The Shofar, Temple Beth El’s monthly publication, keeps community and temple members up to date on what’s going on. Take a look at this month’s Shofar to see what’s coming up, or browse through the archives to see all that we’ve done!
Rabbi’s Ramblings (from the March Shofar)
After preparing the people as best he can – warning them to stay a certain distance away, and to remain ritually pure, and to bring their legal problems to Aaron, and so forth – Moses climbs Mount Sinai to receive the commandments. And he’s gone awhile. Forty days. And on day 39, the Israelites panic. They’ve lost count. They are in the wilderness; the God with whom Moses communes is invisible, and Moses appears to have gone missing. They lose their collective cool. They confront Aaron.
Have you ever had to wait for someone or something you anticipate for a really long time? How did you feel about that? How long can you hold on to patience?
I’ve observed, over the past few years, that there are some things for which people seem to be able to wait forever, while other things – often things that are less consequential – for which they have little or no patience at all. And the difference, generally speaking, seems to be whether or how we touched by the things for which we wait.
I used to be one of those antsy, hurry-it-up people when waiting in line for a gas pump, or at the bank. You know – I have things to do and people to see! But in the course of my Mussar study and practice, I am learn-ing to grow the distance between the match and the fuse, as they put it. A few weeks ago, having run out of scrip, I was compelled to pay cash for my gas and had to wait in line at the counter. The person being serviced at the counter was making decisions about lottery tickets and other products; the server was patiently serving him. The man between us – the guy in line ahead of me – was growing fidgety. It was clear he had things to do and people to see. He was at least good-natured about the wait, on the outside – but he did start bantering about the situation with me, joking loudly about how long things were taking.
Mussar at the ready, I replied, “Man, it’s not all about us.” He laughed. Just like that, I had increased the distance between his match and his fuse, too.
What if? What if the Israelites had been more patient with Moses? What if Aaron had told them to cool their jets for just one more day? Perhaps the Golden Calf might have never happened, nor the bloodshed that followed when the Levites slew the leaders of the revolt.
On the other hand: there are situations with which we are entirely too patient, when we harbor the misperception that it really isn’t about us.
How else to explain our utter failure, as a society, to prevent the mass shootings that plague no other country more than these United States?
How else do we account for the epidemic of STDs in Kern County? The pernicious problem of homeless-ness? Or the outrageously disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color?
These are very real and serious problems that ought to send us (like the students at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School) screaming to gun and ammunitions manufacturers, if not to our legislators; issues that should compel us to willingly raise our own taxes or find other ways to create and fund workable solutions. But unless you and I feel personally touched by these situations, we seem content to do the minimum and wait things out.
In our personal lives, patience is most definitely a virtue. With regard to social justice, “the day is short, and the work is much, and the workers are lazy; and the reward is great, and the Master of the house is pressing.” (Pirkei Avot 2:16).
Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein