Three times in the Babylonian Talmud we find the Aramaic expression nafal nehora — “light fell.” This is the light of a powerful physical beauty that behaves almost like matter, seemingly pulled down by gravitational force — a light that may kindle overwhelming desire. Sometimes the combination of beauty and desire reminds us of the ephemeral nature of life. In one story, light falls from a woman hidden in an attic, inflaming the passion of Rabbi Amram who, in a pre-Freudian moment, shouts, “Fire!” rousing his neighbors to come and save him from sin. In another story, Rabbi Yochanan visits his poor, ailing friend, Rabbi Elazar. The famously beautiful Yochanan raises his comely arm, thereby illuminating the darkened sick-house. Suddenly, both rabbis weep to think that such beauty will one day become dust in the earth.
And the serpent was more cunning than all the creatures of the field that the Lord God created. And he said to the woman, “Did God say: You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”
— Genesis 3:1
And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a seraph and mount it on a standard…” [and so] Moses made a copper serpent and mounted it on a standard and when anyone was bitten by a serpent, he would look at the copper serpent and live.— Numbers 21:8-9 [King Hezekiah] also broke into pieces the copper serpent that Moses had made, for until that