יום חמישי י"ג באדר תשפ"א 25/02/2021
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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Place

  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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In Weekly Parsha

Parshat Chukat

The Nature of the Copper Snake

Menachem Ginosar 21/06/2009 08:00
When the People of Israel wandered in the desert on their way to the Land that the Creator had promised would be theirs, they complained about a few things."

"Why did you bring us up from Egypt, to die in the desert? There's no bread here, no water, and we are tired of this light bread (the manna)."

One complaint the People voiced against Moshe, our teacher, was the Divine punishment that came in answer to this complaint was in the form of "burning" snakes that bit people and caused many deaths. So soon as it was evident that the snake bites came as punishment, the People Israel regretted grumbling. They said,

"We have sinned by speaking against HaShem and against you (Moshe). Pray to HaShem that he remove the snake from us. And Moshe prayed on behalf of the People." 

Here occurred one of the amazing miracles that took place in the desert: the nes (miracle) of the copper snake that Moshe made according to instructions he received prophetically from HaShem. He was told to fashion a snake of copper and to put it on a flag pole, like a banner. This metallic serpent stopped the plague of "burning" snakes and cured anyone who looked at it. [It's interesting to note that that the word "nes," miracle, also means banner. Ed.]

This hand-made copper snake was preserved for about 700 years, until the days of King Chizkiyahu. During his time, the snake became a cult fetish, a type of amulet that distracted the people from Divine worship. It is said of King Chizkiyahu, "He removed the [unauthorized] altars, broke the monuments ( of idol worship), uprooted the asheiris (trees used for idol worship) and crushed the copper serpent fashioned by Moshe because in those days the People Israel were worshipping the copper snake" (Melachim II).

The story of the copper snake contains a fascinating and important principle. We see that the same snake that had been made in the days of Moshe by HaShem's command was crushed to small pieces by King Chizkiyahu after the vital message originally implied in the form of the copper snake became not only lost, but subverted.

The orignal message: one who suffered a snake bite would look upwards and see the copper snake. Beyond the snake was the blue sky. Looking at the sky would remind one of the Creator of the heavens, the earth, and everything else, including snakes and snake bites. 

Suddenly fortified by this renewed recognition of Divine Providence, the snake-bite patient would realize that just as the snake's poison doesn't actually kill, the snake fashioned of copper doesn't cure; rather, it is the Creator, HaShem, Who is ultimately responsible for all events, including the curing of snake-bite. Having achieved the realistic understanding of his or her condition, the snake-bite victim's reliance on HaShem's providence cleared the way for the cure, which came immediately.

Afterwards, the Sages thanked King Chizkiyahu for his action (Talmud Tractate Pesachim 4 and 9). Because the copper snake no longer fulfilled its original purpose of bringing the hearts of the People Israel closer to their Father in heaven, there was no need for it. On the contrary, there was a need to be rid of it, because it had become a stumbling block.
Similarly, the various signs and wonders in the desert were intended only to impress upon humanity that there is a Director of the world. As soon as humanity acknowledged the Prime Cause of existence, there was no need for additional miracles.
The human being who attains such recognition understands that at times the Creator reveals Himself through "signs and wonders" such as those that were presented in the desert. Such a person knows that the Creator will listen to his or her prayers and will accept cries for help. 

Therefore, it is not good for people to put their energies into the quest for mystic amulets such as the copper snake was in the time of King Chizkiyahu, or in wonderous potions [we're not talking about medicine here!], and to pin their hopes on such items.