1) Makas Choshech: Chazal tell us how the “darkness” was so “thick” that when it fell whatever a Mitzri was doing at that moment, he became stuck in that position for the duration of the Maka. A frightening image! Imagine being stuck, unable to move, and also unable to see anyone else! How lonely! Each Mitzri had to face this Maka alone in the dark!
Sometimes a struggling teen has difficulty finding the right words in expressing their challenges. This to me seems such a good mashal for how so many teens feel. Stuck, unable to change their habits, held back, usually by forces and challenges they don’t yet fully comprehend or can see, lonely, unable to see a way out, unsure if others can see them and their pain.
After Makas Choshech, the Jews “gained favor” in the eyes of the Mitzrim when they asked for gold to take with them into the desert. This was because the Mitzrim realized that the Jews could have taken advantage of the Mitzrim while they were incapacitated. Jews were there with them and saw the places where they kept all their valuables. They also realized that they were not alone in the dark. One day, I”H, these struggling teens will mature and “see the light”. They will look back, and hopefully see that although they felt alone, we were there with them, and not just for our need. It is then that “we will find favor in their eyes”, that the parent-child relationship matures into a healthy lasting and loving relationship.
2) The Midrash explains how each Maka was “Mida Kineged Mida”, an exact measure proportional to what the Mitzrim did to Bnei Yisroel. Chazal are teaching us that consequences for behavior must be educational. There must be a connection between the consequence and the misbehavior or mistake that was made. This can be the hardest part of being a mechanech, being creative and finding meaningful ways to teach our kids lessons instead of falling back on generic punishments. Often what helps the most is talking out with what they did, the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, and how this will help rectify it. Kids need help processing, we cant always assume they “get it”. Sometimes it even helps to ask the child directly if they can think of a possible consequence or way to rectify what they did, or to brainstorm alternatives together, giving the child an active roll in their education and helping them become more self-aware.
Have a great Shabbos,
Ari Deutscher MSW