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    Satan & Peninah – Chukkat

    The Brazen Serpent, from the 1890 Holman Bible

    The Brazen Serpent, from the 1890 Holman Bible

    The people rebelled against God when they were in the wilderness. He sent fiery serpents to punish them. The serpents did their work.

    Bitten and hurting, the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned against God”. So Moses prayed to God on behalf of the people.

    God said, “Make a serpent and place it on a pole, so that anyone is bitten he will see it and live” (Num. 21:5-9).

    The founder of Chabad, the Ba’al HaTanya, sees this as an example of the idea of Satan and P’ninah (BB 16a) propounded by the sages.

    Satan is of course a well-known concept, the symbol of the tempter who tries to wean people away from God. His activity at the beginning of the Book of Job is the supreme example.

    P’ninah, wife of Elkanah, was the taunter of her co-wife Hannah. Speaking of them in one breath sounds strange. But they both share the capacity of breaking down people’s faith – or the opposite.

    If the victim refuses to succumb to the taunts, their moral courage keeps them faithful to God.

    In the case of the serpent, it recalls the first tempter in Biblical history, who worked on Eve to turn her away from the Almighty and to involve her husband Adam in a sin of rebellion.

    The lesson is that life confronts us with taunts, temptations and challenges. If we are strong enough we will be able to overcome the moment.

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