In Parshat Chukat, the Torah tells us that Bnei
Yisrael complained about the Mann that Hashem provided.
Although the Mann was a miracle that Hashem provided
every day, Bnei Yisrael nevertheless complained, “Lama
HeElitunu MeeMitzrayim LaMut BaMidbar Ki Ein Lechem
VeEin Mayim VeNafsheinu Katzah BeLechem HaKelokeil,”
“Why did you bring us up from the land of Egypt to die in this
Wilderness, for there is no food and no water, and our soul is
disgusted with this insubstantial food?” Because of this
display of ingratitude, Hashem brought fiery serpents against
Bnei Yisrael, and a large number of people died. After
seeing the destruction that these snakes caused, the people
understood their transgression, and they approached Moshe,
begging him to intercede with Hashem on their behalf.
Hashem told Moshe to make for himself a snake and place it
high upon a pole, and whoever would look at the snake
would be healed of his snakebites. Rashi, quoting a Mishnah
in Masechet Rosh Hashanah, explains that the copper snake
did not in and of itself bring healing. Rather, when Bnei
Yisrael looked towards heaven at the snake on the pole, they
would focus their hearts on Hashem and would therefore be
The Torah tells us that Moshe made a serpent of copper
and placed it on the pole. Why did Moshe specifically choose
to make the snake out of copper? After all, Hashem had only
told him to make a snake. Rashi explains that Hashem told
Moshe to make a “Nachash”, which is etymologically similar
to the word Nechoshet (copper), both of them containing the
sequence Nun, Chet, Shin.
The Ramban writes that there is much more taking place
here than just a simple play on words. He explains that the
way of the Torah is that it will often produce something that is
a miracle within a miracle. Normally, a person runs away
from the source of something that has harmed him or has
caused him to get sick. Moshe, however, understood that the
exact way in which Bnei Yisrael were harmed was the same
way in which they would be healed. Moshe specifically made
the snake out of copper because the appearance of a fiery
serpent is similar to the color of copper, and by picturing the
snake that had harmed them, Bnei Yisrael would be healed.
The lesson for Bnei Yisrael was that clearly the source of
healing was Hashem, for only Hashem could heal somebody
in the exact way that they were harmed. By comprehending
this lesson, Bnei Yisrael understood that Hashem is behind
everything and that it is inappropriate to complain against
anyything that Hashem had done for them.
A very important message can be derived from this story.
We must appreciate the daily miracles that Hashem does for
us in our own lives and never express any ingratitude for the
things that Hashem does for us. The Jewish people’s every
need was provided for in the desert, yet they started to forget
what Hashem had done for them and complain. Therefore,
Hashem had to bring a plague upon them to remind them of
everything that He does for them. It is important for us to
remember and to be grateful to Hashem for everything that
He does for us.