The snake, the archenemy of the Jewish people, Amalek (the grandson of Esau), personifies the primordial snake of the garden of Eden. The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that the numerical value of Amalek (240) is identical to that of the word for “doubt” (safek). Amalek attacks the mind and the inner point of faith in God innate in the Divinely-inspired intelligence of the Jewish soul. The venom of Amalek seeks to cause the soul to “lose its mind.”
Just as Amalek represents the epitome of evil, so does the positive snake represent the epitome of good. Mashiach himself is referred to as “the holy snake,” as alluded to by the phenomenon that the numerical value of Mashiach (358) is the same as that of the word for “snake” (nachash). In the Zohar it is told that when the holy snake, Mashiach, will kill the evil snake (overcome the fear of insanity), he will thereby merit to marry the Divine princess, to unite with the origin of the souls of Israel and so to bring redemption to the world.
Another, explicit, Biblical personification of the snake is Nachash, the king of Ammon. His first appearance in the Bible is when he besieged the Jewish settlement of Yavesh-Gilad, threatening to kill them all if they would not put out their own eyes! The venom of the snake goes directly to the eyes, the seat of the sense of sight, which most reflects the inner perception of the mind.
This was the initial test of the new king of Israel, King Saul. He founded his kingdom by conscripting all the tribes of Israel to fight the war against Ammon. He was victorious. The holy wolf (as described above, in relation to King Saul) killed the evil snake. This points to what will be explained later, that in a certain sense the wolf-figure, which corresponds to the immune system of the body, which in turn encompasses the root of all disease (understood to derive ultimately from sexual perversion–whether conscious or unconscious–as taught especially in homeopathy), includes all three: wolf, lion, and snake.
Ammon is the paternal brother of Moab (both are sons of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, born to him by his own two daughters). In Kabbalah, Moab corresponds to chochmah (as explained above), while Ammon corresponds to binah, the seat of rational thought or “sanity.” The venom of the snake attacks the rationality of the mind, poisons the mind with doubt (inability to discern truth rationally), and aims at undermining the soul’s innate sanity altogether.
Thus we conclude that the three nations of Midian (a son of Abraham), Moab, and Ammon (the two sons of Lot)–the wolf, the lion, and the snake–correspond to the inner dimension of wisdom, its outer manifestation, and the faculty of understanding, respectively. In apparent paradox, it is the lowest of the three enemies of human health (the wolf) that relates to the highest power of the soul (the inner dimension of wisdom). Sexual perversion begins with the wolf but ends with the snake, an explicit symbol of sex in Kabbalah. The primordial snake raped Eve (as a wolf).
As stated above, the tribe of Dan was blessed by Jacob to be a snake: “Dan shall be a snake on the way, a serpent on the path.” (Mashiach, the epitome of the figure of the holy snake, will be a descendent of Judah, the son of David. Thus, just as in the case of the lion, we witness here the unification of the two tribes of Judah and Dan, as explained above.)
The descendant of Dan who fulfilled Jacob’s blessing that “Dan shall judge his people as the one of the tribes of Israel” was Samson. He is the one whom Jacob meant when he said “Dan shall be a snake on the way, a serpent on the path.” In the Bible, we read of Samson’s apparent obsession with sex. Our sages teach that no one ever possessed such seminal prowess as Samson. Samson (as later did David) killed the lion, whose carcass became a honeycomb. In his riddle to the Philistines, he said, “From the bold came forth the sweet.” Here, boldness, the innate property of the leopard, related to the wolf (as explained above), and the strength of the lion are converted into sweetness by the holy snake. All three images of wolf, lion, and snake converge in the person of Samson, who, according to Kabbalah, is the essential premature messianic figure of the Bible.
Samson, the judge of Israel, is the spiritual precursor of David, the king of Israel. The holy snake bears the holy lion. This is supported as well by the fact that David’s own father, Jesse, is referred to as “the snake.”
Our sages teach that everything that God created in this world, even those creatures that appear to be of no avail to mankind, was created for a good purpose, to heal human ailments. Five such examples are given in the Talmud, one of which is that the mosquito (yitush) was created to heal the bite of the snake (nachash). The numerical value of yitush (716) is twice that of nachash (358), implying that on a spiritual plane, there is something about a mosquito bite that is twice as potent as that of a snake.
One of the figures who most personifies the snake (a descendent of Amalek) is Titus, the Roman emperor who destroyed the second Temple. When he entered the Temple, he mocked God and the Divine service of the Jewish people. He attempted to poison us with the venom of doubt. Our sages relate that he himself was killed by a mosquito that entered his nose.
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