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The Snake in the Middle

Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )

by Rabbi Ron Jawary

Why is the word snake right in the middle of the Torah?

The Talmud teaches us that the middle letter in the Torah is in the Hebrew word "gachon" (Lev. 11:42) "snake" that is found in this week's Torah portion. The snake symbolizes our negativity, cynicism, and indifference, all of those qualities which are the exact opposite of what we should be developing in ourselves.

This negativity, this snake, is surrounded on all sides by the Torah -- by optimism, purity, and Godliness. We sometimes have a tendency to focus on the negative in our lives, but in order to embrace the Godliness which surrounds us, we should strive to combat this negativity at every opportunity. In order to be intimate with the Divine, we should approach every day of our lives and every encounter with any person with the attitude that it's all an opportunity to see the beauty that life has to offer. We should view each day as an undeserved gift, and who doesn't love a freebie?

Isaiah says it all when he writes, "When you go out in joy, you'll arrive in peace." He is teaching us that the best antidote to help fight negativity is joy. By starting each day of our lives with joy, the negativity in our lives can be eliminated. We will realize just how petty so many of the things that bother us really are, and we'll find that there is room for everyone.

Then we will be granted peace and will come to realize what is really important in life. We will see how life was meant to be lived before the snake came into Adam and Eve's lives. We will see "that everything that God made is very good".

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