In December 2003, Indonesian villagers captured a reticulated python, the longest snake ever recorded. It weighs nearly 990 pounds and sheds 49 feet of skin.
OFF WITH THE OLD
If you've ever broken a bone and endured the agony of wearing a cast, you know that the dead skin that accumulates under that plaster of paris prison looks gross. Fortunately, under normal circumstances, humans gradually shed dead skin cells by washing or scratching. The process is different, though, in the animal kingdom; for example, snakes periodically replace all their skin and scales at once - molting process called ecdysis (pronounced EK-deh-sis).
ON WITH THE NEW
Crawling around on its belly wears down a snake's outer body. As the outer layer of skin weakens, a new layer of scales develops and begins to harden underneath. When the snake is ready to molt, its skin turns dull and dark and its eyes appear milky-blue. At this point, the snake can't see very well because the skin covering its eyes is shedding, too. Ecdysis continues with the snake scraping the edges of its mouth against a hard surface, such as a rock, until the dead skin folds back around its head. The snake scrapes, wiggles, and thrashes until the old skin comes off in one piece and the new layer of skin is visible. Depending on a snake's species and age, it can molt every few weeks or every few years, and the molting process can last from one day to two weeks. Young snakes grow quickly and shed often - every six to eight weeks - while larger adult snakes grow more slowly and shed every year or two. The abilit y to replace their skin allows snakes not only to repair daily wear and tear, but also to maintain strong, flexible skin, a feature required for survival
Every Tishrei we can undergo our own spiritual "molting" called hithadshut (renewal) in Hebrew. The aseret yemei teshuvah, Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, give us the opportunity to shed our bad habits and begin life "as if we never sinned" (Maimonides, Hilkhot Teshuvah 7:4). During this season, we reflect on our mistakes, recognize our faults and misdeeds, ask forgiveness from our loved ones and from God, and pledge to change ourselves for the better. We prepare to face the new year with a new start and a new "skin."