Cultivating Spiritual Qualities for Well-Being: Patience

Patience is an invaluable trait for these years. We most likely have a greater capacity for it now than when we were young; we have learned that change takes time, that growth occurs slowly, and that people are who they are whether we like it or not. Patience helps us recognize what we an not control, and to accept that it is so. Today we will take a look at how our tradition understands the middah (value) of patience.

R. Alan Morinis (founder and dean of The Mussar Institute)

The Hebrew term for patience is 'savlanut.' It shares its linguistic root with 'sevel' which means suffering and 'sabal' which means a porter. What could these three words possibly share in common? The answer is that being patience means bearing the burden of your suffering. You tell yourself that I can bear these feelings on my inner-shoulders. holding them aloft and not crumbling under their weight.

How is patience involved in recognizing our personal suffering?

(כט) וַיָּ֥זֶד יַעֲקֹ֖ב נָזִ֑יד וַיָּבֹ֥א עֵשָׂ֛ו מִן־הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְה֥וּא עָיֵֽף׃ (ל) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֗ב הַלְעִיטֵ֤נִי נָא֙ מִן־הָאָדֹ֤ם הָאָדֹם֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֥י עָיֵ֖ף אָנֹ֑כִי עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָרָֽא־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱדֽוֹם׃

(29) Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. (30) And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished”—which is why he was named Edom.

  • Esau’s hunger seems to have engulfed his decision-making. What are our vulnerabilities when it comes to practicing patience? In which circumstances does patience seem to hold little to no sway? Have you been in Esau’s position, ready to grab that bowl of red stuff? How did you feel afterwards?
(ג) וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה ענו [עָנָ֣יו] מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ (ס)
(3) Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth.
(א) ענו. שָׁפָל וְסַבְּלָן:

(1) ענו means, humble and patient.

Why do you think Rashi added patience to the definition of humility? What is the relationship between patience and humility?

“The situation in which we can feel impatience are numberless, but there is one common factor that unites them all. We only burn with that particular fire when the focus in the situation is on me. You are delaying me, misleading me, berating me. You are interfering with my plan or standing in the way of my needs. Sometimes that only inner voice I can hear is my ego, loudly promoting all its important needs and plans and drowning out any other voice that might whisper within.

We all tend to see ourselves as the prime actor in a drama that swirls around us....But the truth is different. We are neither so central nor independent as all that. We are actually wired into all kinds of larger circuits and systems, from the molecular to the social, and we don’t control many of the factors that have a role in shaping our lives. Least of all can we expect to rule the timetable according to which life take place. The Mussar teachers encourage us to contemplate these truths, because when we realize a deeper understanding of our rightful place in the universe, this helps us avoid getting all worked up when things don’t go just precisely as we’d like….. We truthfully have so little control over so many features of our lives that it doesn’t make any sense at all to put ourselves through useless suffering as if we did have control. And that’s just what we do when we slip into impatience.” (Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness)

how does this text help you understand the relationship between humility and patience? How can this understanding help us cultivate more patience in this moment and perhaps even encourage it in others?