Monday, September 8, 2014

Judaism's Top 40 - Elul 14, #28 - Savlanut: Patience

Elul 14 - Day 28

How did Rabbi Akiva start out?

They said: he was forty years old and had never studied anything. Once he stood at a well. He said, "Who engraved this stone?"

They told him, "[It was] the water, which drips upon it every day." And they said to him, "Akiva, are you not familiar [with the verse,] 'As the waters wear away the stones'?"

On the spot, Rabbi Akiva made the following deduction: If something soft [like water] could chisel its way through something hard [like stone], then surely the words of Torah, which are as hard as iron, can penetrate my heart, which is flesh and blood!" Immediately, he returned to studying Torah.

Patience is, indeed, a virtue.

A mussar (ethical discipline) manual says this about savlanut:  The root of the word savlanut in Hebrew is the word for suffering. Thus savlanut should be translated more accurately as “sufferance.” Sufferance and patience are close in meaning to one another, but recognizing the link between suffering, sufferance and patience will help us understand the full range of meanings of this middah. It recognizes the fact that at every level suffering or pain is present in human consciousness and must be taken into account in understanding human behavior.

The Hebrew term for patience, savlanut, is made from the three-letter root samech-lamed-nun [S-L-N ] shared by the following words:

• sevel(suffering)
• lisbol(to suffer)
• sevolet(tolerance)
• sovel(burden or load)
• sabol(a porter or carrier)

Seeking out the common element in all these words teaches us a fundamental lesson about patience, as Jewish tradition would have us understand it. Being patient does not mean that you are in a completely calm and unruffled state of mind, but rather that you are able to bear the burden of your hostile and explosive feelings without reacting. Think of your emotional load as a heavy suitcase, and you as the porter who can take it on his shoulder to bear the burden.

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