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Snake on a Pole

Friday, 12 July, 2019 - 12:07 pm

We hope and pray that everyone will get through the upcoming storm without harm. There will likely be significant rain in New Orleans on Saturday. Services will be held as usual. We do encourage people to use common sense when determining the extent of their attendance.

In this week’s Parsha we read about the plague of snakes with which the Jewish people were punished. Upon the people regretting their evil ways, Moshe prayed to Hashem to remove the snakes and this is what happened. “The L-rd said to Moses, "Make yourself a serpent and put it on a pole, and let whoever is bitten look at it and live. Moses made a copper snake and put it on a pole, and whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze upon the copper snake and live.”

Incidentally, there is good reason to accept that this story is the origin of the snake on a pole serving as the symbol of healing.

The sages of the Talmud comment, “It is not the snake that healed. But rather, when the people gazed at the snake above, they turned their hearts in devotion to G-d.

If this is so, why bother with the snake altogether. Just tell people to turn their hearts to G-d. Furthermore, later in history this copper snake was used in idolatrous ways.

Chassidus explains, that the snake reminds us of the evil within ourselves and the universe. It is the symbol of the force that seeks to turn us away from the will of Hashem. By placing the snake on a pole and raising it high, this serves as a reminder to us that evil (Satan, Yetzer Hara) is actually only a force that G-d employs to give us free will. In reality the Yetzer Hara itself does not want us to listen to the temptations it places before us. When we recall this by looking at the snake raised on the pole, this inspires us to double down on our prayers and efforts of devotion to Hashem and the fulfillment of His will. This infuses us with the strength that we can and must overcome the internal and external pull to defy the will of Hashem. With the help of Hashem coupled with hard work we can succeed.

Shabbat Shalom and stay safe!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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