Tuesday, January 04, 2011

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The Staff and the Snake

snake_biteby Reb Yehoshua Goldstein

Moshe answered and said, "They will not believe me.  They will not listen to my voice. They will say, 'Hashem did not appear to you.'"  Hashem said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A staff". Hashem said "Throw it on the ground." He threw it on the ground and it turned into a snake.  Moshe ran away from it. Hashem said to Moshe, "Reach out your hand and grasp its tail." He reached out his hand and took hold of it, and it became a staff in his hand  (Chapter 4:1-4).

Initially when Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe at the burning bush, He instructed him to throw the staff down, etc. This is because Moshe was refusing his mission, because he felt that he was unable to redeem Bnei Yisrael and enlighten them with the necessary Daat since he knew that they were full of sin. Therefore, Hashem told him to throw the staff to the ground and it is explained that the staff of Moshe was the Angel Mem Tet, from whom came the source of free will, which is also hinted to in the word mateh (staff / to lean), that a person has the ability to lean this way or that way. Hashem was teaching Moshe through this wonder (of the staff) to understand the greatness of choice. (That is, that even though Bnei Yisrael was deeply involved in sin right now, they still had the ability to choose to fix themselves. Therefore, a person must know that there is no situation cannot be fixed and a person must never despair.)

This power of choice also puts a person in great danger at all times. This is why Moshe was told to throw the staff to the ground because Moshe already made the right choices and stood up to his challenges and became completely good. (He grew up in Paroh's house, yet still chose Hashem. Just as Moshe could have chosen to go either way, so too, Bnei Yisrael can still choose good.)  He was shown the power of choice of the nation and was commanded to throw the staff which is the aspect of the power of choice. "Throw it to the ground,"  throw it into the earthliness and physicality of the majority of the nation. "And it became a snake,"  that is, by the majority of the world, their staff, which is the power of choice, becomes a snake, because of the great provoking of their evil inclination, which is an aspect of the original snake. And immediately Hashem said to him, "Send out your hand and grab its tail... and it became a staff in his hand." This was to teach Moshe and to make known to him, that even though the evil inclination and the snake may overpower a person's power of choice, even so the good is always greater, and a person always has in his hand the ability to switch the snake back into a stick.

That is, Hashem was telling Moshe that he (Moshe) has the power to help even those who have fallen into the aspect of snake and to turn them around back into a staff by finding the good in them and revealing to them the holy Daat that Hashem is still with them.  (Hashem was teaching Moshe the job of the tzadik, that he must find the good in even the worst sinners and turn them back to G-d, i.e. to not give up on them. When a person is trapped in sin, they forget that Hashem is still with them. The tzadik's job is to remind them that there is always hope and Hashem is always with them and they must never despair. Everything can be fixed and they can always come back to the good.) And this staff was eventually used to perform all the signs and wonders. (Not only can we come back to the good, but the very fall is for the purpose of going up. We see how the snake - our downfall - actually became used for performing Hashem's signs and wonders. Even our sins can turn into great merits.) The main redemption is through this, through the Tzadik who arouses those who have fallen very far, in order to bring them close to Hashem. (We must awaken this idea in ourselves, that no matter how far we have fallen, we can always come back to Hashem and there is never reason for despair.)

(Based on the Likkutei Halachot by Reb Nosson of Breslev, Orach Chayim, Hilchot Betziot Hapat 1:43)

1 comment:

  1. I hope that is a "harmless" snake in the photo...


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