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The people spoke against Hashem and Moshe - "Why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in this Wilderness, for there is no food and no water, and our soul is disgusted with the insubstantial food?" Hashem sent the fiery serpents against the people and they bit the people. A large multitude of Israel died. The people came to Moshe and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against Hashem and against you! Pray to Hashem that He remove from us the serpent." Moshe prayed for the people. Hashem said to Moshe, "Make yourself a fiery [serpent] and place it on a pole, and it will be that anyone who was bitten will look at it and live." Moshe made a serpent of copper and placed it on the pole; and so it was that if the serpent bit a man, he would stare at the copper serpent and live (Bemidbar 21:5-9).
Rashi brings the words of the Sages (Rosh Hashanah 29a) who ask, "Does the copper serpent cause death or life?" They explain that when the Israelites, upon gazing at the serpent, looked up on high and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were healed, but if they did not do this they pined away.
Throughout the generations, from Moshe Rabbeinu until this very day, the holy leaders of the generation have been able to bring healing to the sick of Israel. Using various methods, and sometimes merely by blessing them and connecting with them, they succeeded in getting the needy one to subject his or her heart to our Father in Heaven and being worthy of His healing.
The following story is one that I heard first-person from the people involved.
Chaya Henig is the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, shlita, Chief Rabbi of Migdal Ha'Emek, Founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr. After Passover, 1985, when she was sixteen and a half years old, Chaya went on a school trip with her classmates. A friend of Chaya's rubbed against a pointed tree branch which snapped back into Chaya's eye. Instantly, the eye became very swollen and she was rushed to the hospital. After a thorough examination, the doctors declared that the damage was very serious and that they believed that her sight could never be restored.
For months, the Grossman family took Chaya to the best eye specialists in Israel, but they all agreed with the pessimistic prognosis of the first doctors. Chaya would never be able to see through that eye again.
Some time later, when Rav Grossman was in the USA, fundraising for Migdal Ohr, someone suggested that he bring Chaya to be examined by an expert in the field. Rav Grossman asked his family to have some friends take Chaya along with them when they travel, and they readily agreed. The pressure on the plane caused the eye to hurt even more than usual.
Upon arrival, Rabbi Grossman immediately took his daughter to the eye specialist, who performed a CAT scan and promised an answer in a few days. In the meantime, the Rav decided to take Chaya to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask for his personal blessing, although he had written to him about her as soon as the accident had occurred. As the Rebbe approached his office at the Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, Rabbi Grossman stood directly opposite him, blocking his way. The Rebbe paused and Rabbi Grossman said to him, "Rebbe, this is my daughter." The Rebbe looked at her very intensely, and she looked back at him. Finally, the Rebbe declared, "May she have a refuah sheleimah (a complete recovery), and may you be privileged to guide her to Torah, the chuppah (the bridal canopy) and good deeds."
A while later, Chaya began to feel a tremendous improvement in the condition of her eye. She felt the pain subside, and she could see again. By the time she returned to the doctor, a few days later, she felt fine. The doctor looked at the report of the CAT scan in his hand and at Chaya's eye and could not believe that they were identical. Indeed they were not, since the report bode ill tidings to the patient who had been examined, while the doctor was able to assure Rav Grossman that his daughter's eye was fine and that there was nothing to be concerned about.
Today, twenty years later, Chaya has children of her own and teaches at Migdal Ohr. Whenever she has to strengthen her students' faith in Hashem and His messengers, she tells her own story which inspires them greatly.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network