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Rabbi Berel Wein

One of the so called Godly virtues is patience. The Lord Who is above any concept of space or time and has no human emotions or attributes that can be assigned to Him nevertheless in the Torah describes Himself, so to speak, as having the virtue of patience. The rabbis taught us that the lord preserved Lot and saved him and his daughters from the conflagration of Sodom because generations later Ruth and Naama would be his descendants and great holiness and benefit to Israel and humanity would emanate from them. Thus the Lord, Who has infinite patience, can wait generations for positive results to develop from a seemingly negative situation sets an example, so to speak, for us ordinary mortals. King Solomon taught us that the end of the matter is always more beneficial than what the beginning indicates. The Lord can afford infinite patience since He Himself is infinite. We mortals are limited by our mortality, by our limited time on this earth. Knowing that the clock is ticking for us forces us to be by nature impatient. We are addicted to demanding immediate results. Peace now, moshiach now, perfect health care now, democracy now - but now rarely if ever is a reality in human existence. Historical processes take years and generations to unfold and pushing impatiently for immediate and sometimes even revolutionary results to occur leads only to frustration and disappointment. And the Talmud already long ago identified the Jewish people as an impatient and hurried society.

My law school professor told me that patience is the key ingredient for successful negotiation. I once was present at a negotiation between an American food company and its oriental counterpart. The people who represented the oriental company just sat impassively for minutes on end not offering up ant proposal. The Americans therefore impatiently began to negotiate with themselves raising the ante to their disadvantage at every statement they made. Patience is the key ingredient for successful parenting and classroom teaching. Patience is the hallmark of the righteous and holy. It allows one to see the forest and not just the trees and to factor in correctly the long term consequences and effects of one’s statements and actions. The hasty person, unlike his Creator, would see no merit in saving Lot while Sodom and its wicked inhabitants were being destroyed. But human beings are by their very nature likely to be short sighted in these matters. Snap judgments, built in bias and prejudice, impatience with others and events all combine for behavior and policies that in the long run are nearly catastrophic. Temporary gain and immediate gratification most often lead to long term disasters and erroneous policies and behavior. This is true both in our personal lives as well as in the national life of the Jewish people and the State of Israel as a whole. Patience therefore is not only a virtue, it is a necessity. For without patience, wisdom becomes foolishness and triumph turns to ashen defeat.

Our father Yaakov stated that "tomorrow I will come to claim my reward." Judaism always preaches the virtue of tomorrow, of postponed gratification. A person should not only be concerned with his life and generation but should be equally concerned regarding the life and generation of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Those Jewish movements that have deviated from Torah observance and traditional values receive great initial publicity and initial acclaim. But it is an almost incontestable rule that these movements do not produce later generations of committed Jews. I know that it is not politic of me to say this but facts are facts and current political correctness never changes facts on the ground. We should not rush to judgment for perhaps a Ruth and a Naama will yet emerge even from those who generations earlier abandoned tradition and halachic norms. But we should never be beguiled by promises of instant success and sweeping beneficial change. This corresponds to the dictum of the rabbis that teaches us to say and promise little but to act and accomplish greatly. The impatient shout and proclaim loudly regarding their so-called achievements. The patient plod on steadily towards the goals set for Israel at Sinai. Patience is taught by example and by history. It is too bad that there is no required course in our schools of learning that is labeled Patience 101. Such a course subject would make all of the other courses of knowledge being taught more relevant, productive and beneficial to life’s work and its goals.
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