He explains all about the Copper Snake and its symbolism and what that was all about.
So if you’ve ever wanted to understand what was going on with the fiery biting serpents and then the giant healing Copper Snake, it’s all in there.
Who & What is the Yetzer Hara Today?
And to fight the snakes of dissatisfaction, we need to pump up our gratitude and appreciation.
As usual, I cannot resist quoting Rav Miller’s views on modern American society:
Of course, today, Russia doesn’t have to bother to send spies across the ocean because America has so many lunatics in its government, so many meshugener communists in its educational system and in the public media, that they’re doing the work for free.
They’re doing the work of disrupting the country without being paid.
But in normal times the best way for a spy to operate is by working undercover, by blending in and remaining unnoticed. Only that today the public is so stupid that the lunatics can proclaim it openly, with big headlines.
In the Garden, the Nachash (i.e., the Yetzer Hara when it was external; now it is internal) was obviously a Nachash standing on legs and talking. But he made his personality appealing. Sheker hachen.
He’s sneaky and doesn’t want you to know what he’s really up to. He comes in a much more appealing form—not serpentine at all.
As Rav Miller explains:
Today he appears in the form of a college professor or a neighbor.
Sometimes he’ll even come as a man with a beard and long peyos.
It has to be that way because if the nachash would have continued to exist in the form that it had in the time of the cheit, so we would already know to watch out for that fellow.
We know, “Watch out for him!”
And if you don’t look beneath the facade, you will never see the truth.
The falsehoods today fill the world. Big buildings, libraries, universities. And they have the media today to spread their falsehoods.
The sheker fills the world today because he’s choosing the most effective forms possible and he is succeeding.
Wherever you go today you can no longer say the truth - you have to use political correctness when you talk.
A tremendous tolerance of sheker was erected right under our noses.
"One way or another, people have been bitten by the nachash. For one person the nachash of sports has bitten him. For another person it’s clothing or cars or money. Arayos, television, politics, whatever it is, the snake is biting."
Rav Miller on Sports & Travel Vacations
He admits that it’s not a popular opinion and that he doesn’t meant to offend anyone, but he simply sees it a certain way and feels that point of view should be expressed.
He discusses making the most of your background and your family situation, realizing that the difficulties and obstacles are there to for you to use for spiritual growth.
This is what he says about sports:
You’re thinking, “Maybe the newspapers are reporting important news - maybe I should go out and look in the newspaper.”
The front page talks about a certain man, a top basketball player who was captured by another team. Oooh ah! Big news!
When he went to high school he never attended class - he stood in the schoolyard and practiced basketball. A bum, that’s all.
And this bum is on the front page, and everybody is talking about him.
Or another bum who has nothing in his mind at all, no intelligence at all. Only that when he holds a bat he’s able to smack the ball. He can give the ball a smack and everyone goes crazy.
A homerun! Meshugenahs! It’s nothing!
"And the more you think about that truth, the more we train our minds to combat the yetzer hara that makes what we’re doing seem plain and ordinary, the more we’ve learned the lesson of lifting the copper serpent out from the high grass and placing it on the high pole."
Rav Miller explains that this is such an important Parsha, Chazal wanted us to say the entire parshah every morning!
He also explains why Hashem is so exacting with Am Yisrael.
That’s one of the reasons church-goers believe they’ve replaced Am Yisrael. Hashem (via the Nevi’im) constantly exhort the Jewish People even as He expresses the most beautiful and profound Love for us in the Universe.
Why Is Hashem So Tough on Us If He Loves Us So Much?
We aren’t nearly as bad as the nations. Sure, they suffer stuff too. But not like us. And we’re not nearly as bad. (Despite what many Jewish periodicals and blogs claim, we really aren’t as bad as the nations!)
So Rav Miller explains that with a convincing mashal of a kallah and a wedding photographer, which is very worth reading inside the dvar Torah booklet. (Seriously. It’s very convincing.)
Then Rav Miller explains:
"But when you grow older, you have to understand the truth of the Torah. And that is that the Am Yisroel is the greatest and purest nation, much more than any nation in the world!"
Many people have been misled, even talmidei chachomim.
I remember once I was saying a drasha in shul and I mentioned that the Dor Hamidbar was beloved by Hashem.
I said that they are called yedidim [friends] and ahuvim [beloved ones].
And this one man, a talmid chochom, finally lost patience with me. He was so angry with me when I said that. “It's against the pesukim what you're saying” he told me. “They didn't know My ways.” He showed me the possuk in the siddur. And how can you blame people for being mislead?
All the seforim in the Torah criticize the Am Yisroel. Terribly!...
...But the maskanah of the gemara is: Asfu li chassidai - Gather in to Me, My devoted ones, the dor hamidbar. They were Hashem’s chassidim.
And as written on this blog before, frum Jews are the most self-critical. And Rav Miller discusses this tendency toward self-criticism (both justified and unjustified) and why we are like that.
So how do we gain some perspective?
Go Tell It from The Mountain
Let's say, here's a kollel family.
And there's another person standing in the street, a Jew, a frum Jew, and he sees the kollel family. To him it seems like they're human beings. Just like he is.
The children are boisterous, a little wild. The mother is busy cooking and cleaning. And life goes on in their house like any other house.
And therein lies the great error of not appreciating the Am Yisroel.
And so, when you look at that kollel family, you'll have to get off the ground.
To understand the greatness of any frum home, you are going to have to get off of the ground and view them with a nobility of mind.
If you go through life without thinking, then you'll never appreciate the Am Yisroel.
It's only when you take a step back, and you see the Am Yisroel with the clear sighted view that Bilam had, that's how you'll appreciate our greatness.
Of course, none of this precludes a raw cheshbon hanefesh.
Judaism acknowledges and embraces the innate paradox of our 3-dimensional world.
We need to regularly perform a thoroughly scouring cheshbon hanefesh—yet at the same time, never lose sight of how wonderfully fabulous and profoundly cherished we are.
Rav Miller goes into detail about how to see ourselves & each other in the real light—the way Hashem sees us.
There are no rose-colored glasses here—Rav Miller gives plenty of mussar; he knows our weak points.
It’s about changing your angle of vision.
"Taharas hamishpacha, tzniyus, decency, morality fill the Jewish home. And you hear brachos in that home all day long - a different blessing for every item that you're eating. How beautiful is the Jewish home!"
- Rav Avigdor Miller's full dvar Torah on Parshat Balak
- Rav Avigdor Miller's full dvar Torah on Parshat Chukat 1
- Rav Avigdor Miller's full dvar Torah on Parshat Chukat 2
As always, credit goes to Toras Avigdor for everything, including generous permission to cite this amazing material.