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Compassion During the Plague of Darkness

Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )

by Shoshanna Dresner

In this week's Torah portion the Egyptians are struck with the plague of darkness, a darkness so tangible that they were actually unable to move.

The Netziv says something astonishing. If during this time only the Jewish people were not affected by the darkness, it must be that they went out and gave food and water to the Egyptians while they were unable to move. How else would they have survived?

This life-saving act shows the unbelievable compassion of the Jewish people, coming to the aid of a people who had caused them nothing but pain.

Upon leaving Egypt the Jews are told to ask the Egyptians for compensation in return for the years of slavery without payment. "Let them ask every man of his friend, and every woman of her friend silver vessels and golden vessels…" (Exodus 11: 2).

The Egyptians, their tormentors, are described as "friends"?

The Netziv explains that a change has occurred. In the previous Torah portion there was no way they could find a friend amongst the Egyptians to go and ask valuables from, but now things are different.

The Egyptians who are earlier described as ‘neighbors’ now recognize that their lives were saved by the Jews during the Plague of Darkness, and are now are described as ‘friends’.

From here we learn the beauty and importance of compassion. To strive to overcome our natural instincts, and to help even when we feel that the recipient does not deserve it. To move past grudges, and give unconditionally.

And the transformative nature of giving. That giving can be used as an antidote to animosity. As a tool to break down barriers, and change ‘neighbors’ to ‘friends’.



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