Tested by Spiders
Nov 11th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
I suspect that these spiders have spent so much time in the house listening to shiurim that they are experts in the laws of Shabbat. The spiders disappear immediately after Havdalah. They know that they are perfectly safe from me on Shabbat and Jewish festivals; yes, they also come out on those days, although, they avoid the living room on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where we hold services. The spiders in my house are familiar with Halachah, respectful of prayer, and committed to test my observance.
I could, of course, determine that they are poisonous, finding justification to trap them, but they remain in one place all day and pose no threat. Perhaps they know even more Jewish law than I suspect. How sad that my biggest temptation to violate Shabbat has to do with spiders! The real test is not even the desire to kill them, but how they occupy my mind all day, disturb my peace. I have trouble maintaining my concentration for 25 hours because of tiny, albeit smart, spiders. I wonder how Abraham remained focused for 72 hours while headed to Moriah to offer Isaac to God. The Midrash describes Satan as appearing as a huge river on the way, but I suspect that it was not a huge hindrance, but a series of minor distractions along the way, something such as, well, spiders. Abraham managed his spiders much better than do I.
Satan’s distractions were not intended to stop Abraham from offering Isaac, but from being able to make every moment of the three day trip part of the offering. I can attend prayers, properly celebrate the Shabbat meals, and still have hours of non-Shabbat, distracted from the nature of the day. You see, even when I am frustrated by spiders, I am thinking about Shabbat; how to apply her laws to the situation. The challenge is to focus even the most trivial concerns around Shabbat. Abraham could have remained in contact with his financial advisor even while traveling to Moriah, but he left his iPhone at home. He wanted to use every moment of the trip as part of his offering.
We tend to think of the Evil Inclination’s challenges as huge rivers and mountains and forget that he will take advantage of our concern for the big tests to distract us in small ways…with spiders.
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