Why did the spider come to Shul? To put a new spin on the Rabbi’s speech!download.jpg

The Background

Last Shabbos morning, (1/12/2013) I am standing at my lectern at Chabad of Mineola NY, saying Hallel, I spy with my left eye a spider has gracefully lowered itself from the 15ft tall ceiling.

I tense up, this spider has invaded the most busiest spot in Shul, in 5 minutes the Torah is to pass by this very area, plus the Gabbai will be standing right there!

I watched the spider lower itself on its silk cord nearly to the floor but then it returned upwards and stops about 5 feet from the ground. Oiy the Torah is about to arrive! Should I stop the Service? Should I move the Bimah? Or should I call for an emergency board meeting! Is it true that spiders like to listen to sermons? Maybe its the Mosad testing their new mic implant in the head of the spider! O' wait I know, its a gigul-reincarnation of a soul from beyond!

It seemed a shame to interrupt the Davening, the Shul is filled with so many guests who are hungry & eagerly looking forward to the Sheva Brochas luncheon in honor of our recently married daughter Rochel Leah and son-in-law Aharon.

My prayers are heard on high, the spider disappears heavenward just in the nick of time! Staring at the ceiling I started wondering, is this good for the Jews? My head is racing!!

Are Spiders Kosher?

First of all spiders are not kosher “Every creeping creature that creeps upon the ground - it is an abomination, it shall not be eaten. (Vayikra 11:41-43).

According to the Yalkut Shimoni, the spider is the most hated of the creeping creatures (Mishlei, 30, simon 964). Also while honey is made by the non-kosher bee is kosher, neither the spider nor its spider silk used to build the web is kosher.

Fear of Spiders

The spider is still the most feared of the creeping creatures. The fear of spiders (or, arachnophobiaconcerned) ranked as number one of the 10 most common phobias, affecting 50% of women and 10% of men.

In Jewish law if spiders are disturbing a weekday meal, it is permissible to kill them. However, this must be done in a manner that is without cruelty and that brings “honor to the Torah” (Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat, volume 2, simon 47, #1).

When is the best time to clean away Spider Webs

Jewish laws even discusses when to remove spider webs. The Code of Jewish Law (259:1) cites: “A person should rise early on Friday, so as to prepare the requirements for Shabbos.” On this, the commentaries say, “one should remove spider webs from the house on erev Shabbos!”

Cleaning Spider Webs on Shabbat

Another set of Jewish laws are applicable to spider webs found on Shabbos. See Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchoso section (23:9), “Cobwebs on furniture or some other movable article may be removed, provided that this is done not with one’s hands, but with a broom or some other instrument."

Why did G‑d Create Spiders

The question of G‑d creating seemingly useless creatures is discussed in Tractate Shabbos (77b), with Rav Yehudah providing a rationale for spiders. Apparently, spiders provide a cure for the sting of a scorpion; as explained by Rashi, one crushes the spider and places it upon the place of the scorpion’s sting.

King David Learns the Spider Lesson

A midrash cites that the future King David, as a shepherd caring for his father’s sheep, once observed a spider building a web. Although awed of the spider’s industrious accomplishments, he questioned G‑d as to the purpose of creating spiders. G‑d responded that the day will come when Dovid would understand the purpose of spiders. Later in his life, when fleeing from King Saul’s army, David hid in cave, but realized that he would soon be discovered. However, suddenly a spider emerged and constructed a huge web blocking the entrance to the cave. When King Saul’s army arrived at the cave’s entrance and viewed the unbroken spider web, they understood that David could not possibly have entered to hide in that cave.

More Spider Lessons

In Proverbs (30:24), the spider is one of four creatures despite their insignificant size, are exceedingly wise. In (Proverbs 30:28) it states “the spider with her hands grasps and she is in the king’s palace". Rashi explains this as, “with her hands, she grasps and clings to the walls.” Mezudath David interpreted this to provide a moral lesson, that the spider sustains herself with her own handiwork (i.e., catching flies in her web), without relying on others for support (i.e., although found in the king’s palace, she avoids royal delicacies).

The first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, [this year marks the 200th anniversary of his passing] in his texts (e.g. Torah Ohr, Lekutei Torah ) the above mentioned sentence from Proverbs 30:28 is oft repeated as a prooftext to explain that even when we find our self in the kings palace where everything is provided, we still must use and contribute with our own G‑d given talents, just as the spider still makes its web even in places where flies aren’t around.

As with this humble creature, so it should be in our lives. If God has given us a vision, great things to accomplish, take hold of this work with our hands and make it happen.

One more Lesson from a Spider

Imagine if you were a spider. Describe the webs you make and what good they are to you and others.Were there not times when you really needed help and someone you didn't expect—like the spider—ended up helping you, similar to King David mentioned above.

Pretend that King David asked us the same question he asked G‑d of the use of the spider. "Why has G‑d created you?" What would our your answer be?

Does a Spider Have a Soul?

Not only spiders, but everything, even an amoeba, has a soul. The soul is the embodiment of every created thing's purpose, the reason G‑d created it.

A Story

In the old country there was a very poor, Jewish wagon driver. He worked day and night yet he could never save a penny. He could no longer bear coming home to his wife without any money, so he went to the Rebbe for help. The Rebbe’s advise was: “Become a magid” (A magid is a travelling preacher who went from town to town urging Jews to strive harder in the observance of the Torah). “Rebbe!” said the shocked wagon driver, “how could I possibly be a magid, I have never spoken in public and I do not know anything!”

The Rebbe told him: “Resemble the honeybee and not the spider.”The spider grabs and grabs and keeps everything for itself; the honeybee collects and gives everything away”.

The wagon driver followed the Rebbe’s advice, and in his work listened to what wise people said, then he shared it as a magid. Eventually he was successful and could feed his family and educate his children in the Torah ways.

(Combined Sources, Chabad.org, yutorah.org)