Sounds crazy, no? On the surface, this assertion is entirely irrational. Moreover, as I write these words I struggle to read the words through puffy narrowed eyelids because of bites by swarming gnats on a beautiful day in May.
What, I ask myself, was God’s reason for making the gnats so plentiful and such an awful annoyance to average people like myself who was busily raking his lawn to ready the grounds for the summer season? Besides swollen eyelids and an unending itch that was more than a minor nuisance, what impact did these tiny insects have on human beings that could serve some useful function for which we could be grateful?
As I scratched my skin in desperation, bitterly complaining about the apparent illogic of nature’s many oddities, I remembered a rabbinic comment from early rabbinic literature, the Midrash Rabbah on Genesis:
“Even those creatures that you may look upon as superfluous in the world such as flies, fleas and gnats-they too are part of the entirety of creation. The Holy One effects His purpose through all creatures, even through a frog or a flea.” I would add a “gnat” given the following excerpt from the Midrash: “When a man is worthy, he is told: You preceded the ministering angels. But if not, he is told: The fly preceded you; the gnat preceded you etc. in the work of creation.”
So, as I scratch the many gnat targets on my body, I try to remind myself that they too have a purpose, a very important one at that. After all, we do need to have puffy eyes on occasion especially when our egos become overly swollen, and the gnat is the ideal teacher. Thus, our gratitude for the gnat and the multitude of other little insects that bedevil us so that we can learn greater humility.