SARA SCHENIRER: A First-Class Option

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By: Daniel Balas

What is the purpose of all the millions of bugs in our world, especially mosquitoes that bite and make us miserable?

Ecology teaches us that every creature in this world, including the smallest insect, has an indirect effect on all other creatures in its surroundings. For example:

1    Insects are food for reptiles, birds, and small mammals. Without insects to eat, thousands of larger species would become extinct. Mosquitoes in particular are the main food for creatures larger than they are because of their impressive ability to reproduce, and the ease by which they quickly move from place to place. Swarms of mosquitoes serve as food for innumerable creatures.

2    Insects are vital for the wellbeing of plants and trees. Insects pollinate flowers and help them grow throughout the world. Without insects, we would have far fewer plants and trees in the world.

3    Insects eat rotting and decomposing remains, thereby preventing the spread of dangerous diseases.

4    Mosquitoes also thin out large populations of animals by transmitting diseases, propagating a natural cycle of life which, without the existence of mosquitoes, would cause the extinction of some creatures.

The Midrash relates a parable about a frog who told King David:
“I am busy with a commandment. What is it? There is a certain species at the coast that can only live in the water, and when it is hungry, it takes me and eats me. This is my commandment”
(Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms 150 Section 889).

Seeing the Divine Plan in Nature

Gd’s mercy can be seen in the immense planning that went into the universe which allows the existence of carnivores like lions together with herbivores like zebras and elephants, from the smallest creatures to the largest ones. There is a fine balance to this cycle of life (which is today called “ecology”).

Nature is meticulously planned. All creatures, predators and their prey are intimately connected to a natural cycle which creates a balance. Only thanks to this sophisticated system are creatures able to survive together without causing each other to become extinct.

National Geographic released a video about elephants in Africa. The video showed time after time how lions ripped apart weak or young helpless elephants. It was difficult to watch, but at the end, the narrator suddenly revealed an amazing fact that changedthe dreary picture: it turns out that elephants live until the age of 60, and in their long trek through Africa they eliminate all the food sources they encounter on their way. Were it not for the lions and other dangers that thin out their population, the elephants would destroy all food supplies in Africa. That would bring death upon all the other creatures and would in the end cause their own extinction from hunger! This means that a different balance of life would turn Africa into a desert wasteland. It turns out that even those creatures that appear to be cruel predators serve a vital role in the cycle of life. These predators permit the existence of millions of other species on the land. Although we are mystified by many things in nature, in fact there is immense and astonishing divine wisdom at play.

The Mosquito’s Bite

It is essential to understand that the entire creation is a reflection of mankind’s actions. When people sin, the level of animals also deteriorates, and they become injurious to mankind. After Adam’s sin, the world’s spiritual level dropped drastically. Only at the final Redemption will the world achieve its rectification, and with it everything in nature that seems cruel to us. Those species that today sting humans were given their capability to cause suffering only after Adam’s sin.

Despite that, what appears to us to be useless suffering still is of great benefit for us and is a great kindness which atones for our sins in place of far greater punishments. Our sages tell us (Arachin16b) “What is called ‘suffering’? If one wanted to mix a cup of wine with hot water and by mistake mixed it with cold water, or wanted to mix it with cold water and by mistake mixed it with hot water, this is called ‘suffering’... even if he put his garment on backwards and had to take it off and turn it inside out, this is ‘suffering’... Even if he put his hand into his pocket to take three coins, but when he pulled it out he only had two coins in his hand, this is ‘suffering’.”

Just imagine, by way of illustration, that a mosquito bit you each time you said something which was akin to slander, and due to those annoying bites, a great number of your sins were atoned for, instead of all these sins piling up and you having to suffer a huge amount for them inthe hereafter. Thanks to those annoying mosquitoes, you will arrive cleaner and purer to the Next World. You will certainly thank those miserable mosquitoes who were sent by heaven for your benefit.

What We Learn from the Mosquito

Moreover, we are supposed to derive a moral lesson from the mosquito, as our sages say: “Why was a person created on Shabbat eve? Because if he should become haughty, he will be told,
‘A mosquito was created before you’” (Sanhedrin 38b).

At the end of the day, mosquitoes behave according to their nature (it doesn’t bite you due to bad or vengeful intentions but because this is its innate nature), but a person has free will to choose to be righteous or evil! A person can choose to become a kind person or be more harmful than an animal predator. How many times throughout our lives did we behave worse than a mosquito, and caused damage to others?

The Baal HaTanya writes: “Even a mosquito which is a lowly creation, and which has a lower and very remote shell from the point of view of holiness – (nevertheless) it precedes a sinful person concerning its creation in stages and bringing down its life force from Gd’s Will” (Likutei Amarim, page 30b).

The mosquito is only fulfilling its role which it was given in nature, and it fulfills Gd’sWill much better than we do when we are not fulfilling our purpose. So, before we get upset with an annoying mosquito, we should first ask ourselves if we are any better.

Our Creator created this world as a kind of mirror, which reflects the actions of mankind. When people behave cruelly to each other, causing damage to each other, being envious, coveting others, gossiping, slandering – then the world treats us the same way, and is filled with natural disasters and harmful animals.

When the Final Redemption will come, the world will also change in response to our repentance, and all those sins for which we are suffering now will be atoned for. Then there won’t be any need for even one mosquito bite.