"G‑d said, 'Make a venomous snake'."(Num. 21:8-9)

In responding to their sin by unleashing deadly, poisonous snakes against them, G‑d was telling the people that sin, which was introduced to humanity by the Primordial Snake, leads to death, while submission to G‑d's will is the key to life.

Since the snakes were deadly, anyone who had been bitten was for all intents and purposes already dead. Healing the bitten person was thus tantamount to resurrecting him.

Now, in order to resurrect a dead person, it is not enough to simply infuse his body with life, because the body has already lost its capacity to support life. First, the dead body had to be made capable once more of living. This can be done only by a force that transcends the laws of nature, including the dichotomy of life and death. Infusing this transcendent force into the dead body restores its capacity to support life, after which the person's soul can re-enter it and he can live again.

Resurrection requires eliciting a level of divinity that transcends the dichotomy of life and death….

This is why G‑d also commanded Moses to heal the people using a snake. By using the image of the deadly, Primordial Snake to restore life, G‑d indicated to them that resurrection requires eliciting a level of divinity that transcends the dichotomy of life and death. When people saw the snake, they understood that in order to elicit this transcendent divinity and be healed, they had to transform their own, inner "snake" - their evil inclination - into a force of good.

The evil inclination impels us to sin for comfort, pleasure, or excitement. When we convince it that the truest comfort, pleasure, and excitement lie in holiness, it plunges headlong into fulfilling G‑d's purpose on earth, endowing our drive toward divinity with much greater power than it could have had otherwise. Thus, the initially evil inclination becomes the source of merit and goodness. The snake is transformed from the source of death to the agent of life.

[Based on Likutei Sichot vol. 13, pp. 75-77]

Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org