The Gift of Patience
As of the writing of this week’s shtender, we do not yet know the results of the national elections. Intellectually, we know that every one of our elections works this way. Elections in most states are not officially certified until weeks after the official election day. However, we are used to elections being unofficially decided at least by late into the night or early into the next morning after Election Day. Psychologically though, we are on pins and needles waiting for the result.
What we need right now, and what I think the majority of Americans are exhibiting, is patience. We will get the answer. It might not be today, it might not be until after the weekend, and even when we get the result, it will still be unofficial. No doubt there will be lawsuits in many of the states where the results are narrow.
This week’s Torah portion presents a model for us for patience. The Torah portion is Vayera and it tells the story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. If we look closely at the text and what plays out, we find Abraham exhibiting an example for us of patience in the light of tremendous uncertainty and tension.
The text says that God told Abraham to take his son, his beloved son, and bring him to Mt Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering. We read that Abraham got up the next morning and saddled his donkey and set off on the journey. It then says that on the third day of the journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place that God had told him to sacrifice his son.
Three days pass from the moment God commands him to offer up Isaac until he arrives at the place where he is to set up the altar. Seventy-two hours and not a word from Abraham or the Biblical narrator. As readers of the text, we are forced to ask ourselves, what was going through Abraham’s head during these three days? Was Abraham wrought with guilt? Was he excited to act in service of God? Was he worried about the fate of his son? Did he think about the affect it would have on his wife Sarah? We simply do not know. All we know is that Abraham had the patience to wait it out. Despite what we have to believe is a good amount of fear and anxiety about what he is about to do, he does not panic or act in haste.
Abraham serves as a wonderful example for us during our time of uncertainty and concern. Patience now will serve us later when the results are final, whatever the results may be.
My hope and prayer is that no matter what happens, Shabbat will give us a few moments of respite and calm. If you have never observed Shabbat by turning off your TV’s, computers and phones for twenty-four hours, this might be the weekend to try it.