Rabbi Binyomin Adler – The Serpent

The Torah commences with the story of creation. Light and darkness, heaven and earth, vegetation, animals and finally man is created. After all this grandeur, Adam and Chava sin, as the Serpent seduces Chava to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, and this is the catalyst for the death of mankind. The episode of a snake engaging in dialogue with a human appears to be more for the science-fiction thrillers, and indeed there is a debate as to who this Serpent was. There are opinions that maintain that the Serpent was really Satan riding on the Serpent and the classic commentators refer to the Serpent as the Evil Inclination.
What lesson can we gain from all this? Certainly the most obvious lesson is that when HaShem instructs someone to do something, he must follow HaShem’s instructions or pay the price. Yet, there is another lesson to be learned from the incident of the Serpent. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 59b) states that woe to mankind that the Great Serpent was lost from the world. Had Adam and Chava not sinned, every person would have two Serpents that would fetch precious stones and do one’s gardening. Indeed, the Serpent had great potential, but Adam and Chava succumbed to the unsavory side of the Serpent. Yes, even the Evil Inclination can be used to serve HaShem, as the Gemara derives from the words (Devarim 6:5) וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְה-ֹו-ה אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶךָ, you shall love HaShem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources. With all your hearts, the Gemara (Brachos 54a) states, means to serve HaShem with the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination. The message of the Serpent, essentially, was, “I’m not necessarily bad, it all depends on how you use me. Precious stones and a beautiful garden to serve HaShem? Coming right up. Eating the forbidden fruit because I say you should? Now I got you.”
HaShem created a world where are serpents lurking everywhere, often disguised as the colloquial relaxation, down time, chilling and other seemingly innocent pastimes. We can use these opportunities for spiritual growth, or Heaven forbid, for spiritual decline. HaShem punished the Serpent by cutting off his legs and giving him dirt to eat, truly a spiritual downfall. Let us use the lesson of the Serpent to increase our holiness and purity, and then we will merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

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