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Patience is not really a Jewish virtue. The Talmud records for us that a non-Jew made this observation to one of the great rabbis when he called the Jews ama peziza - a hasty, impetuous folk. The non-Jew was referring to the impetuosity of Israel at Mount Sinai when they accepted the Torah unconditionally without waiting to hear all of the details of the Law from God through Moshe. But as a general comment on broader Jewish behavior, one must admit that patience is not our strong suit. There is always great pressure in the Jewish world for things and goals - the Messiah. peace, prosperity, etc. - to happen "now." And in our haste to accomplish these things now, we often inadvertently but almost always surely postpone the achievement of that goal that we so fervently and impatiently desire. The very activism of the Jewish people - the ama peziza syndrome - drives us to wrong decisions, false hopes and deeply flawed policies. We end up negotiating with ourselves instead of our foes, of taking unilateral actions of dubious results and of generally being in a great hurry to go nowhere. Our nature of impatience has made us susceptible to all sorts of ideas and ideals that in the end have always bankrupted. Societal impatience breeds messianism and millennialism, both of which have had disastrous consequences in previous eras of Jewish history. In short, in spite of our long history and astute wisdom, we as a people have still failed to learn, practice and appreciate the virtue of patience in molding our national and personal character.

Patience is a Godly virtue. Patience is one of the thirteen attributes of God listed in the Torah. What is all of human history, if not an extreme example of God's patience towards humankind? We say in our Yom Kippur prayers that God "waits," so to speak, for us until our last day, ready to accept our improvements and repentance. Since we are bidden to emulate the ways of our Creator, it would follow that patience and the ability to wait out a situation or problem should be Jewish virtues of our national character. Alas, they are not. The hasty part of our nature is dominant in all events in the Jewish world. We give snap decisions, off-the-cuff agreements and commitments, and often speak when our good sense and brains are not yet fully in gear. Jewish history, past and present is witness to the high price that we pay for such hastiness.

The people of Israel are impatient for the return of Moshe their leader from Mount Sinai. They feel that he is somehow late in coming. The Torah lists this impatience as being the cause of the unrest that eventually results in the demand for the Golden Calf and all of the disastrous events that follow. The same impatience that was a virtue in their acceptance of the Torah unconditionally is now the detriment that leads to a sin with eternal consequences. Everyone realizes that success as a parent and/or as a teacher depends upon the ability to maintain patience in the face of provocation and inattentiveness. The Talmud records for us that Rav Pedat was an outstanding pedagogue. He had the patience to repeat the lesson "four hundred times" until the blockhead of a student finally understood it. Many family problems, which contain the potential for seriously harmful rifts and conflicts, are capable of amelioration simply through patience. Many times, doing nothing and saying nothing, is the right policy at home and in the community. And the recognition that most problems in life are not subject to easy answers and quick solutions also contributes to wisdom and sensible behavior. Being able to wait out a child, a student, a problem, is often the only possible way to succeed in dealing with a situation.

Needless to say, much Israeli governmental foreign and domestic policy has been hasty, ill advised, hardly thought out as to its consequences and results. We are told constantly that something must be done, that the demographics are against us, that there are great inherent dangers in doing nothing. Well, after over a decade of intense doing something - almost anything - we are certainly in no better condition than we were before. A good dose of patience would go along way in helping us assess our options rationally and cleverly and thus improving our chances for successful survival here in our homeland. And, I admire you for having the patience to read through my entire article!

Shabat shalom.
Berel Wein

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