Sunday, July 21, 2019 -
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Darkness and light

These Torah portions of the exodus of the Jewish nation are so exciting. I don’t know whether that’s because they include my father’s Bar Mitzvah portion (“Bo”) or because I am an oldest child and so many of the beautiful verses and ideas in “Bo” (this week’s portion) resonate with me so much.

“Bo” means come. After all the stop and go drama and tension of the plagues, the word bo transforms the famous image of the “outstretched arm” of G-d into an image I can fathom. I can almost imagine Moses protectively waving his hand to come, to follow, to join. With the word bo the Exodus becomes and feels almost like an invitation.

There are so many rich and personal verses in “Bo,” such as the verse relating the ninth plague, when darkness strikes. “And the   L-rd said to Moses, Stretch out thy hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”

Darkness. Fundamental to the human condition is a deep-seated, primal fear of darkness. Indeed, it is terrifying. Each morning, among the essential blessings of life, we bless G-d for restoring sight to the blind. If we are among those who can see, we are grateful for it, while intensively praying for and thinking of those most likely anguished by blindness, of living an existence that can often feel cut off, a life in isolation — in a world of darkness.

Yet there is something interesting about the plague of darkness. Just a few verses after the Egyptians are plunged into the chaos of darkness the verses read, “And the L-rd gave the people favor in the sight of Egypt; moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.”

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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