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A Word to the Wise is Sufficient

By Tzvi Fishman
7/6/2011, 3:33 PM

We can all learn a lesson from the Torah portion “Hukkat” which we just read on Shabbat. The Torah relates that “the soul of the People became impatient because of the way (Bamidbar, 4:4).  Rashi explains that because the journey to the Land of Israel was difficult for them, they became impatient and uptight. They wanted everything on a silver platter without having to struggle. So they once again started to complain. They blamed G-d and Moshe for their own inability to remain optimistic and steadfast in dealing with the challenges they encountered on their aliyah to Israel, as it says:

“And the People spoke against G-d and against Moshe, saying, ‘Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul hates this light bread’” (Bamidbar, 4:5).

Wait a minute! They had bread and water! What were they squawking about? In this same Torah portion, we learned that in Moshe’s merit, G-d reactivated the miraculous well that had ceased to flow upon the death of Miriam. So they had water. And they had the manna, the miracle bread of many flavors. But they found something to complain about all the same, bitching that it was a light, diet bread, that digested immediately, when they wanted a heavy pumpernickel instead that would sit in their stomachs for weeks.

Instead of being appreciative for what they had, they chose to complain about what in their eyes was missing. Out of their feelings of insecurity and uptightness over the challenges of the journey,   they struck out against G-d and Moshe, emphasizing what, in their minds, was lacking, rather than being thankful for all of the good.

These people fell to the advice of the snake. The snake in the Garden of Eden. Among the many evil inclinations that people are prey to, there is a yetzer hara to paint things in a negative light by concentrating on what is seemingly lacking, rather than emphasizing the good. This was the strategy of the snake in the Garden. He seduced Eve into seeing what she lacked, that all of the trees in the Garden were permitted to them except the tree in the center of the Garden. The snake made it appear that because one tree was missing from the list, then all of Creation was rotten. That’s how he seduced her into betraying G-d’s command not to eat from the tree. The rest of the story is history.

And that’s why G-d sent snakes to strike at the complainers in the wilderness, to make them understand the root of their snake-like sin, in concentrating on what they seemingly lacked, rather than being thankful for all of the good.