The ninth plague to befall Egypt was the plague of darkness, as described in this week’s Torah portion, Bo: “They did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light in their dwellings.”
The Midrash explains that the plague of darkness entailed two separate miracles: supernatural darkness that enshrouded the Egyptians and “glued” them in place for three days, and a miraculous light that enabled the Jewish people to see.
By the light of this illumination, the Jews were able to enter the homes of the Egyptians and locate the treasures that were hidden there. Later, when the time came for the Jews to leave Egypt and G-d commanded them to borrow “vessels of silver and vessels of gold,” the Egyptians were unable to refuse their requests, as the Jews knew exactly where everything was hidden.
This second miracle came about in order to fulfil G-d’s promise to Abraham years before, when He told him that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt: “And afterwards they will go out with great wealth.” In the merit of this light, the Jews were able to “empty” Egypt of its treasures, in fulfilment of G-d’s command, “And you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
Chasidic philosophy explains that the material wealth the Jews took with them from Egypt was an expression of the spiritual wealth they derived – the tremendous number of “holy sparks” that had fallen to the morally depraved country. By going through the Egyptian exile, the Jewish people were able to redeem these sparks and restore them to their Divine source.
The fact that G-d performed a special miracle to facilitate the process demonstrates that He actively helps us in our service of “redeeming the sparks.” G-d gives every Jew a “special light” that enables him to penetrate the “depths of Egypt” and withdraw the spiritual “wealth” that needs redemption.
Even now, in our present exile, the Jewish people are occupied with redeeming “sparks of holiness.” Whenever a Jew utilizes a physical object for its Divine purpose, he elevates the sparks it contains and restores them to their original source.
Moreover, G-d continues to perform miracles that help us in our Divine mission. For even though we are still in a time when “darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people,” with the help of this special light, every Jew can prepare himself, with joy and gladness of heart, for the time when “the L-rd shall shine upon you”: the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach.