The Nachash Nechoshes

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Chukas

Nachash Nechoshes. Sounds almost like a play on words. Nachash means a snake, Nechoshes means copper.

There was a plague in the desert which was caused by the complaining and bickering of the Jewish people. They were kvetching about the food, the heat, the constant moving that had to be done. After everything Hashem did for the Jewish people, this complaining made G-d angry so he sent them a plague of poisonous snakes. Can you imagine the horror. Every step they took they had to make sure there was no snake in the grass. They went to sleep in horror- not knowing if they would get bitten in the middle of the night. If hard to find water was left out they wouldn’t drink it – maybe a snake injected some venom in the drink. Many people became sick, many died.

Moshe prayed to Hashem. Hashem instructed Moshe to make a Nachash Nechoshes, a copper snake, and put it on a flag pole. Everyone would look up at the caduceus. A caduceus (kerykeion in Greek) staff with two snakes wrapped around it.

Today the caduceus (Kadusious) is a medical symbol associated with the Greek god Hermes. Of course the real origin is our Parsha. What was the meaning of a copper snake?

Copper was the hardest most inflexible material in the desert. Copper was the symbol of inflexibility. The snake has no backbone to speak of. A snake can curl into a little ball. A snake is the ultimate in inflexability.

The Jewish people had a problem. They were having a difficult time with change. Even a change for the better was a problem. The greatness of our people is that we are a stiffed neck people. This attribute has also been our downfall.

If we are going to make it through the deserts of life and history we are going to have to be flexible. Golus is not for those that get stuck. If we want to be free from Golus we can’t get stuck – Geula is not for those that got stuck.

Yesterday morning at 6:30 I cried as I read Arutz Sheva. Hundreds of Americans arriving together in Israel to the sound Pirchei Efrat singing Hinei Ma Tov… Americans left their homes, buisnesses and loved ones to be part of the historical process! These are movers and shakers. Geula people. When Ezra called the people home from Golus, most wouldn’t come. They chose Crusades, Pogroms and Holocausts over flexibility and momentary discomfort.

Yet if we weren’t so stubborn we would be long forgotten. It was our stiff neck that made us resist persucution, missionaries and pain to stay Jewish.

Hashem said to Moshe: Teach the people the secret of the “Nachash Nechoshes. Teach them the duality of being Jewish.

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