Bread and snakes

photo from
This Shabbos I thought of an interpretation of the episode of the nachash nanechoshes. The episode begins with Bnei Yisrael's  expressing disgust about the mann (21: 22): וְנַפְשֵׁנוּ קָצָה בַּלֶּחֶם הַקְּלֹקֵל.

Hashem then sends venomous snakes who bit them. The people confessed there sin and appealed to Moshe who appealed to Hashem who told him to fashion a snake and put it up on a pole. 

What is the connection between complaining about mann and being subjected to snake bites?  In what way did the punishment fit the crime? 

 A number of different answers can be found among the commentators, including references to the orginal nachash who is condemned to eat dust of the earth, but  this is the one that occurred to me:

The nachash was also told וְאֵיבָה | אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ

(Bereishis 3:15)15And I shall place hatred between you and between the woman, and between your seed and between her seed
4 verses later Adam is told the consequences of the sin for himself:  he would have to labor for his bread. bezeat apecha tochal lechem  בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם.

Bnei Yisrael complained about the mann, the Heavenly bread that could be eaten without the labor of planting, cutting, winnowing, grinding, kneading, and baking entailed in the bread we normally eat. They wanted a more standard diet with earthly bread. Consequently, Hashem told them that they would also get the rest of that package deal. They would no longer get divine protection from the very natural danger of snakes bite.

For a take on bread as the symbol of human work, see


Popular Posts