This week, we read Parshat Bo, in which we see the completion of the ten plagues that God delivers upon Egypt. The second to last plague of darkness raises some questions. What was the nature of the darkness? Why was it so bad? “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand towards heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.’ So, Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived/וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל-מֹשֶׁה נְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל-הַשָּׁמַיִם וִיהִי חֹשֶׁךְ עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְיָמֵשׁ חֹשֶׁךְ. וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת יָדוֹ עַל-הַשָּׁמָיִם וַיְהִי חֹשֶׁךְ אֲפֵלָה בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים. לֹא רָאוּ אִישׁ אֶת-אָחִיו וְלֹא קָמוּ אִישׁ מִתַּחְתָּיו שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים וּלְכָל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָיָה אוֹר בְּמוֹשְׁבֹתָם.”
What is “a darkness that can be felt/וְיָמֵשׁ חֹשֶׁךְ”? Rashi explains that וְיָמֵשׁ is a contraction of ויאמש which means “the evening darkness.” He notes that the regular darkness of night will become even more dark than normal. However, Ibn Ezra interprets the verse to literally mean a darkness that can be touched. Darkness is so scary because we generally do not know what we cannot see or feel. Yet, this darkness was so thick, that it was tangible and real, making it even scarier. Dark and enclosed.
The Izhbitzer Rebbe teaches that the plague of darkness comes to punish those that are arrogant and do not listen to their parents. “‘Arrogance’ means elevating oneself above another whom he should rather be subdued before, and for this He gave the plague of darkness, as it is written, ‘Whoever curses his father and mother, his lamp shall be extinguished in deep darkness.’”
When we turn away from those that can instruct us, we are blocking out their light from coming into our lives. These days, it is so easy to think that we can do everything on our own. If we have a question, we can just type it in to our phones and the answer pops up. However, we can never be too sure that we are capable of finding all of the answers on our own. Though in the darkness of our homes, the light from our devices may appear enticing, they are no substitute for human interaction and real teachers. The Israelite walks around in light because it is essential to our lives that we listen (שמע!) to what God and our parents and teachers are telling us. If we were to stop, God forbid, we would be in the dark as well. This week let us try and keep the lights on around us. By looking to be enlightened by our teachers and those who can guide us out of the darkness, we will banish darkness forever, bringing light with us wherever we go. Then the darkness will not be felt at all by anyone.
 Ex. 10:21-23
 Shlomo Yitzchaki (Hebrew: רבי שלמה יצחקי; Latin: Salomon Isaacides; French: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רש"י, RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Tanakh.
 Note that the “aleph” drops out.
 Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם אִבְּן עֶזְרָא or ראב"ע; Arabic: ابن عزرا; also known as Abenezra or Aben Ezra, 1089–1167) was born in Tudela, Navarre in 1089, and died c. 1167
 As in Psalms 115:7 “They have hands, but do not feel/יְדֵיהֶם וְלֹא יְמִישׁוּן”—you can see this interpretation as well in Classical Midrash in Ex. Rab. 14:1
 Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (Yiddish: איזשביצע, איזביצע Izhbitze, Izbitse, Ishbitze) (1801-1854) was a rabbinic Hasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty of Hasidic Judaism. Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov (Polish: Tomaszów Lubelski) in 1801 to his father Reb Yaakov the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul, a descendant of Rabbi Saul Wahl. At the age two he became orphaned of his father. He became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both were also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there; then in 1839 became himself a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica.
 Prov. 20:20
 Mei HaShiloah 1:69, translation by Betsalel Philip Edwards
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.