"The Israelites moved on from the Mount Hor going by way of the Reed Sea so as to skirt the territory of Edom. The people became discouraged along the way.
The people spoke out against G‑d and Moses: 'Why did you take us out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread and water. We are getting disgusted with this insubstantial food
[manna].' G‑d sent poisonous snakes against the people, and when they began biting the people, a number of them died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned by speaking against G‑d and you, Pray to G‑d and have him take away the snakes.'
When Moses prayed for the people, G‑d said to Moses, 'Make yourself the image of a venomous serpent
[in Hebrew, 'saraf']and place it on a high pole [in Hebrew, 'nes']. Everyone who is bitten shall look upon it and live.' Moses made a copper snake and placed it on a high pole. Whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze at the copper snake and live." (Num. 21:4-9)

To grasp the meaning of G‑d's supernal greatness and loftiness, one needs to serve Him with utter devotion and a fiery burning love and enthusiasm. Yet, should you achieve this, it is crucial to understand that it is not your own accomplishments that brought you this far. It must be a fixed and permanent dictum of your heart that everything comes from G‑d, and that this level you have achieved was not a result of your own righteousness, but simply a chesed from G‑d, who is always prepared to help one who desires to elevate and purify himself. "If one come to purify himself, he is helped from above." "G‑d is close to all who call on his name in truth." (Psalms 145:18) If one doesn't live one's life with enthusiasm and passion, and connection to G‑d, it's as if he is not even alive…

"Make yourself the image of a venomous serpent [in Hebrew, "saraf", from the root word for "burn"]: this is one's fiery enthusiasm for divine service.
"…and place it on a high pole [in Hebrew, "nes"]: put your enthusiasm in a high place for all to see so that they too may become inspired and caught up in the fervor of your divine service so as to aspire to it. You must remember that one is not able to reach lofty levels of inspiration and enthusiasm through one's own natural faculties. Only with help from G‑d, through a little "nes"(meaning also "miracle"), can the true seeker aspire to higher and higher levels of fiery inspiration in his divine service.

…place it on a high pole (nes)": let what you have learned be of benefit to others. Place your enthusiasm in a prominent place so that people will understand that you were blessed with a little miracle (in Hebrew, "nes") from G‑d. Otherwise other people will be inclined to think, "His passion and enthusiasm is appropriate for him since he is a tzadik, but what about the rest of us? We have limitations and problems, how can we be expected to reach such ardent, fiery levels of divine service?" It becomes possible to live…a life of spiritual delight, a life of service and knowledge of G‑d…

The message "…place it on a high pole ['nes']", let everybody know that they must rely on G‑d. If you are prepared to place your hope in G‑d and apply yourself , you can also increase your passion and enthusiasm and reach lofty levels of divine service. But if you try to do it alone, it will be impossible. You need a little miracle.

Whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze at the copper snake and live.": "You who have remained attached to G‑d your G‑d are all alive today." (Deut. 4:4) If one doesn't live one's life with enthusiasm and passion, and connection to G‑d, it's as if he is not even alive. If one succumbs to the serpent (i.e. the evil inclination), he is a good as dead. Yet when a Jew follows the example of the tzadik, and remains attached to G‑d, he remains "alive today". It becomes possible to live a life today in this world which is worthy of being called the "World to Come"; a life of spiritual delight, a life of service and knowledge of G‑d.

If one should feel overwhelmed or crushed by the evil inclination and feel paralyzed in his divine service, he needs only to look at the tzadik and to remember that he (the tzadik) once was in the same position. He looked to G‑d for help and picked up a little miracle. There is never a need for despair.

[Adapted by Binyomin Adilman from Sefer Zichron Zot]