- Written by J Jacobs
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The Midrash tells us that the Mitzrim would make the Bnei Yisroel stand by their tables balancing a candle on their head whilst they ate their meals. They would stand there paralysed in fear as the Mitzri would beat them if they dared to move.
HaShem delivers punishment in this world mida-keneged-mida.
The Egyptians were struck with the makkah of darkness which was so tangible that according to the Midrash Rabbah it is said whoever was sitting could not stand and whoever was standing could not sit, i.e. that the darkness was so strong that the Egyptians were literally paralysed within it. During this makkah however Bnei Yisroel were able to see one another and to move around and what was more humiliating was that the Mitzrim saw that Bnei Yisroel had light where ever they went.
This Midrash raises a number of questions: 1. what type of darkness is it that causes a person to become paralysed and 2. How is that that despite the Mitzrim being in darkness and not seeing one another they were able to see that Bnei Yisroel had light?
The Kedushas Levi makes an interesting note on the pasuk, that not only does it say that there was darkness but it also says that יָמִים וּלְכָל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָיָה אוֹר (there was light for Bnei Yisroel) i.e. that their light was not merely the absence of the affect of the darkness but their light was part and parcel of the makkah, that they also received light. The Chidushei HaRim gives over an interesting moshul. He says that the greatest darkness is where a man does not see his friend and that his awareness of his own self becomes so intense that he becomes oblivious to the needs of the others around him. When that happens a person becomes hindered in his development and does not move from his place.
If we use the Chidushei HaRim to explain the Kedushas Levi we find that the makkah of darkness came to reveal the selfish (darkness) attitude of communal life within Mitzrayim compared to the achdus (light) felt amongst Bnei Yisroel.
Rashi citing the Midrash states that the makkah of darkenss was brought in order to allow HaShem to kill those members of Bnei Yisroel that weren’t worthy of coming out of Mitzrayim without the Mitzrim noticing. Based on what we have seen it is fitting that this makkah was chosen to determine which members of bnei Yisroel weren’t fit to be part of Klal Yisroel; who had a selfish attitude to communal life and perished during the darkness and over whose head shone the light of achdus fitting to build a nation.