As the Jewish nation edged towards the final moments of their sojourn in the wilderness, they were once again confronted by tragedy. Venomous snakes attacked them and caused widespread death and devastation.
The crisis was only averted with the creation of a mysterious ‘copper snake’ by Moses. The ‘copper snake’ episode is extremely jarring – what is the significance of this strange creation by Moses? The Talmud famously addresses the issue in tractate Rosh Hashana (3:8): “is it a snake that generates death or life?” And yet, despite the Talmud’s intervention, the story remains puzzling for numerous reasons.
In the first of two shiurim looking at the copper snake episode, Rabbi Dunner looks at the original texts in Bamidbar 21 and in Rosh Hashana 3, and offers a compelling backdrop to this strange narrative, so that it emerges as a powerful lesson for the generation that is about to conquer Canaan, and for every generation that would follow.