The plague of darkness is the penultimate of the 10 Plagues. It has always been a curiosity. What kind of darkness can be “felt?” (Exodus 10:21) The Midrash says that “it was the darkness of evil and the primordial chaos out of which the universe emerged at Creation.” (Shemot Rabbah 14:1-2) Darkness, then, is not a physical phenomenon, but a “moral condition.” (Amy Scheinerman, Voices of Torah, 2006). As we observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this week, it is interesting to note that Dr. King spoke of this kind of moral darkness: King said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
It is heartening and also very challenging to read in Exodus that while all of Egypt experienced darkness, the dwellings of the Israelites had light. (Ex 10:23). We are challenged by this story to emulate our enslaved ancestors in Egypt and always strive to bring light and love to a world that sometimes feels enveloped in darkness.