This week, we read the Torah portion of Parashat Bo. In this reading, we read of the last three of the ten plagues that G-d brought upon Egypt. If we make the assumption that the plagues were meted out in order of severity, then we are faced with a strong question.
If you were given the choice between having frogs crawling inside of you or sitting in darkness for three days, which of those plagues would you have chosen? I am fairly certain, most people would choose the darkness. Yet, indeed, the plague of darkness is the penultimate plague–making it only second to the death-of-the-firstborn in severity. How exactly does that work? How is it that what SEEMS to be a much less severe plague ranks so high on the list of plagues?
Perhaps the answer can be found in the phrase: צרת רבים חצי נחמה which, loosely translated is “misery loves company.” During the eight plagues prior to the plague of darkness, as bad as things got, each person who was suffering was able to share his pain, his fear, his distress. And then came plague Number Nine: Darkness. In that plague, every single individual had to sit and be terrified ALONE. He or she had to suffer psychological pain and physical pain that they had not experienced before in the other plagues. There was no solace. There was no sharing with their friends. There was no respite–for three days. And THAT idea–not being able to be comforted by a loved one or a friend, made this a nearly unbearable plague.
It would seem, that we can gain an immeasurable lesson from this thought. While we can not solve everyone’s problems, there is something we can offer our family members and friends that can be of tremendous value: Our ear and willingness to listen. In some cases, that alone is enough to get someone through a trying or difficult time.