Va’era: Patience!

Each week we invite a different rabbi or Jewish thought leader to write a “Taste of Torah” on the weekly portion. To receive LAASOK’s Taste of Torah each week, subscribe to our newsletter.

This week’s author is Rabbi Michael Satz.

Rabbi Michael Satz is the rabbi of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, NJ. He loves to play guitar, drink coffee, and listen to politics podcasts.

“Moses appealed to the Eternal, saying, ‘The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharoah heed me, a man of impeded speech!?’ So the Eternal spoke to both Moses and Aaron in regard to the Israelites and Pharoah king of Egypt, instructing them to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 6:12-13

Moses, called to be the leader and the liberator of the people, feels that he is ill equipped to do both. He feels that the Israelites don’t care about him. And the Pharoah: Why would the god-man, king of the most powerful empire, listen to this man with a speech impediment who was an exiled outlaw?

The medieval commentator Rashi, basing himself on the ancient Midrash Rabbah, writes, “In regards to the Israelites, they [Moses and Aaron] were instructed to lead them sensitively and to put up with them, and in regard to Pharoah king of Egypt, they were instructed to speak respectfully to him” (from the translation of scholar Michael Carasick).

God tells Moses (and Aaron), according to this tradition, to have savlanut, patience. If you have been to Israel, you might know this word, savlanut. It’s what the waiter says when you ask him for the check and he is seemingly preoccupied. It is usually accompanied by what seems to the outsider as a rude hand gesture. But, in all seriousness, savlanut is related to the word for bearing a burden. We all know that patience is hard—standing in line at the café, waiting for your kid to get dressed, sitting in traffic—it feels like we are bearing a burden, but the thing is, when you realize that you don’t have total control of situation, the burden starts to melt away. You start to revise your plans.

Savlanut (patience) is related to the word for bearing a burden.”

When Moses realized that he needed patience, he realized that as a leader, he could not impose his will on the masses. He needed to hear their needs. Like a parent with a toddler (or a teenager), he needed to be able to adapt to the situation. God was patient with Moses, and Moses was to be patient with the people. Leadership, or parenting, or driving, takes patience. It takes being able to discern what is in your control and what is not, and then being able to shift your focus and readjust. Throughout the Torah, Moses learns to become the leader God calls him to be.

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