וּלְכָל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָיָה אוֹר, בְּמוֹשְׁבֹתָם.
(שְׁמוֹת י:כג)

But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. (Exodus 10:23)

During the plague of darkness there was a thick darkness throughout the land of Egypt. Hashem made a special miracle and illuminated the area where the Jews were. The Chasam Sofer asks, why was this miracle necessary? Couldn’t Hashem have simply blinded all the Egyptians and gotten the same results?

Science teaches us that people who have a disability in one of their five senses compensate by gaining greater sensitivity and use of one or more of their other senses. For example, a blind man might be able to hear or smell things that the average person is not able to. Science attributes this to the fact that one looks to compensate for his disability by maximizing the potential of the other senses. The Chasam Sofer explains the difference between a person who has no vision and a person who is in a totally dark room and has his eyes open. He says that the first person doesn’t see, and the second person sees nothing. By the fact that he is seeing nothing, he is actually using his sense of sight, however, it is just not effective in giving him information. Would it be that Hashem made the Egyptians blind, that sense would be discontinued, thereby heightening the perception of the other senses.

The Chasam Sofer takes this a step further, to explain a pasuk in parshas Beha’aloscha. The Torah tells us that the Jews complained that eating the manna in the desert was “boring.” The Jews said, “our eyes only see the manna”- The manna was not very appealing to the sense of vision, but since they were able to use this sense, the other senses such as taste were dulled to the point that the manna did not have the flavor the Jews had wanted to have.

Many times, we find ourselves in a situation that our cellphones don’t have reception. We repeatedly try to find a connection in order to use the device. Many a time there is a landline readily available, but we are too focused on trying to use something that is useless, to the point that we overlook the obvious. This is channeling energies in a non-profitable way. Possibly, we could extend the Chasam Sofer’s idea that besides heightening the punishment to the Egyptians, Hashem was giving us a lesson in using our faculties to their maximum.

Nowadays, the idea of meditation has become very popular. Those who are steeped in a Torah life have been using this kind of self-introspection as part of our religious observance (cheshbon hanefesh) for a very long time. At times, we learn to black-out things that interfere with our service in order to focus on our job. We can learn from the plague of darkness how we ourselves can become more productive.