The penultimate plague in Egypt, just before the Death of the Firstborn results in the liberation of the Israelite slaves, is darkness.
For three days there is complete, impenetrable darkness, darkness so thick that it can be felt. “No one could see his brother, and no one could get up from under it, for three days.” (Exodus 10:23)
This is not only a physical darkness, but a psychological one. Click here to read my blog post on the subject: Bo: Impenetrable Darkness.
The Egyptians in this week’s Torah portion, Bo, are immobilized by darkness–by their inability to recognize other human beings as their brothers.
Today I have been writing about Jacob’s wrestling match in the dark night before he sees his brother Esau face to face for the first time in 20 years. Jacob wronged Esau by making him swap his firstborn rights for a bowl of lentil stew, and by tricking their father into giving him Esau’s blessing. Like other characters in the book of Genesis/Bereishit, Jacob gave the wrong answer to Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s protector?”
Guilt drives Jacob’s behavior for 20 years. Now he is about to return home to Canaan, and he wants to make amends. But how can he face Esau?
What will it take for Jacob to forgive himself? Will he ever emerge from his inner darkness?
By the time I finish writing my book on moral psychology in Genesis, I will have some answers.