Patience Is Paramount

The Fellowship  |  May 2, 2018

A woman standing in line looking sadly off into the distance.

Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. — Leviticus 24:10

The Torah portion for this week is Emor, which means “speak,” from Leviticus 21:1–24:23, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 44:15–31.

A story is told about a preacher who was known for his poise and quiet manner. However, sometimes, even he suffered moments of frustration. One day a friend saw him pacing the floor irritably. “What’s the trouble?” the friend asked the preacher. “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!” the preacher replied.

Haven’t we all felt the same way many times? However, this week’s Torah portion teaches us that patience is an essential virtue. Leonardo da Vinci put it this way, “Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold.” Just as the more clothing we put on, the more we are protected against potentially deadly cold, the more patience we have, the more we will be protected from any harm. This week’s reading serves as a case in point.

We are told that a man went among the Israelites and a fight broke out. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the fight was about, but Judaism’s Oral Tradition does. The fight was over the following: The priests began their service in the Tabernacle and this man noticed that the showbread was put out on the table at the beginning of one Sabbath, but would not be eaten until the following Sabbath, when freshly baked bread would take its place. The man thought that this was an unfitting way to serve God. He said, “The King should be served with fresh, warm bread; not week-old stale bread.”

The priests, of course, would not veer from the commandments that they had received. The man became so incensed that he ended up cursing God. After consulting with Moses, who consulted with the Lord, the blasphemer was ultimately condemned to death.

Now, here is the most tragic part of the story: Had the man had just a little bit of patience and waited until the end of the week, he would have seen that God created a miracle each and every week —the week-old bread was just as fresh and warm as the day it came out of the oven. His inability to wait calmly led him to make a very poor decision that ultimately cost him his life.

The message for us is to adorn ourselves with patience even when things in our lives don’t make sense to us. Sometimes we are so sure that we know better and that perhaps God has made a mistake. But God doesn’t make mistakes. Everything that happens is exactly as it should be. We only need to be patient – sometimes for a very long time. Remember, though, patience is a small price to pay for the opportunity to live a faith-filled, obedient life, and not, God forbid, the opposite.

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