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Posted on January 11, 2011 (5771) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Patience is definitely a virtue, perhaps the most important one of all. It is amazing how far a little patience or impatience can go to change a moment, a life, lives, or even history. Usually people are impatient when the moment calls for patience, but sometimes people can be too patient when the moment calls for a little impatience in order to put an early end to what eventually may become a disastrous situation.

This is what the Talmud teaches as well, albeit in a somewhat poetic way:

    Anyone who tries to push off the moment will be pushed off by the moment. Anyone who is pushed off because of the moment, the moment will be pushed off for him. (Brochos 64a)

On an everyday level, this means don’t try to bring about desired results prematurely. As the mishnah says:

    Do not be contemptuous of any person, and don’t remove yourself from anything, for every person has his moment and every thing has its place. (Pirkei Avos 4:2)

which of course is rarely known to us in advance. Hence, it also says:

    Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is God’s plan that prevails. (Mishlei 19:21)

For example, the Brisker Rav once officiated at a wedding during which the ring fell into the grass as it was about to be slipped onto the bride’s finger, completing the marriage ceremony. As a result, the long awaited marriage was delayed another 20 minutes, since it was not easy to find a tiny ring in tall grass at night using torches for light.

Eventually, to everyone’s relief, the ring was found. However, the Brisker Rav had sensed the embarrassment of the wedding party, and knowing his crowd, that the interruption probably had many in attendance second-guessing the worthiness of the match of the chasan and kallah. For, we like to believe that such matches are made in Heaven and assume that if they are, Heaven will make sure that everything runs smoothly and on time—even though life often teaches just the opposite.

“When deciding at which time to get married,” the Brisker Rav explained, “an hour is chosen for when the chuppah is to take place, and that is printed on the invitation for all the guests to know. The caterer is alerted, so that he can make sure that the food is ready on time. All the events of the evening revolve around that sacred time, and the plans proceed based upon it.”

“However,” the Brisker continued, “in Heaven, the new couple is not destined to be married until precisely 12 minutes later. Whose schedule prevails? Heaven’s, of course, and all of a sudden, though everyone involved is doing their best to make the wedding run on schedule, Heaven does its part to delay the completion of the ceremony until just the right moment. We have found the ring signifying Heaven’s agreement that this couple can now be married.”

Granted I embellished the Brisker Rav’s words somewhat, but that is the gist of what he said. And, they apply not only to delayed wedding ceremonies, but to all of life as well. We can try to bring about desired results by certain times, but the bottom-line is that all of history dances to God’s music, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not. Just like the art of a good joke is the timing, the same can be said of a good life as well.

The number one trait that makes a person push the moment is panic. This doesn’t mean that the person necessarily becomes visibly hysterical, because there is such a thing as quiet panic as well, when a person panics on the inside while maintaining a semblance of calm on the outside. Like the Erev Rav in this week’s parshah, for example, when they came to Moshe Rabbeinu at the sea and calmly said, “Because there were no graves in Egypt you have taken us out to die in the wilderness?”

This is also part of the problem with the attempts to make peace in the Middle-East. “It’s about time there was peace between Israel and her enemies,” people say, but they are only partially right. If the time was right, peace would be within reach, but it as far from being reality as it has ever been. What people really mean is that they have had enough of the problems in the Middle-East, and all the international troubles that they create, so ready or not, they want peace now.

Indeed, one of the foremost Israeli peace activists groups uses this phrase as their name: Peace Now. And, though it sounds innocent enough, what it really means is: We want peace so badly we are prepared to make everything else secondary to it, including Israeli security. So, the Arabs say, “We have no problem with that,” while these activists protest against everything Israel does just to stay alive.

“Let’s give the Arabs Gaza and make peace,” they say.

“Wishful thinking,” reality answers.

“Let’s freeze the settlements and make peace talks possible,” the peace activists cry.

“Like that will result in anything more than more dumb concessions to the Arabs,” experience proves.

Funny how when it came to the Red Sea, they wouldn’t take another step forward into the abyss, but now that we confront a diplomatic Red Sea, they are prepared to jump in head first. The reason is simple: drowning by water they fear; drowning diplomatically they are too naïve to recognize until after they are too submerged to survive:

    Rabbah bar Bar Chanah said: Once I was going on a boat and saw a fish upon whose back grass was growing. We thought it was an island. We alighted, baked, and cooked upon it. When the back of the fish became hot, it turned over, and had the ship not been so near (to enable us to jump into it), we would have drowned. (Bava Basra 73b) … Explains Rabbeinu Ya’akov: Rabbah bar Bar Channah saw with Ruach HaKodesh that in the End-of-Days the Jewish people would rule over a people. The Jewish people will assume that this people has no hope of ever overcoming Israel, and will therefore subjugate them. When the people have suffered much, they will “turn the plate over on its mouth” and resist Israel. If Moshiach is not close at hand, the Jewish people will drown from the many problems that will arise. (Tuvcha Yabiyu, Balak)

Another example of pushing the moment happened recently when certain rabbis passed an edict that it is forbidden to rent to Arabs in Eretz Yisroel. The desire to make this the rule is obvious, and the need, even more obvious. But, the halachic basis to do so is apparently non-existent at this time, and hence, poskim around the Jewish world spoke out against the action.

About a week later, a letter surfaced signed by certain prominent Jewish women advising against Jewish girls marrying Arab men (the opposite is far less problematic). Aside from the obvious halachic issues of intermarriage with gentiles, they were quoted as saying, “there are many hidden dangers that only appear after divorce is too late,” a proven fact.

Astonishingly, an outspoken Reform rabbi came out against the letter and the advice, and many women from that community were heavily critical of the action of the rebbetzins for having written such a letter, seemingly condoning intermarriage with Arab men. Where are they coming from?

Branches of Judaism that choose assimilation over separation do so because they want to be one with the rest of the world. Torah Judaism, for the most part, is not held in high regard by the gentile world, and therefore, it is not respected by those who hold the gentile world in high regard. After thousands of years of persecution for all kinds of reasons, they have had enough of living on the fringe, and have chosen integration instead.

Wishful thinking, once again.

Peace between Israel and her enemies will eventually result, God willing. The Jewish people will eventually be respected by the nations of the world, and not because we have abandoned Torah, but specifically because we adhere to it. Gentiles will want to join with the Jewish people, but we won’t have to intermarry to make it possible, but rather, they will seek to convert and become part of the Jewish nation (though, after Moshiach comes, that will no longer be possible).

But, in the meantime, to act as if these realities are presently feasible is to push the moment, and will, in the end, cause us to be pushed off. Historically, activists groups like Peace Now have ended up being the victims of their own presumptuousness, as the Holocaust showed once again. Secularized Jews who sought to integrate with the gentile world, historically, have always been rejected by it in the end, sometimes in worse ways than those who remained true to Torah tradition.

I once spoke to a multi-multi-millionaire who had made a lot of his money from the Stock Market. I too had been in the business world at the time (towards the end of the Dot-Com era), and asked him for his advice regarding making investments. His answer was not what I expected.

The first thing he told me was not to expect to make a lot of money quickly. He said the best stocks remain to be the older ones that had been built up over the years, what they call the ‘Blue Chip’ companies. If you can afford to get into the market, stay with them, and over time they will make you money. You have to have patience, he told me.

I could not afford to take his advice, but I certainly heeded his message. Not only is patience a virtue and can save your life sometimes, it can also save you money and make you money as well. To date, I have not heard a disparaging word about the trait of savlanut—patience. And, over here in Israel, it is one thing you have to learn to have quickly, or suffer the consequences of some Israeli raising his three fingers (the traditional two fingers and thumb brought together) to say, “Hey! Savlanut!”


Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details!