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    A spiritual vaccine – Chukkat

    The Brazen Serpent, from the 1890 Holman Bible

    B’midbar 21 describes how the people complained against God so He sent fiery serpents to punish them.

    After the people pleaded with God not to kill them, He told Moses to construct a brazen serpent on a pole and whoever looked at it survived.

    Says Rashi, it wasn’t that looking at the serpent of brass that made all the difference, but whenever the people turned their eyes and their hearts to Heaven they survived.

    Says Ramban, it was a “miracle within a miracle”. What cured them was the same thing that had made them suffer in the first instance – a serpent – and it was all to show that life and death are in the power of God alone.

    The people underwent what seems like a spiritual vaccine.

    These days vaccination is understood as a crucial part of medicine. A sufferer might survive without it, but medical science – acting on the Torah principle of Ani HaShem rof’echa, “I the Lord am your healer” (Exc. 15:26) – recommends that this “miracle within a miracle” be gratefully utilised.

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