What is darkness? What is a darkness so dense and deep that, “People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was” (Exodus 10:23. This was a paralyzing darkness. A darkness that could be touched. A darkness that lasted day and night. This darkness was so terrifying that, after three days, Pharaoh called for Moses to end the plague, while all the previous plagues lasted six days.
But the text goes on to say, “all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings” (Exodus 10:24). If the Egyptians were paralyzed by darkness but the Israelites could see, then this darkness was not an absence of light.
Rabbi Baruch Epstein (Lithuania, 1860 to 1941) wrote in his Torah commentary, The Torah Temimah, “I would say that the darkness was not in the air, rather only in the people’s eyes.” The paralyzing darkness was a matter of perception.
The Egyptians were bathed in darkness, perhaps because they condoned slavery and the exploitation of the Israelites. When we turn our eyes away from injustice we blind ourselves to what is going on in the world and paralyze our ability to act and do God’s will in the world.