Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
THE FLY AND THE SPIDER
This is a story about a certain king who endured many hard wars. He was victorious and took many captives. Now do you think that if I tell you everything you will understand?
The king made a great banquet and ball every year on the anniversary of his victory. All the ministers of state and all the nobles attended the ball, in accordance with the custom of kings. There were comic performances in which fun was made of all the different peoples, including the Ishmaelites They would mimic the styles and customs of each of the different nations, and presumably they also made fun of the Jews.
The king gave an order to bring him the book inscribed with the customs and conduct of all the different nations. Wherever he opened the book, he read about the customs and culture of each nation exactly as the comedians were mimicking them. Presumably the producer of the comedy had also looked in this book.
As the king sat reading the book, he noticed a spider creeping over the edge of the pages. On the other side there was a fly. And where does a spider go? To the fly! But as the spider crawled towards the fly, a breeze came and lifted up the page from the book, and the spider couldn't reach the fly.
The spider retreated, slyly pretending it was going away and no longer wanted to catch the fly, and the page went down and rested in its place. The spider again started advancing towards the fly. Again the page arose and would not allow it. The spider retreated again. This happened several times.
Afterwards the spider again started advancing towards the fly. It crept forward until it succeeded in getting one leg up onto the page. But the page rose again, and now the spider was already partially on it. The page then settled back in its place, leaving the spider beneath it trapped, between two pages. The spider tried to move but was pinned down under the page, until eventually nothing was left of it. As for the fly, I won't tell you what happened to it.
The king watched all this in amazement. He realized that this was no trivial matter: he was being shown something. All the noblemen saw the king looking at this in amazement. The king began wondering what it might mean and dozed off over the book.
He dreamt that he held a diamond in his hand. As he looked at it, streams of people were coming out of it. He cast the diamond from his hand. Kings customarily have their portrait hanging above them with a crown over the portrait. The men streaming from the diamond were taking the portrait and cutting off its head. They then took the crown and threw it into the mud.
The king saw all this in his dream. The men were running towards him to kill him. But a page from the book on which he was lying arose to protect him, and they were unable to harm him and went away. The page then went back to its place. Again they ran towards him to kill him, but the page again lifted itself up. This happened several times.
The king greatly longed to see which page was protecting him and which people's customs were inscribed on it. But he was afraid to look. He started screaming, "Woe! Woe!" All the noblemen sitting there heard and wanted to wake him up. However, it is not proper to shake the king. Instead they started banging all around him in order to awaken him, but he did not hear.
Meanwhile a tall mountain approached him and asked: "Why are you crying so much? I have been asleep for such a long time and nothing has woken me up - nothing! And now you have woken me up!"
"How could I not scream?" replied the king. "They are coming to kill me, but this page is protecting me."
"If this page is protecting you," said the mountain, "you have nothing to fear. Many enemies arise against me also, but this page protects me. Come and I will show you."
The mountain showed the king tens of thousands of enemies standing all around it, feasting and rejoicing. Instruments were playing and people dancing. All their happiness and joy was due to some or other group among them having worked out a plan to reach the mountain. They would make a huge celebration and hold a banquet with entertainers. So it was with each and every group among them.
"But this same page with these same customs that protect you is also protecting me!"
On the summit of the mountain was a tablet inscribed with the customs of the nation that were inscribed on the page protecting him, but because the mountain was so high, it was impossible to read the writing.
Down below, however, was a tablet on which it was written, "Whoever has all his teeth can ascend the mountain." But God had made a certain herb grow in the place leading up to the mountain which made the teeth of anyone who came there fall out. It made no difference whether he was on foot or riding, or whether he traveled in a carriage drawn by animals: all their teeth would fall out. Lying there were mountainous heaps of teeth like mountains and mountains.
Afterwards the same men that had come out of the diamond returned and replaced the portrait as it had been at first. They took the crown, washed it and hung everything in its right place.
The king awoke and immediately looked at the page that was protecting him to see which nation's customs were inscribed on it. Written there he saw the customs of Israel . He began looking at the page carefully and he understood the real truth. He reflected, and decided that he himself must certainly become an Israelite. But what could be done to bring everyone to repent and bring them to the truth?
The king decided to go traveling in search of a wise man who could explain the real meaning of the dream. He took two men with him and traveled the world not like a king but as an ordinary person. He traveled from city to city and from country to country, asking how he could find a wise man capable of explaining the true meaning of the dream.
He was told of such a sage in a certain place. He traveled there, came to the wise man and told him the truth - that he was a king who had won wars - and he related the whole episode at the ball. He asked the wise man to explain his dream.
The wise man answered: "I myself am unable to provide the explanation. However, there is a time on a certain day in a certain month when I gather all the incense spices and blend them together. The person breathes in the smoke of this incense and thinks internally what he wants to see and know. Then he will know everything."
Having spent so much time on his quest, the king decided to wait until the day and month in question. The wise man did as he said and made him inhale the smoke of the incense.
He began to see even what had happened to him before birth, when he was a soul in the higher world. He saw how his soul was borne through all the worlds, with the bearers proclaiming, "Let anyone who has any accusations against this soul come." But there was nobody to make any accusations against it.
Meanwhile someone came running and crying.
"Master of the World! Hear my prayer! If this one comes into the world, what will there be left for me to do? Why did you create me?"
This was the Angel of Death. But the answer came: "This soul certainly must go down into the world. As for you, work out some plan!" And he left.
The soul was conducted further through the worlds until it was brought before the Heavenly Court of Law to administer the oath in order that the soul might come down into the world.
That man had still not arrived. They sent a messenger for him, and he came bringing an old man bent over like a very old man that he had already known for a long time. He laughed and said, "I already have a plan. The soul may go down into the world."
They allowed the soul to go down into the world. The king saw all that had happened to him from beginning to end - how he had became king, the wars he fought, the many captives he had taken, including a beautiful woman who had every kind of charm in the world, though it was not her own but came from the diamond hanging on her...
No-one can ascend that mountain except for the wise and the wealthy.
I will not tell you any more, but there is very much more in this.
Psalm 3: "A song of David when he fled. O God! How many are my enemies, many arise against me. And You, O God, are a shield for me, my Glory, Who raises my head. I call out with my voice to God, and He answers me from His holy mountain" (this is the mountain in the story). "I lay down and slept, and I awoke" (as told of the king in the story). "I shall not fear the tens of thousands of people. For You have smitten all my enemies on the jaw, You have broken the teeth of the wicked" (because all their teeth fell out when they wanted to go up to the mountain). "Upon Your people is Your blessing. Selah!"
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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