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Saturday, August 24, 2013


Elul 19

Remember when we would call someone and leave a message on their answering machine, hoping to hear back within a few days?  Today, we send an instant message and expect a response within seconds.  If we don't hear back, we become frustrated, worried, or angry.  We live in an age of instant gratification and expectations of instantaneous communication and immediate response.  We have been conditioned to believe that we should never be out of touch, and it is increasingly unreasonable if we don't get what we want, when we want it.  When someone is going to be out of touch, out of the reach of electronic communication, we call it going "off the grid," as if they are odd, out of sync with the rest of society.

I am as guilty of this impatience as anyone, if not more.  I cannot stand getting stuck in traffic, I become frustrated when I have to stand in a line at a store, I become impatient when I have to deal with someone's incompetence or lack of concern for the time of others.

Our Jewish tradition recognizes this challenge when it holds up the virtue of "savlanut," the Hebrew word for patience, as an aspiration for us all.  To be patient is to learn to be at peace with what is, even as we hope for more.  To be patient is to be gentle, with ourselves and others.  To be patient is to forgive, to slow down, to recognize and respect the needs and time of others as much as our own.  To be patient means to be more in touch with the present and less in a rush to get to the future.

We may particularly recognize our own impatience in conversations.  It is so easy to interrupt others, to think we know how they will finish their sentences before they do, and to finish them ourselves.  I struggle with this challenge, as do many of us.  To exercise patience is to also practice self-respect, and respect for the other.

During Elul, perhaps we can become more aware of the virtue of patience, and begin to practice the gentle art of listening, waiting, respecting and being present in our relationships. We can become more patient with ourselves, forgiving ourselves our shortcomings and allowing ourselves to be conscious of each moment.  We can be more patient with others, more respectful of their strengths, and more grateful for the blessings they offer.  And we can become more patient with the Divine, more willing to see the amazing miracles around us every moment.

Rabbi Jim Bennett

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