Earlier on this week I was discussing the parsha with my friend and colleague, Rabbi Shlomo. “We should note”, he said, “that ‘moed’ (festival) comes from ‘vaad’ (meeting), for is not every festival really just a meeting with G-d?” All very interesting until you remember that Rabbi Shlomo is in fact a spider who’s made a web in the corner of the synagogue store cupboard which has been my home for several weeks, a home I now have to share with twelve papier mache golden calfs made by the cheder children, plus the deflated shell of a bouncy castle which the honorary officers, in their wisdom, have purchased for weddings, barmitsvahs and other occasions. (I have at least managed to ensure that the bouncy castle has a mechitzah, so that males and females can bounce with modesty in separate sections).
But man is never alone, even when he’s talking to spiders and in danger of becoming clinically meshuggah. As I lay half-asleep in the over-cramped cupboard, my face squashed into the rubberised base of the bouncy castle, I turned to the Psalms: “Save me, O G-d; for the waters are come in unto my soul and the floods overflow me”. It was then that I realised a pipe had burst and I was lying in four inches of water. Or to be more accurate, chicken soup, the packets of dried soup for the pensioners’ Luncheon club having fallen into the water.
But the Psalms also say: “I will extol thee, O L-rd; for you have raised me up out of the depths”. Surely that’s the meaning of the Omer which we count between Passover and Shevuos, as prescribed in this week’s parsha. Look at the Children of Israel: taken from slavery to the giving of the Torah in just 50 days, despite their flaws and sins such as the golden calf (the real one, not the papier mache ones – though, to tell the truth, some of those are so rubbish I’d count them as sins. I told the kids as much last time I saw them. Some of these kids cry at anything.)
The important thing is never lose faith: take each day at a time and G-d will always deliver. It might be in the form of the Revelation on Mount Sinai or a 24 hour emergency plumber named Aziz. Or even in the extremely becoming form of a voluptuous young actress who once pretended she was blind to befriend you and who’s now had a row with her fiancé and didn’t know where to turn so she came to find you, giving you a big hug, totally spiritual in nature, even though you were standing there in the middle of the night, soaking wet and smelling of poultry.
The L-rd will always provide. The slave shall be redeemed, the hungry shall be fed, the afflicted man shall be clothed with some old taleysim and a League of Jewish Women tablecloth and taken that very night to his house by the actress, the house his wife recently kicked him out of. There he shall find his wife and her lover the builder who’s a woman and his wife’s friends the JohnLewisophiles and her new friends the shaven-haired-PC-gone-mad ladymen, having a “Tarts and Rabbis” party to celebrate her coming out not from Egypt but from “the closet”. And there the actress shall interrupt the revelry and pretend to be his lawyer and make hilarious threats about dragging his wife’s shady past through the courts. A shady past he didn’t know she had, although it’s clear something’s been going on judging from the way Mrs Goldwasser, the warden’s wife, shrieked then fainted.
I’m not saying what happened was better than the Revelation on Mount Sinai, but as an evening’s entertainment it was certainly up there. My only sadness is for Rabbi Shlomo, of blessed memory, swept to his death in a pool of reconstituted soup. Of course, halachically it can never be right to say kaddish over a spider. But every law may have its exception and Rabbi Shlomo was an exceptional spider. His passing deserves to be commemorated appropriately.
This article was first published in The Jewish Chronicle.