Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Killing Flies in the Holy Land

Therapydoc posted about bug-aversion here, reminding me of something that happened to me last night.

Sitting in the apartment where we are staying on this (all-too-short) trip, I spotted a fly on the wall. It wasn’t a small creature; it was a large fly, an insect of significance, possibly even gestational significance for all I know. No entomologist I.

I don’t like to kill things, and so I generally try to save such creatures by trapping them and releasing them outside, but it was late Monday night and I had not slept since an all-too-short Motzaei Shabbos doze and I was exhausted from the plane trip and I knew that if I took the creature outside it would only return indoors even before I did. And, after all, the fly was indoors, in human terrain, not out in its own kingdom.

My one problem: I’m in Israel.

So what? Israelis kill bugs, you know. Probably better than Canadians, too, since Canadians don’t believe in pesticides and insecticides.

But I still hesitated. I forever oscillate between the cynicism of my New York upbringing and the Torah sentimentalism of my education. Being in Israel really brings out the conflict; I get teary when I see the mezuzot at Ben Gurion, and I long for the days when they played Hatikvah as your plane landed at Ben Gurion. (Well, I don’t know that Air Canada ever did that, but El Al did.) I’m totally a kiss-the-ground type, and hope to remain that way even after the day I make aliyah. But I know how silly a lot of that looks to Israelis, for whom this is the land of traffic jams and school supplies, crime statistics and the price of yogurt. I go back and forth.

But to return to the story: It felt weird, executing the fly.

I did it anyway, of course. I was able to justify the brutality by deciding that it was not for my own sake, but for the sake of the Rebbetzin; it was an act of chesed, as I see it. Just another mitzvah opportunity, just doing my job.