The Snake II

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: Recently a question was asked on a discussion group I am a member of, I have no idea what the answer would be, could you enlighten us, please? Here it is: "Can you tell us what the snake (discussed in Genesis in connection with Adam and Eve) being cursed, and being forced to move on its belly, and eat dirt all its days are suppose to mean?"
Mesora: The snake itself was a real creature, as stated once by a Rabbi. The Rabbi taught that if we are to take the snake metaphorically - as some commentators do - then what prevents us from taking Adam and Eve literally? Perhaps they too are metaphors, and we see clearly, this would destroy the entire Torah. Such an interpretation gives license that anything in the Torah could be understood as a metaphor; including Moses, Abraham, and even God and His actions. Based on the very fundamentals of Torah, we do not accept this path. But the same Rabbi taught that the understanding of a literal snake, does not obviate deeper ideas disclosed in the Scriptural account connected with it.
I will offer my own suggestion. As the snake was the precipitant of sin, it may also allude to the workings of his emotions - i.e., that which caused sin. Perhaps as a rectification of the emotional makeup of the snake, God addressed two factors: 1)"Going on its belly" may imply the slow down of the emotions, as crawling is a much slower process than walking. (We learn from Rashi that the snake's legs were amputated.) Emotions have no other function than to seek gratification. They are not the apparatus which perceives right and wrong, and they cannot function outside of their design, therefore they continually seek satisfaction with no cessation. Such a path leads to destruction, so a slower 'movement' of the emotions allows other positive forces to kick-in, and hopefully steer the creature back on the right path. 2) Additionally, even if the emotions with their slower state are in fact successful at achieving wrongful desires, "eating dirt all the days of its life" may teach that one other change was made to the snake: It was also given less satisfaction when desires were obtained, so "eating dirt" may allude to the 'sour taste', or the lessened satisfaction realized by the being - even when it achieves the very same, poor goals as before. Again, this minimizing of satisfaction hopefully steers the being away from only seeking emotional goals.

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