“Are we almost there?” “Are we there yet??” Questions I am sure many of us asked on our family holidays or have heard or own children ask on the way to the family vacation. The thing is they are usually asked once the car has turned the first corner and only thirty seconds into the trip! The question is then repeated every five minutes until the destination is reached. Or rather till the test of impatience runs out.
Patience is a virtue they say.
In this week’s portion, Korach, we read the narrative of Korach’s rebellion towards Moses and Aaron. It is a powerful attack on their authority and unfortunately for them, it doesn’t end too well. The ground opens and Korach and his followers fall into the hole and let’s just say they had to swallow their pride.
But what exactly was Korach’s crime? What mistake caused this unnatural response from God? More importantly, what lesson can be learned from his action to the way in which we can improve in our day to day behaviour?
There is much commentary and insight offered by the Torah commentators, including examining his arrogance or ego as reasons for the punishment. There is one insight, however, that I would like to explore today.
Korach was impatient. Korach claimed ”we are all holy, we should all be like you Moses!”
The leadership position is easy, why do we need to wait to become leaders? There is no need to earn it or to grow with it. Give it to me now! Like the person who says – “God give me patience and give it to me now!”
The response was Korach being swallowed by the ground. Why this unusual response? Before the days of Coles and Woolworths, if you wanted an apple or tomato you would need to purchase some seeds, plant them in the ground and then…wait! You needed to understand the virtue of patience. The ground was in a sense the wise teacher of patience. You did not really have much choice otherwise. Korach was swallowed by the ground- Korach was swallowed by the ground because he lacked respect for this great virtue!
The challenge of being patient has become increasingly more difficult. In the 21st century, everything needs to be instant. If you wait an extra three second for a page to load online, you get frustrated. Modern marketing is all about how quickly things can happen!
Professional therapists often remark how it can take ten or twenty years of selfish, stubborn, clueless behaviour to undo our marriages or our relationships with our parents or children, but we expect a counsellor to fix us in a single 45-minute session!
As a Rabbi, I am well-acquainted with the impatient congregant too.
People ask me, “Rabbi, do you know a short prayer I can say for loved one?”
Others politely suggest, “Make the sermon short today, rabbi.” Often as official judges at an Olympic track meet, they stare at the shule clock with my sermon’s very first word.
Many call the Shul office, wanting to know how long the service will be.
I think we can all learn from Korach’s mistake. Perhaps we have instances in our lives that we too have been guilty.
We need to become more patient in many areas of life!
More patient with other people, how we react to them or judge them.
More patient in being with our children and our spouses.
And yes, more patient with our Judaism. It might require spending more time learning about it and enjoying it. Stop watching the clock. Stop expecting instant results! It doesn’t take one day to get a six-pack and it sure doesn’t take a day to become like Moses. Patience is a virtue.
So instead of asking ‘are we there yet?’, rather find ways to appreciate and enjoy the journey!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a restful weekend!