How do you heal from a venomous snake?
In this week’s portion the Israelites in the desert complain against G-d and Moses and are punished with an attack of venomous snakes. The Israelites realize they have sinned and ask Moses to pray on their behalf. G-d tells Moses to make a serpent and put it on a pole “and let whoever is bitten look at it and live.”
The Talmud explains that the snake did not heal, rather it was a symbol that led to the healing process. “When Israel looked heavenward and subjected their hearts to their Father in heaven, they would be healed, but if not, (if they looked at the copper snake but did not turn their hearts to heaven), they would waste away.”
This begs the question: if it wasn’t the snake, then why put the snake there at all? Why didn’t Moses simply tell the Jews to pray to G-d? Why was it specifically a snake, which had been the source of the problem, that facilitated their healing?
G-d was teaching the Jews in the desert, and us today, an important lesson. Yes, there is evil, illness and disease in the world, as well as innumerable moral and ethical challenges. However, we must constantly bear in mind that this is only the way we perceive reality. As everything in this world has a primary reality, which is as it exists within its G-dly source (as nothing can exist outside of Him, it follows that all of reality has a G-dly source). In that pure version of reality, it’s all good and only good.
This is also the deeper meaning of “when Israel looked heavenward.” Looking towards the heavens means to view everything, including the “venomous snakes” of life, in their G-dly, heavenly reality, where it is truly good.
Whenever we turn to G-d in prayer and repentance, we turn to see the reality from His perspective. We are challenging ourselves to see the negativity from its source, and when we do so, the evil itself is transformed to good.
When we go to a doctor and pray to G-d that he be a channel for G-d’s healing, the illness itself can become a source of healing.
When we understand that our challenge -even those caused by man- has a source in a higher reality, and we seek to understand what G-d wants from us in these situation, we will be able to transform the challenge into a source of growth and blessing.
Dedicated in honor of Yaakov Yechezkel ben Rachel for good health, Nachat and success in everything