Chukat – 14 July 2016 / 8 Tamuz, 5776

There are several times in the story of our ancestors’ wilderness wanderings in which “kvetching” (complaining) rises to a crescendo.  In parashat Chukat, the complaint is about being tired of the miraculous manna that served as food through the 40 wilderness years.  God punishes the Israelites with snake bites.  Then, curiously, the cure for the snake bites is the mounting of a copper snake figure on a standard.  Those who looked at the snake statue were healed. (Num. 21: 4- 9).  As strange as this story may seem, it is interesting that the snake is a symbol for healing in other contexts and cultures as well.  For example, Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, took the form of a serpent.  Thus a symbol of medicine to this day is the serpent and the staff.