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Chukat - Can a copper snake heal?

In our Torah portion, some people had become impatient and complained against God and Moses because of what they thought to be difficult circumstances. As a result, G-d sent venomous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. When the people realized their sin and acknowledged their wrongdoing, they approached Moses and asked for help. In response, G-d instructed Moses to make a copper serpent and place it on a pole. He then told Moses that anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the serpent and be healed. Moses followed the instructions, making the serpent and setting it on a pole. From that point onward, anyone who had been bitten by a snake could look at the serpent and be miraculously cured of the venomous bite.

A venomous snake is a source of harm and destruction. Spiritually, too, the snake brought incredible harm to this world when it enticed Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Yet here was the image of the copper serpent that actually healed! It was a miracle within a miracle. In the specific event mentioned, the copper serpent created by Moses was not intended as an idol or an object of worship. It was a symbolic representation of G-d's power to heal, and the act of looking at it was an act of faith in G-d's promise. The serpent itself had no inherent power or divinity.

This showed how G‑d is in control over everything, and that He has the ability to bring cure or destruction to the world by employing any of the creatures he created even the most dangerous creatures.

According to the 7 Noahide laws, it is strictly forbidden to engage in idol worship or use idols for any purpose, including healing or making remedies for none life-threatening illnesses. Idolatry is considered a capital sin that goes against the belief in the one G-d. However, the preservation of human life is considered a paramount value, and in cases of life-threatening situations, there are certain circumstances where it may be permissible for Gentiles to transgress certain commandments, even those that would typically be considered capital sins for the purpose of saving their life.

In general, the use of idols or idolatrous practices for healing or making remedies would be strictly prohibited. The 7 Noahide laws define the importance of seeking healing and remedies by natural means, medical treatments, and, above all, placing trust in G-d as the ultimate source of good and healing.


Rabbi Moshe Bernstein is a writer and a Community Rabbi in Netanya, Israel. He believes in making connections between the Jewish People and the Noahides worldwide in order to share and enhance the knowledge of the Torah's Universal Code for Humanity and fulfill Isaiah's Prophecy 11:9 " And the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the oceans".


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