Self Expression Magazine

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider(s)...

By Challahbackgirl
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider(s)...
Try though he did, E.B. White's propaganda failed miserably with me, as throughout my childhood I continued to squash (or rather, scream until my parents came and squashed) all creepy, crawly creatures of the eight-legged variety. Sorry, Charlotte.
Perhaps something from that book did resonate with me, however, as I shied away from pork for years, making it all the easier to decide to keep kosher before I converted. I admired Judaism's origination of kindness to animals, a downright revolutionary idea in a time when surrounding cultures had little regard for human life, much less that of lesser forms. (And in today's era of factory farming, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.) Still, when it came to the aforementioned arachnids, my compassion evaporated. One of the early questions I had for my first Rabbi was whether or not I was permitted to introduce any spiders in my apartment to the bottom of a shoe, sometimes with an amuse-bouche of hairspray. I am not exaggerating when I say that if his answer had been "No," I would have reconsidered my conversion. Or at least procured a Spider Goy. I am Just. That. Scared.
Why then, did I find myself hesitating to call in the big guns, when not one, not two, but TWELVE spiders decided to make their home just outside my dining room windows? Yes, you read that right. Ta to the Welve. One short of a Baker's Dozen. Apparently, spiders have babies like my Jews in Boro Park do. Now technically, they were not inside. But still. STILL. I anxiously checked that room and its window every day, prepared to see a web that spelled out: WE R COMING FOR U.
So I consulted my Rabbi. Much to my relief, he acknowledged that because they were causing me so much discomfort and preventing me from opening the windows, I could have them killed with a clear conscience. Victory was just within my reach. But when I went to the building manager for advice on a pest control company, assuming it was a common problem, he assured me they would be gone in a matter of days, as these particular spiders live only a few weeks. This gave me pause. I had never considered the lifespan of a spider before. With equal parts fascination and horror, I had watched the presumed Mama spider ingest a bug in her web just a few days prior. No doubt even these creatures with such short lifetimes are part of Hashem's plan, here to perform their duty of insect control before taking leave of this world. Based purely on the letter of the law, I was well within my rights to bring them their end that much sooner. Sometimes, however, we must act in a way that is lifnim mishuras hadin in order to do "what is right and good in the eyes of G-d."
This is why I love my religion. When I'm too wrapped up in my own selfish desires, Judaism raps me gently on the knuckles and says, "It's not about you, boo." I decided to let the spiders live. As if we had struck some kind of bargain, they remained on their side of the windows and seemed to be trying to look less menacing. One by one, right on cue, they died. I was left surprised by this unexpected test and once again amused by G-d's impeccable sense of humor. Other books may imprint themselves upon my mind, but the Torah has left its indelible mark on my heart.
Shabbat Shalom,

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