Who Turned Off the Lights?

Today is the first of Adar. As you are likely aware, that marks the beginning of a month of increased simcha (joy). The first of Adar is also the date that Hashem wrought the maka of choshech– the Plague of Darkness — on Egypt.

As Adar begins, we begin our preparation for Purim. (I already began scarfing hamentshen). I’m wondering what the connection is between darkness and simcha/Purim. One thing I can see (pun intended) is that Adar is the month where we see through the darkness of the world and perceive what is really going on. Just like during the makka of choshech, even in a world of darkness, we have the ability to see things clearly. Anyone else care to take a stab at this seemingly contradictory connection?

13 comments on “Who Turned Off the Lights?

  1. In a logical sequential “seeing the light” process/query (no not the lights of an oncoming train at the end of the tunnel) we often find the light of inner happiness/equilibrium when facilitating in helping our brothers and sisters out of darkness. The most common way of understanding the frozen darkness of others is to actually personally experience the ice of frozen inky darkness.So basically the logical “embracing the light/happiness” conclusion would be -that in order for one to attain true happiness/spiritual light – (the bonus that comes along with helping others out of darkness), one has to first experience the dark of night to understand the nuances associated with dark and gloom.

  2. Chabad Chassidus emphasizes the ability of our mitzvot to transform darkness into light.
    A common saying we use in Chabad is that ‘a little light dispels much darkness.’ Go into a pitch black room and light a small match and suddenly everything is illuminated. Each mitzvah, and each Yid, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has great power.

  3. Darkness conceals and distorts consequently it immobilizes. The prudent course of action when in the dark is to stay put. Any blind movements are likely to be “treading water” and be mere mirages of movement. This may be why the paralysis that struck the Egyptians was considered part and parcel of the plague of darkness and not an independent plague.

    Unlike Chanukah, when Yidden took their deliverance into their own hands, the salvation of Purim was Hashem’s work. In a state of hester ponim He showed that, behind the scenes, He still “runs the show”. For us, until the final act, things appeared dark and bleak. We were basically immobilized and passive. Shev v’al ta’aseh odif.

  4. The Navi Yoel describes a four step process to the locust epidemic that shook EY. The Abarbanel mentions that these four steps represent four stages of external enemies ( Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome) that were corresponded to by internal decay within the Jewish people. Think of the Abarbabel’s perspective and how he saw a similar process as the Jews of Spain, a once very powerful group, were gradually reduced in influence and eventually forced into exile as a consequence of the reconquest of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella and their allies who set the Inquisition into effect.

  5. David, I was about to use the same verse you did, but I stopped because the part about the darkness of Greece seemed to fit more with the Chanuka story than with the Purim story. Then again, the Greeks were just over the horizon…

  6. Aharon Hoffman commented in American Pie Purim, part of which is relevant here:

    …As the Megilla ends “laYehudim ha’yisa Ora” (for the Jews there was light). Darkness was the plague of Egypt, as it represents Greece and empty external beauty. Yet for the Jews THERE WAS LIGHT!

  7. All that is written in the Tanach, while describign historical events has extreme relevance for us today otherwise it wouldn’t have been included. The book of Esther ois no different. When we read the Megillah it is easy to see how all the events were interconnected and specifically planned to bring about redemption then, but it all took place over a long period of time, and I imagine that had we been living through it we may not have seen the light so easily.

    Similarly today we are living through trying times. But because we are living through them we only see the darkness. We haven’t seen the end result, the sum total of all that comes before and how it leads to redemption. But just like in the Megillah it will ultimately become clear.

  8. What is the source for Esther in the Torah? “Haster aster panai” – I will surely hide my face on that day. Throughout the Megillah, G-d’s direct intervention is concealed. The miracle was through the veil of darkness.

  9. The Torah compares us to the stars in the sky because, just as the stars only appear at night, the Jews shine brightest when we have to overcome spiritual darkness. This is why the two rabbinic holidays, Chanukah and Purim, come in winter.

  10. Lets see. How about this connection? In the book of Esther, the Jews recommitted themselves to the Torah, and rediscovered its pleasant paths. That’s DARKei noam…

    (Hey, that pun is perfectly in order for this month!)

  11. I think you have to look as Purim and Pesach as collectively the period of our redemption as Rabbi Welcher pointed out in his shiur on the Daled Parshios.

    Rabbi Tatz brings down from Midrashim that before the final redemption there will be a tremendous test, a period of darkness where it will look like Judaism is not the true religion. After this test the redemption will come.

    So too by Yetizias Mitzraim, the darkness represents the turning point if you take into account that 4/5 of the Jews were wiped out during that plague. After that, the redemption came to completion with the final plague and the Exodus.

    A similiar occurence happens in Purim and Adar, there is tremendous trouble for the Jewish people leading up to the fast of Esther followed by the redemption on Purim.

    The simcha is that even as we are still in darkness, as we have been for thousands of years, this time of year reminds us that following our current darkness will come redemption. That thought should take us to a state of simcha and motivate us to do what each of us can to end this long golus.

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