We sometimes think of patience as a passive virtue, similar to endurance; the kind of patience that enables us to perform a repetitive task, to get through setbacks and challenges, or to wait for an answer to prayer without getting irritated or discouraged. Such patience is a virtue, as they say, but patience includes a more active response as well, not just enduring various trials, but maintaining focus and intensity through them all.
When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them; but he acted like a stranger toward them . . . (Gen. 42:7).
Of all the themes that run through the story of Joseph and his brothers, one we might overlook is Joseph’s patience. I’m not thinking of the tremendous patience he needed to get through twenty years of slavery, imprisonment, and estrangement without losing hope in God, but of the patience that brought him through what might have been even tougher—the testing of his brothers when they came down to Egypt to buy food.
You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? -- Matt. 17:17a
A good friend recently described me in public as a patient man. I appreciated the affirmation, of course, but I was tempted to jump up and protest.
Last week I had the privilege of experiencing the removal of all four wisdom teeth and one extra tooth that had grown behind one of my top front teeth. The entire experience has been a test of patience.
Most civilizations have been cultures of the eye. Judaism, with its belief in the invisible God who transcends the universe, and its prohibition against visual representations of God, is supremely a civilization of the ear. . . . Hence, the key verb in Judaism is Shema, “listen.” To give dramatic force to the idea that God is heard, not seen, we cover our eyes with our hand as we say these words. (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in the Koren Siddur)
Most of us have heard it said, at one point or another, “all good things come to those who wait.” We have also probably heard, “you can’t always get what you want.” For the most part we think of patience in relationship to those things that are eventually coming to us. This week’s parasha (Pinchas) reveals a deeper level of patience.