The Torah portion of Bo (Exodus 10:1–13:16) tells of the final three plagues visited upon the Egyptians before the Exodus from Egypt. The Torah notes that during the ninth plague of darkness, while the Egyptians could not see one another or move around, “all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings” (Exodus 10:23). This contrast between light and darkness serves as a powerful metaphor for the enduring struggle between good and evil that resonates throughout Jewish history and into our present times.
The Symbolism of Light in Jewish Tradition
In Jewish tradition, light is a symbol of wisdom, goodness, and divine presence. The nation of Israel is often seen as a beacon of light, tasked with a sacred mission to illuminate the world with principles of ethics, morality, and monotheism. This idea is encapsulated in the prophecy of Isaiah (49:6), where Israel is charged with being “a light unto the nations.” The design of the windows in the Temple, constructed to project light outward, further underscores this mission. Israel is not meant to bask in its own spiritual light but is called to share this light with the world, serving as God’s emissaries.
The Ongoing Battle Between Light and Darkness
The struggle between light and darkness is not just a historical or theological concept; it finds its reflection in the contemporary world. Israel’s current conflict with Hamas is another manifestation of the eternal struggle between good and evil. The rise of antisemitism and anti-Israel protests throughout the world, especially prevalent on college campuses, is another manifestation of this same struggle. They represent the spread of darkness, the antithesis to the light that Israel strives to project.
Israel’s Role in Dispelling Darkness
Faced with these challenges, the message of Bo becomes particularly relevant. Just as the Israelites maintained light in their dwellings amidst the Egyptian darkness, so too contemporary Israel continues to be a source of light in a world often shrouded in darkness. This role involves not only defending against physical threats but also combatting ideological and moral darkness. It means continuing to uphold and spread the values of justice, peace, and ethical monotheism.
Historical Precedence and Future Hope
History bears witness to the triumph of light over darkness. The Jewish people have faced formidable foes in the past, from the Egyptians to the Greeks, and, more recently, the Nazis, and have prevailed. These historical victories were moral and spiritual triumphs. They reinforce the belief that light, no matter how dim, can never be extinguished by darkness.
The struggle between light and darkness, as symbolized by the plague of darkness and manifest in our contemporary challenges, is an ongoing one. Yet, the enduring message of the Torah as well as the history of the Jewish people offer hope. Just as light prevailed in the dwellings of Israel amidst the Egyptian darkness, so too will the light of Israel continue to shine forth, spreading its messages of ethics and morality. Israel, as a country and as a people, stands resilient in its mission to diffuse darkness with light, carrying forward the divine charge of being a light unto the nations. This mission transcends time and circumstance, resonating as strongly today as it did in the times of the Temple. In facing contemporary challenges, be it against forces like Hamas or combating the rise of antisemitism, this mission remains crucial. The battle of light against darkness is not just a physical struggle; it is a moral and spiritual journey.
As we reflect on the current situation and the historical struggles of the Jewish people, it becomes clear that the light has always found a way to shine through the darkness. This is not just a promise for the future but a call to action in the present. Each act of kindness, each stand against injustice, and each commitment to the ethical teachings of our tradition adds to the brightness of this light. This is true not only for the Jewish people but anyone who shares our Judeo-Christian values. Now is the time to stand with Israel!
As we continue on this journey, we carry the hope and the promise that ultimately, light will prevail over darkness, and peace and righteousness will reign in the world.