Parshat Shemini

Would You Kiss A Spider?

IN the final task of the Tri-Wizard tournament, Harry Potter came face to face with a sphinx (1). The sphinx would not allow him to pass unless he solved her riddle; part of which went ‘Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss’. Harry thought for a few moments, then correctly answered ‘a spider, nobody would kiss a spider’.

Harry and the sphinx’s assumption is generally very true; however there have in the past been exceptions. The Medrash (2) relates a story where King David asked Hashem why he created spiders for ‘they are such ugly and useless creatures’. Hashem responded ‘be patient, a day will come when you’ll want to kiss one’. Some time later David had to hide in a cave from King Saul who wanted to kill him (3). As Saul’s search party approached his cave, Hashem sent a spider which spun a big web across its entrance. When Saul saw the unbroken web he surmised that no one had entered there and continued his search elsewhere. When David realized what had transpired, he found the spider and gave it a grateful kiss! Hashem was teaching David that although it may not be obvious why each creature was created; they in fact all exist to serve a purpose.

This idea is also apparent from the following more contemporary story (4). During the Vietnam War, American troops stationed near the jungle were pestered by unwelcome mosquitoes. In an attempt to kill them the army sprayed the area with pesticide. It however turned out that the local cockroaches fed off the mosquitoes and since their food supply disappeared, so did they. The population of a certain species of lizard that would normally eat the cockroach decreased too. The local Feral Cats would normally feed off the lizards, however now that their food was scarce, the cats moved elsewhere. This allowed the local rat population to explode as they were normally held at bay by the cats. Now instead of small mosquitoes, large ferocious rats were gnawing at the soldiers throughout the night. It can thus be seen how ecosystems are perfectly balanced; each species is needed for a stable existence.

This week’s Parsha discusses Kashrut, listing many different birds and animals in the process. Just as each animal plays a vital role in its ecosystem, so too each human has a specific role in their life. It is thus incumbent upon each individual to strive throughout their life to eventually achieve it (5).

At present sadly many troubles are befalling the Jewish people. It is vital that each individual asses their capabilities to think what they can do to ease this situation. Irrelevant of affiliation, there is always something one can do, be it through campaigning, donating, Torah learning or praying. Please G-d everyone will strive together to achieve a more peaceful situation forever and ever.

Shabbat Shalom

1. In the fourth book of the Harry Potter series, contestants from competing schools were given a series of magical tasks with the aim to win the tri-wizards tournament. It was in the third task that Harry, the Hogwarts contestant, encountered the sphinx.
2. Medrash ‘Alpha Beta Di’ Ben Sirah’
3. David had to hide from him many times in caves, see שמועל א' כד ד for an example.
4. I found this story in sefer called ‘Thinking outside the box’ by Yochanan (Jeff) Kirshblum. I cannot verify that this story is true, its message however remains. The ideas in this Dvar Torah are based on his work.
5. See the first chapter of מסילת ישרים where it says that it is a Jewish fundamental to discover our role in life.

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