Nov 29, 2021

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Three people were killed and over 500 people were treated for scorpion bites on Saturday in the city of Aswan in southern Egypt when it was overrun after a fierce lightning and rain storm forced the arachnids out of the burrows and into the homes and streets. Schools were closed on Sunday due to the infestation. 

Egypt is home to the Fat-tail scorpion, one of the most dangerous groups of scorpion species in the world. The Latin name, Androctonus, means “man killer”.

Aswan would have done well to take a lesson from Jewish law which teaches that a person does not stop in the middle of praying if a snake approaches because it only attacks if provoked. However, if a scorpion is seen, a person must cease praying as scorpions are known to always attack even when unprovoked.

Scorpions instead of flies

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, explained that Jewish sources predict that all of the plagues will reappear in the final Redemption but in even more powerful forms. This reload of the Egyptian plagues were prophesied by Micah.

I will show him wondrous deeds As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt. Micah 7:15

It is also written in Midrash Tanchuma, homiletic teachings collected around the fifth century, that “just as God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, so too He will strike the enemies of the Jewish people at the time of the Redemption.”

“But the plagues that presage the final days are going to be even worse than those that struck Egypt in the days of the Exodus,” Rabbi Berger said. “In this case, there will be swarms of scorpions instead of flies.”

Rabbi Berger noted the remarkable infestation of scorpions as a slightly altered version of the fourth plague that struck Egypt before the Exodus. 

“Though this plague is usually thought to be insects, the Hebrew word is הֶעָרֹב (he’arov), which means a mixed group,” Rabbi Berger said. “Some sources suggest it may have been mixed beasts while others claim it was massive swarms of stinging insects.”

“Insects normally are not a threat to man, like predatory beasts,” Rabbi Berger said. “Similarly, the real threat to Israel today is spiritual and not military.”

“The Hebrew word for scorpion, Akrav, is composed of the words Av Kar; the father/archetype of cold,” Rabbi Berger said. “While both the snake and scorpion have venomous stings, the scorpion represents the evil that is associated with coldness.”

He noted that according to Jewish sages, the poison of a snake tends to cause high fever, while the poison of a scorpion causes a person’s temperature to drop so that he feels very cold. 

“Coldness is also the evil trait of Israel’s perennial enemy, Amalek,” Rabbi Berger said. “The Torah writes of Amalek, ‘They met you” (Deuteronomy 25:18) and the Hebrew word for this is ‘korcha’, from the word kar, ‘cold.’ Hence, that verse can also be translated as “they chilled you”.  The sages explain that the evil influence of Amalek is that it “chills people”, making them apathetic.”

“Apathy to evil is the tool of Amalek and this is taking over the world today,” Rabbi Berger said. 

The rabbi noted that the Prophet Ezekiel compared the evil speech to scorpions:

And you, mortal, do not fear them and do not fear their words, though thistles and thorns press against you, and you sit upon scorpions. Do not be afraid of their words and do not be dismayed by them, though they are a rebellious breed; Ezekiel 2:6 

“The strongest weapon against social evil is when people speak out,” Rabbi Berger said. “Today, we see so many people speaking out in defense of evil. Their words are like the sting of scorpions; cooling off righteous anger.”

Scorpions, The Temple, and Messiah

Scorpions are mentioned as one of the ten miracles connected with Jerusalem while the Temples stood (Pirkei Avot 5:5). 

“Never did a serpent or a scorpion harm anyone in Jerusalem,” the Mishna states.  

Similarly, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) states, “Three things come unexpectedly to a person: Moshiach, a found object, and a scorpion.”  Rabbi Shmuel Eidels, a 16th-century Polish commentator know by the acronym Maharsha,  explains this enigmatic statement:

“If a man merits it, the Messiah’s coming will be like the unexpected appearance of a lost object; he will rejoice and it will be good for him. But if he doesn’t merit it., the Messiah’s coming will be like the unexpectedness or the bite of a scorpion…” -(Midrash Yalkut Shimoni 2:585)

The Sages list the scorpion as one of the three creatures associated with causing harm to man, including the snake and the seraph.