country. By taking out the silver vessels, etc., the Jewish people also took out and elevated the sparks of holiness from the evil of Egypt and returned them to the domain of holiness.6
“Elevating the sparks of holiness” is vitally important in the spiritual service of all Jews. Thus, in addition to the obligation of Torah study and prayer (spiritual matters that relate more directly to the person himself), a Jew must also perform the mitzvos, which usually involve physical matter.
When a person uses his mind and heart in study and prayer, he elevates his own spirituality. But when he performs the physical mitzvos and also sees to it that even his everyday permissible activities are done for the sake of Heaven, he draws spirituality into the physical universe and elevates the sparks of holiness found within physicality to the realm of sacredness.7
Accordingly, we may well say that according to Rashi these are the two aspects of the verse: a) The actual plague of Darkness provided the Jewish people with the ability to enter the Egyptian homes and behold their wealth; b) “The Jewish people, however, had light in all their places of dwelling.” This corresponds to the two previously mentioned kinds of spiritual service.
The spiritual service of Torah study and prayer illumines and sanctifies the soul of the Jew; his personal “dwelling place” is filled with divine light. The service of purifying and elevating the world by extracting sparks of holiness from the physical and returning them to the spiritual is akin to entering the Egyptian homes and returning their objects to holiness.
As things exist in their simple context — the basis of Rashi’ s commentary on Torah — these are two markedly different and possibly opposite kinds of service.
According to the Midrash , however — wherein “most of the secrets of Torah are concealed”8 — this “light in all the places where they were” is part and parcel of the miracles of the plague of Darkness.
For with regard to the divine inner intent, these two manners of service — elevating oneself and elevating the sparks of holiness within the world — are not two different kinds of service, but are bound one to the other.
This is because the ultimate purpose of Torah study and prayer is to assist a person in his sanctification of the world. For as explained in Tanya ,9 in the final analysis the soul did not descend into this world to perfect itself, for no amount of perfection can attain for the divine soul the level of holiness that it enjoyed prior to its descent. Rather, it descended below to perfect its body, the body’s vitalizing soul, and its portion in the world, by purifying and elevating them to holiness.
( From https://www.sie.org/templates/sie/article_cdo/aid/2348088/jewish/Chassidic-Dimension-Volume-4-Bo.htm. Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXI, pp. 46-51.)
1. In the story regarding the plague of darkness the verse states:
“So Moshe stretched forth his hand . .the heavens, and there was thick darkness over the entire land of Egypt for three days. . .They did not see each other, and no one rose from his place for three days, but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”
It states in Midrash Rabba:
“And in the three days of darkness, G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and they asked to borrow their things (והשאילום), for when an Israelite went into the homes of the Egyptians and they saw silver, and gold articles and clothing - if they (the Egyptians) said ‘we do not have anything to lend to you’ – the Israelites would say to them ‘It is in a certain place’. At that time the Egyptians said ‘if they wanted to lie to us they could have taken the things during the days of dark ness and we would not have known for they already saw them, yet since then they have been untouched to our knowledge. They also they did grab them but asked to borrow them, to fulfill what is stated in the verse ‘and afterwards they will go out with great wealth’. This is what is meant by ‘but for all the children of Israel there was light etc.’ It does not say ‘in the land of Goshen’ but rather ‘in their dwellings’ For every place that a Jew entered, light entered and illuminated for him what was in the barrels and boxes and hidden caches”.
This is also stated (albeit concisely) in the Midrash Tanchuma:
“And even in Egypt the cloud illuminated the Israelites and darkened the Egyptians as it states: ‘They did not see . . but for all the children of Israel there was light’ And the light illuminated for the Israelites and showed them all the silver and gold articles and clothing and all the best of Egypt. And what was in the boxes and barrels and caches were shown to them. And they would ask (the Egyptians) and they were forced to give it to them (the Israelites) for the Israelite would say to them: ‘You have in that particular place such and such an article’”
The essence of this derash is briefly cited in Rashi:
“Now why did He bring darkness upon them? Because . . Also, the Israelites searched (the Egyptians’ dwellings during the darkness) and saw their belongings. When they were leaving and asked them (for the things), and they (the Egyptians) said, ‘We have nothing’ - the (Israelite) would say to him, ‘I saw it in your house, and it is in such and such a place.’”
Briefly, it seems that the intention of Rashi to interpret the verse as it is explained in the Midrash, that Bnei Yisroel saw the Egyptian articles – is the explanation of the verse “but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”
But it is enormously difficult to explain that this is Rashi's intention, for:
1. The precise words of the Midrash,
“It does not say ‘in the land of Goshen’ but rather ‘in their dwellings’, for every place that a Jew entered, light entered etc.”
is not the simple interpretation of "in their dwellings",
(on the contrary, it is the opposite of the simple explanation)
and if Rashi had that opinion he should have written it explicitly.
2. Most importantly:
Rashi writes his commentary
on the words (in verse 22) “and there was thick darkness . . for three days”,
the reason for the plague of darkness (when he writes) “Why did He bring darkness upon them”-
Yet he does not mention at all in his commentary there, the words (from the next verse – verse 23) "but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”
It appears from this that according to Rashi there are two different things here:
1. The aspect of: “For all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” – which speaks of
(and which is according to the simple meaning of the words)
the Jewish houses (in the land of Goshen).
2. The aspect of: “They saw their articles” – meaning that the Israelites saw the Egyptian articles in the Egyptian houses –
This aspect is learned
(not from what it says: “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” , but rather)
from the very plague of darkness.
For this was the intent of the plague – to enable Bnei Yisroel to see their articles and ask them later from the Egyptians when they left Egypt.
2. According to the above we learn, that there is a critical difference between the Midrash and Rashi in the interpretation of the verses here:
According to the Midrash, when it states
“for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” –
it means that this also is part of the plague of darkness.
For the plague consisted of two parts:
1. Darkness (of a miraculous nature) to Egypt
2. Light (of a miraculous nature) to Yisroel – for ‘every place that a Jew entered, light entered etc.”
However according to Rashi there was only one miracle here - the darkness that G-d brought upon the Egyptians.
But the reason that plague was brought upon them was on behalf of Bnei Yisroel. For through the darkness, Bnei Yisroel was given the ability to search the Egyptian houses and see the place of their articles. But there was not an additional miracle to enable Bnei Yisroel to see what was in the Egyptian homes.
(And when the verse states afterwards “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” it is an aspect in and of itself. For it comes to emphasize that the plague was only in Egypt, and not where the Israelites lived, in the land of Goshen. In other words, the reason it was not dark for the Israelites in the Egyptian houses was because it was a part of the plague of darkness, for this was the intent and objective of the plague.
However, the intent of the verse: “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” is, on the contrary, to make known that there was no iota of the darkness in the Israelites homes.
This is similar to what is written concerning the Plague of hail that: “Only in the land of Goshen where the Bnei Yisroel were, there was no hail”, for
even though it is, seemingly, plain (to understand) without this –
the plague was only upon the Egyptians)
And this difference between the Midrash and Rashi is emphasized and precise in the differences of the verbiage between them:
In the Midrash, the wording is that the light:
“Illuminated for Yisroel and showed them what was in the boxes and barrels and hidden caches”
1. Makes no mention at all that there was some sort of 'light” (he only mentions the “seeing” of Bnei Yisroel as he writes: “They saw their articles”)
2. Rashi adds the precise word “searched/ ״חפשו״ – not like the Midrash who states that: ”it showed them”
3. He omits that Bnei Yisroel saw the articles in the “boxes and barrels and hidden caches”
According to the aforementioned, the reason for the differences is understood simply:
According to the Midrash that “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” is part of the miracle. If so, this was a special and miraculous light that “showed them what was in the boxes and barrels and hidden caches”. For, to accomplish this, natural light was not sufficient to see, by it, what was found in the vessels and (certainly not what was in the) hidden caches. But rather it was a special and miraculous light.
However according to the plain meaning of the verse (Rashi’s method on Torah) there was no miraculous light, only that the darkness did not darken for Bnei Yisroel (שהחושך לא החשיך לבנ״י). Therefore they were able to see what was is in Egyptian homes (with normal and natural light) ". Accordingly they had to search etc. until they saw the Egyptian articles (and according to this, one could say, that it is possible that Bnei Yisroel did not find the all the articles that had been buried in the caches, etc.).
(According to this one can explain another difference between the Midrash and Rashi:
· Rashi explains that Bnei Yisroel‘s entering the Egyptian houses and seeing their articles, was (one of) the reasons for the plague of darkness.
· However, from the language of the Midrash it appears that this was not the reason for the plague of darkness, but an additional thing that occurred during the plague of darkness.
According to the aforementioned one can explain the reason:
· For according to the Midrash that it was a miraculous light that showed the Israelites all the Egyptian articles, there is no need (so much) to bring upon them darkness. For even if the Egyptians had light, the Israelites would see the Egyptian articles by this miraculous light.
· However, according to Rashi’s view that there was no miraculous light, the possibility of seeing the Egyptians’ articles could only be through the darkness that G-d brought upon the Egyptians)
3. One could explain the reason why Rashi changes from the homily of the Midrash, by a preface:
It is known that in fulfilling G-d’s commandments, one must endeavor to fulfill it naturally, not by a miracle. This means that, not only must the object that one performs the Mitzvah with, be a natural object and not one that came about through a miraculous act, but also that the fulfillment of the Mitzvah be performed through nature.
Moreover, it is explained in other places at length (Note: Likkutei Sichos vol.5 pg. 80) that this includes not only the fulfilment of the Mitzvah itself, but even the preparation of the Mitzvah - that even the preparation should be natural.
This conforms with the known story the Alter Rebbe, who asked the clerk who was in charge of the boat, to stop it, so that he could sanctify the moon (Kiddush HaLevana) while standing and with composure. And when the clerk refused, the Alter Rebbe stopped the boat miraculously. However he did not sanctify the moon until the clerk agreed to stop it himself. One of the reasons for this is that because he wanted that the preparation for fulfillment of the Mitzvah be in a natural manner, and not through a miraculous manner.
Accordingly one can explain why Rashi does not explain like the Midrash that Bnei Yisroel‘s seeing the articles of Egyptians was through a special miracle (by light that is not natural) - for according to this Derash - the intent of the plague of darkness was in order to enable the Israelites to fulfill G-d’s commandment of:
“Let each man request (borrow) from his friend, and each woman from her friend, articles of silver and articles of gold, so much so that “you will divest Egypt of its wealth” and “drain Egypt of its wealth”.
Yet according to this reason, we find that the preparation to fulfil this command was not according to nature – it was miraculous. For only by this miraculous light did they see the silver and gold of the Egyptians and what was hidden etc. And only through this did they fulfill the command to request from them all their articles that were in the caches etc.
Therefore Rashi differs and explains that when Bnei Yisroel saw the articles, it was not by a special light and in a miraculous manner, but according to nature – meaning that the Israelites searched the Egyptian houses and saw their articles with natural light.
(And although the essence of the miracle of the plague of darkness was in order that the Israelites would be able to see the Egyptian articles – this was only a removal of an obstacle, or at most, in the nature of a reason and cause (סיבה וגרם) – and not a preparation and qualification for the Mitzvah. For the intent was specifically that Bnei Yisroel search and see their articles, and as such - it could not be based (on light) that was not through nature.
And even this can be learned from the aforementioned story of the Alter Rebbe. For although the clerk, seemingly, agreed to stop the boat – this was not (entirely) of his own accord. But rather it was because he saw that it was within the Alter Rebbe’s power to stop the boat, himself, in a miraculous way.
But this was just an arbitrary cause (גרמא בעלמא). The actual preparation itself, stopping the boat for saying the blessing of Kiddush HaLevana was through clerk himself and not in a miraculous way).
4. However, the reason the Midrash was not concerned about this, and explains that this was a special and miraculous light, is, one could say, because its view is that, in this case, the (aforementioned reason that the command be performed naturally) was not required - and for several reasons:
1. The condition that the fulfillment of Mitzvot must specifically be through nature, is primarily with Mitzvot after Matan Torah,
(For this is a major aspect of Matan Torah, that Mitzvot have an effect on the physical world. And in the language of the Midrash this is: the “’upper worlds’ descending to the ‘lower worlds’ (Elyonim yordu l'Tachtonim “. Therefore the majority of the Mitzvot are nearly all with physical things, and in this itself specifically through natural means, as is explained elsewhere).
yet in our case here it is speaking of before Matan Torah.
2. The nature of the aspect of “Let each man request (borrow) from his friend etc.“, is not (so much) within the category of a "Mitzvah" and obligation (on Bnei Yisroel), but rather, on the contrary, that of receiving reward (from Above). For through this, G-d’s promise was fulfilled that: “and afterwards they will go out with great wealth.” But G-d enclothed the payment of this reward in natural means, by having Bnei Yisroel request from the Egyptians silver articles etc. Nevertheless the essence of the matter was - receiving reward from Above.
(And therefore we find that the general aspect of “Let each man request (borrow) from his friend etc.“ was not so dependent on Bnei Yisroel, but came about miraculously from Above. This conforms with what was explained as the beginning of the topic (Ex. verse 3:21) “I will give this people grace in the eyes of the Egyptians” and as it states in the verses after this that it actually happened – (as it states:) ”And G-d gave the people favor in the Egyptians' eyes” and “G-d gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and they lent them”).
And it is understood that regarding the fulfillment of a commandment such as this, it does not matter to us if the preparation is done by a miracle.
(And one could add:
For this case it was necessary (according to the Midrash) for the miracle to illuminate the "caches" (״מטמוניות״) - for the purpose and objective of the command: “Let each man request (borrow) “was (not only that Bnei Yisroel leave with “great wealth”, but more so) – that they should “divest Egypt (of its wealth - ונצלתם)” and “drain (Egypt of its wealth-ותרוקינוך)”.
Therefore the miracle of “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” was necessary to illuminate the caches of the Egyptian houses. For specifically by this miraculous light were Bnei Yisroel provided the possibility of seeing everything of the gold and silver that was hidden by the Egyptians. For this was in order to fulfill the verse: “they should “divest Egypt - ונצלתם”.
(However if they only saw the articles that were in plain view, and by searching the Egyptian houses, they would not have been able to fulfill this command to “drain (Egypt of its wealth-ותרוקינוך)”.)
5. According to this one could explain (according to Pnimiyut), also the difference between Rashi and Midrash in the explanation “but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” - and whether this is also a part of the plague of darkness or not:
It is mentioned in sefarim (Torah Or) that the “great wealth” that Bnei Yisroel took out of Egypt also alludes to the sparks of holiness that were found in the land (and the matters) of Egypt. For when it states that Bnei Yisroel took the silver articles etc. of the Egyptians, it also means that they took out the sparks of holiness (within them) from the evil of Egypt and returned them to domain of holiness.
And the essence of this Avodah (of “refining the sparks/״בירור הניצוצות״“) is a critical aspect in the Avodah of each and every Jew.
For in addition to the obligation of Torah study and the Avodah of prayer, which mainly involve the person himself, and it this itself - his spirituality,
(understanding Torah with his intellect and feeling the emotion of the heart in prayer) –
there must also be the fulfillment of Mitzvot,
(of which, most of them involve physical things).
and also conducting one's mundane affairs for the sake of Heaven.
Through this one draws down holiness into the physicality of the world and raises the holy sparks of the physical things to the domain of holiness (as is explained at length in Sefer HaTanya).
And one could say, that according to Rashi, this is the distinction between the two aspects in the verse:
1. The essence of the plague of darkness, which gave the possibility to Bnei Yisroel to enter the Egyptian houses and see their articles.
2. “But for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”
For this corresponds to the two types of Avodah, mentioned above:
For according to the simple view (Derech Pshat) – i.e. the way the things are seen simply and externally - they are two different types of Avodah, and perhaps even opposite types.
For, according to the Midrash –
the homilies of Torah – of which it states that “most of the secrets of the Torah. . are hidden in the Aggadot (homilies)" -
it explains that even: “But for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” is part of the plague of darkness. For from the perspective of the inner intention (הכוונה הפנימית), these two types of Avodah are not different aspects, but rather that they connected and related to each other. For even the purpose of the Avodah of Torah and prayer – is for the Avodah of clarification and refinement of the world
(as explained in Tanya – that the soul did not come to this world to correct itself, but rather to repair (לתקן) the body and one’s animal soul, and its part in the world).
This is the inner intent of the words of the Midrash, that even the “But for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” is part of the plague of darkness, and light. This is because even the light that illuminates Yisroel when they are “in their dwellings”, which means the light that illuminates within their souls through Torah and prayer, must be drawn down and enter into the “Egyptians' houses” (the darkness of the world), in order that, through it, one is able to bring out from there, the sparks of holiness that are found there and return them to the domain of holiness.
6. On a deeper level, one could say, according to the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi
(“Yayina shel Torah” lit. 'wine of Torah').
that the reason, according to Rashi, that the conclusion “But for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings” is not part of the plague of darkness – is because this alludes to even loftier aspect, which comes after the completion of the Avodah of clarification and rectification of the world.
For it is explained in many places that the descent of the soul and its Avodah in this world is for the purpose of Ascent. For after the completion of its Avodah in clarifying and refining the world, the soul rises to an even loftier level than it was before the descent – so much so that it merits to be one with G-d “to draw into body of the king”- לאשתאבא בגופא דמלכא).
And this is the inner meaning of the verse:
For after the completion of its Avodah in clarifying and refining the world,
(which is alluded to in the plague of darkness, for through this Bnei Yisroel took out the wealth of Egypt and entered it into the domain of holiness) –
they merited “But for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings”, meaning that the soul comes to its true place and dwelling where Yisroel and G-d are completely one. For at that level, there is no place at all for the existence of “Egypt” and the aspects of Egypt ,
(even the way they have been refined and elevated to holiness )
but rather only (in the words of the Zohar) "Yisroel and the King alone" (ישראל ומלכא בלחודוהי)
7. And from this one can also take great encouragement in our Avodah even now, during this last Galut:
Even though we find ourselves in a time of “the darkness of Galut/חושך הגלות“, and in this itself - a double darkness (חושך כפול ומכופל) of the footsteps of Moshiach (דעקבתא דמשיחא), nevertheless, G-d arranges causes (מסבב סיבות), even causes that are above the modalities of nature, so that Bnei Yisroel become able to perform their Avodah without any barriers and obstacles.
And even though all the aforementioned aspects must specifically be according to the ways of nature - this is only in relation to the fulfillment of the Mitzvah from Bnei Yisroel‘s perspective. However regarding the condition (in the world) that is needed for Yisroel to be able to perform their Avodah fully, there are no restrictions, and G-d also makes open miracles to enable allow Yisroel to perform their Avodah through natural means.
(Just like by the plague of darkness, where G-d performed an open miracle, and brought miracles upon the Egyptians, to enable Bnei Yisroel to search and find the articles in a natural manner (of their own accord). And this is also like the aforementioned story of the Alter Rebbe, who effected through a miracle, that the clerk himself wanted to stop the boat).
And how much more so is this according to the Midrash’s explanation – that also here there was a miraculous light – for surely, even this thing was not just a one-time thing that happened in the Geulah of Egypt - but rather a glimmer of this is also in the Geulah from this last Galut,
(for it states: “As in the days of your Exodus from the land of Egypt.”)
For even when we are in the “land of Egypt' (before the Geulah arrives) – light that is above nature, illuminates.
And this is as the words of the verse
(which follow the explanation in the aforementioned Midrash),
that even when the “darkness shall cover the earth, and a gross darkness the kingdoms, (nevertheless) and the L-rd shall shine upon you etc.”.
And moreover, this light gives the power to Bnei Yisroel to transform to into holiness, even the things in the darkness of the world, which outwardly appear to be things that cloak and conceal and prevent a person from fulfilling G-d's command.
So much so that they themselves help and aid Bnei Yisroel to fulfill G-d’s commandments, as was exemplified by Pharaoh himself in helping and supporting Bnei Yisroel to go out of Galut Mitzrayim.
The main thing is that "A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning". This means that, at the end of the time of Galut there will be “light in their dwellings” for Klal Yisroel, and for each and every one of Yisroel, literally, materially and spiritually – that each and every one of Bnei Yisroel have bounty (הרחבה) and comfort (ומנוחה) in all one’s affairs.
And they prepare themselves with joy and good-heartedness to greet our righteous Moshiach, our youth and our elderly, and our sons and our daughters, together with their gold and silver – (בנערינו ובזקנינו בבנינו ובבנותינו וכספם וזהבם אתם. . בעגלא דידן), literally as well as in spiritual matters, speedily mamosh in our time.
mSichas Shabbat Parshat Bo 5741
Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei 5745
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