The Plague of Darkness and the Light of Redemption
These are Aharon and Moshe, to whom God said, “Bring out the Children of
Israel from the land of Egypt according to their hosts.” (Shemos 6:26)
Someone asked me recently, is Moshiach born with everything he needs to do
his job, or does he pick up assets along the way? The reason for the
question is to know if Moshiach is someone we can recognize by his
exceptional abilities, or if he will just become that way over time. If the
latter, then he can be here today and we might not yet even know it.
There is no question in my mind that Moshiach is here today, because of the
timetable that seems to be running history, and because of current events.
And, if we take a page or two from Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, it seems that
though great Torah leaders are often exceptional from birth, they certainly
pick up additional greatness along the way, especially once they take on
additional communal responsibilities.
Certainly facilitating the Final Redemption will be no small feat,
especially if it happens the b’ittah, Gog u’Magog route. Such a path to
redemption, one can sadly assume, will find the Jewish people in a dire
position, and the rest of the world spiritually out to lunch. Righting all
of that will take extra siyita d’Shemaya—Heavenly help.
No problem, since whoever becomes Moshiach will have the soul of Moshe
Rabbeinu, even if he has the body of someone born in this generation (Sha’ar
HaGilgulim, Ch. 20). The only question is, will that be enough? It wasn’t
enough to redeem all 15,000,000 Jews from Egypt in his time; will it be
enough to redeem 15,000,000 Jews in our time?
Perhaps this is why, as the Talmud explains, the miracles that will occur at
the end of our history will be much greater than the ones that occurred at
the beginning of our history. And since, as the Arizal explains, the souls
of the Jews at the end of days will be those that left with Moshe Rabbeinu
in the first redemption, constant reincarnation may have made us more open
to redemption once it finally comes.
There is another level to this discussion, and we see this all the time in
the physical realm. How many times have people performed far beyond their
physical capabilities? Or so we think they do. However, unless a miracle has
happened for them, chances are that they only tapped into physical resources
they always had but never revealed, usually because they never had to.
But, necessity is the mother of extension, meaning that when situations and
crises arise that require more from us than we think we have to give, we try
to give it anyhow and sometimes are quite pleasantly surprised. In times of
need, people have been known to exhibit great feats of strength, physically
The same thing is true spiritually as well. A person’s spiritual capacity
goes way beyond what he thinks it is, for an even better reason than it does
physically. For, whereas the physical body is limited by its physical
parameters, our souls reach all the way to the top of Creation. Indeed, the
soul that powers our bodies is just the final of five levels of soul, the
top one receiving its light directly from God.
Then, that level filters the light and passes over the balance to the level
below that, a process that continues all the way to the bottom of all five
levels. This constriction of light is what allows us to receive light from
God, but which also allows some of that light to make it down to our bodies
without destroying them.
However, chances are, the amount of light making it to the body is still far
less than what the body can handle, evident by righteous people who live on
a very high spiritual level in their bodies. Hence, should a person boldly
seek new spiritual heights, more light can and will be drawn down to the
person increasing his spiritual capacity in the physical world.
Indeed, probably that will happen anyhow at the end of days. In order to
increase our spiritual capacity to deal with what will have to happen to
bring man across the threshold from this world into Yemos HaMoshiach, our
spiritual reservoirs will have to be increased, something that God has been
doing already, perhaps, by allowing society to advance in such a way that it
helps us to better relate to the spiritual world.
At least those who wish to better relate to the spiritual world. However,
those who choose not to enhance their spiritual sensitivity and instead turn
their back on God will not be able to receive such additional light from
above and therefore will be spiritually ill-equipped to deal with the events
at the end of history. The Zohar speaks of some people dying just from the
shock of the War of Gog and Magog.
Therefore, one of the most important tasks at the end of history is to make
oneself into a better conduit for the light of God. As simple as that
sounds, it is not so simple, not today. For, we are living in the Period of
Distraction, an era of history during which more things vie for our
attention than we can or should pay attention to.
Today, with the wonderful help of modern technology, we can finally be in
many places at one time, and therefore never in one place completely. Even
for those who keep Shabbos and Yom Tov, it is probably difficult to focus
even on those days in the here-and-now after being conditioned the rest of
the week to be in constant communication with the world. Just as fax
machines were meant to provide more leisure time and ended up reducing what
we previously had, modern technology promises to make life more manageable
but instead makes it impossible to keep up.
Just as Amalek wants it, especially at the End-of-Days. Among the many
weapons Amalek uses against the Jewish people, distraction is his favorite.
Success in life, especially spiritual success, is often a matter of being in
the right place at the right time, doing the right thing for the spiritual
opportunity. That is why we make a big production out of the Haggadah on
Pesach night, so that when the light comes down that night we are in the
right frame of mind to receive it.
What is worse is that not only is it easy to stay connected to so many
things at one time, resulting in what one psychologist calls ‘Artificial
ADD,’ but it is also much easier to get connected to things that we might
not have in the past, and sometimes, to things we never should be connected
to. This results in tremendous wastes of time, which wear us down
physically, and exposure to some things that spiritually wear us down.
The net effect is that we become filled up with all kinds of nonsensical
things that make it impossible for the light of God to enter us. It’s like
trying to fit another person into a room that is already filled to capacity,
except in this case the room is the person’s consciousness, which is filled
with all kinds of material distractions, and the person trying to get in is
the light of God.
It is not a matter of completely divesting oneself of all his gadgets and
means of entertainment, although that would probably be very therapeutic.
But, like a lot of things in life, it is a matter of setting up boundaries,
and not trespassing them. It is an issue of making a clear distinction
between what we need and what we want.
Ironically, this idea came up on the radio when I was driving home one night
from shul while in Toronto recently. A financial advisor was being
interviewed because statistics had just came out that revealed Canadian
consumers to be spending far above their means, resulting in a lot of
unnecessary and dangerous homeowner debt. Apparently she had written a book
on the topic and was being sought out my many people who are trying to keep
from drowning in their burdensome overspending.
She gave many examples of conversations that she had with homeowners
regarding their monthly spending, and it was incredible how little
self-control people exercised when it came to budgeting based upon their
income. As she said, thanks to easy credit, ‘affordable’ has come to mean
how much space remains on a person’s credit cards, regardless of his or her
monthly income. One person, only 22 years of age, had already racked up $70K
worth of personal debt!
Among the many reasons for such irresponsible spending is people’s inability
to distinguish between what they need and what they want. For example, she
said, when one man was questioned regarding his cell phone, he insisted that
he needed it and could not do without it. However, after analyzing his
lifestyle, it became clear that his cell phone only performed meaningful
functions worth about $20/month. The remaining $140, the analyst said, was
simple unaffordable want.
This mentality has also infected the Torah world as well, resulting in
debilitating debts, and in some cases, cheating, stealing, and scandals.
Indeed, new cell phones, even kosher ones, are constantly in demand, but
that is just one small aspect of the material lifestyle that many Torah
families have since adopted and adapted, all of it creating even greater
need for even larger incomes, resulting in less time for spiritual matters.
In fact, though the world keeps changing, man does not. Hence, though modern
technology can keep saying, “Faster! Faster!” our inner voice keeps saying,
“Slow down! Slow down!” It’s not that we’re working to capacity already,
because we’re not. It’s just that we’re putting too much energy into things
that do not matter that much, ultimately.
That is the way it was in Egypt as well. As a result, as each plague brought
more light of God into the world, 12,000,000 Jews were unable to receive it.
They may not have had cell phones and computers, and they certainly didn’t
have big homes and fancy cars. However, whatever they did have, it prevented
the light of redemption from impacting them, causing them to be left behind
spiritually and physically: they died in the Plague of Darkness.
It is happening to us as well at this time. The light of redemption is
entering the world, but not our consciousness. As a result, millions are
dying in spiritual darkness, and not all of them are secular, making some
wonder just how many Jews will be around at the end of history to turn the
lights off on what once was, and to turn them on for what it is coming up.
Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.