The Plague of Not Seeing One Another
(כא) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה נְטֵ֤ה יָֽדְךָ֙ עַל־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וִ֥יהִי חֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וְיָמֵ֖שׁ חֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ (כב) וַיֵּ֥ט מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־יָד֖וֹ עַל־הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וַיְהִ֧י חֹֽשֶׁךְ־אֲפֵלָ֛ה בְּכָל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם שְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת יָמִֽים׃ (כג) לֹֽא־רָא֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־אָחִ֗יו וְלֹא־קָ֛מוּ אִ֥ישׁ מִתַּחְתָּ֖יו שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים וּֽלְכָל־בְּנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל הָ֥יָה א֖וֹר בְּמוֹשְׁבֹתָֽם׃
YHWH said to Moshe: Stretch out your hand over the heavens, and let there be darkness over the land of Egypt; they will feel the darkness! Moshe stretched out his hand over the heavens, and there was thick darkness throughout all the land of Egypt, for three days, a man could not see his brother, and a man could not arise from his spot, for three days. But for all the Children of Israel, there was light in their settlements.
וימש חושך ויסיר את החשך הטבעי של לילה. כי אמנם חשך הלילה הוא אויר מוכן לקבל האור, והוא חשוך בהעדר האור בלבד. אמנם זה החשך יהיה אויר בלתי מוכן לקבל האור לרוב עביו, ולא יפול עליו העדד האור בהיותו בלתי מוכן אליו, ולפיכך לא ראו איש את אחיו כי לא הספיק לזה אור נר ואבוקה:
They will feel the darkness: In general, darkness is not a substance that can be felt; it is merely the absence of light. That is why light has the ability to banish darkness. However, the darkness in Egypt was a separate entity; one that was tangible -the darkness was felt. Thus, no light was able to banish it.
A man could not see his brother, and a man could not arise from his spot, for three days: The greatest darkness is when a person does not see his fellow, and does not participate in the distress of others. "A man could not see his brother" ––they did not feel the other's distress. Their senses were dulled - "a man could not rise from his spot." This is what our Sages meant when they stated in Exodus Rabbah that "the darkness was as thick as a golden denar" (a certain coin). Running after the golden denar increases one's egocentrism, dulls his eyes, and makes it difficult for him to feel the distress of others.
And there was thick darkness throughout all the land of Egypt, for three days: If a person does not see his fellow, or does not want to see him, there is darkness in the world.
Chidushei HaRan Al HaTorah 2:1:1:
A man could not see his brother: The darkness increased until no one could see another person, so no two people partnered together due to the great difficulty, as the verse says "no one saw their brother." This is the result: when I do not feel the pain of my friend, I dull my senses--as the verse says "no one was able to arise from under it" which means that there is no overcoming it.
Questions For Discussion:
1. What are the embodiments of darkness that prevent people from seeing one another?
1. What does darkness that is so thick, it can be felt, look like? What does it feel like?
2. How can we be a light that pushes away darkness?
4. What does the world look like when we don't see one another? How do we feel when we think that others don't see us?
We Were Once Strangers Too!
Now when there sojourns with you a sojourner in your land, you are not to oppress him; treat him like a native-born (citizen) among you. The sojourner that sojourns with you; be-loving to him (as one) like yourself, for sojourners were you in the land of Egypt. I am YHWH your God!
LOVE HIM LIKE YOURSELF: The nations of the ancient world would only love their own people, and they would defraud other peoples because they saw them as despicable foreigners. Therefore, it says here, that you need to love him like yourself, and act toward him just as you would want. You should act towards him as you would want other people to act toward you if you were a foreigner. This is in accord with what is written several verses earlier (Leviticus 19:18): "Love your neighbor (re'ah) as yourself"
לא תונו Do not oppress him:— This implies oppress him with words (cf. Rashi on Exodus 22:20) — do not say to him, “Yesterday you were an idol worshipper, and now you come to study the Torah which was given from the mouth of the Almighty!” (Sifra; Bava Metzia 58b, 59b.)
Questions for Discussion
1. Why do the ancient Israelites place so much emphasis on the stranger (there are 36 separate commandments regarding the stranger)?
1. When and where have you felt like a stranger?
3. What does love for the stranger look like in a culture where the word "stranger" has somewhat of a negative connotation (i.e. stranger danger)?
4. Why should we be commanded not to hate those who are seemingly are enemies?
5. How did the Israelites think about their own security in relation to the values of welcoming the stranger? Does their view translate into the modern day?
How Do We Show Ourselves as Refugees from Egypt?
בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים, שנאמר (שמות יג), והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר, בעבור זה עשה יי לי בצאתי ממצרים.
In every generation we must see (lirot) ourselves as though we have personally gone out of Egypt, as it is said: “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying: ‘It is because of what Adonai did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’”
(ו) בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לְהַרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ יָצָא עַתָּה מִשִּׁעְבּוּד מִצְרַיִם
(6) In each and every generation, a man is required to show (l'harot) himself as though he himself went out now from the slavery of Egypt
Questions for Discussion:
1. What does it mean to see yourself or show yourself as if you have left Egypt?
2. How does seeing ourselves as refugees/slaves change from generation to generation?
3. What can you do to show yourself (l'harot) as if you were a refugee from Egypt?