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Torah QueeriesWeekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible$
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Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser, and David Shneer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780814720127

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814720127.001.0001

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The Healing Serpent: Recovering Long Lost Jewish Fragments

The Healing Serpent: Recovering Long Lost Jewish Fragments

Parashat Hukkat (Numbers 19:1–22:1)

(p.206) Thirty-Nine The Healing Serpent: Recovering Long Lost Jewish Fragments
Torah Queeries

Jacob J. Staub

NYU Press

This chapter presents a reading of Parashat Hukkat of Numbers, in which God punished the Israelites for their faithlessness by sending venomous serpents. However, God also instructed Moses to make a copper serpent and mounts it high so that snakebite victims who looked at the serpent would not die. Juxtaposing this passage with Freud's essay, “Medusa's Head,” which centers on men's fear of castration, Moses' copper snake can be considered as phallus that restores one's masculinity. This account highlights the blessedness of one's own body, as well as suggests that materiality and physical pleasure are divine gifts rather than temptations.

Keywords:   Parashat Hukkat, Numbers, copper serpent, Medusa's Head, phallus, Moses

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