Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Waiting Constructively

Have you ever tried teaching your child, or a child you know, how to play ball or ride a bike? Have you ever watched as a child struggles to learn something new? If the child falls in the dirt and starts to cry, how do you react? Do you pick the child up or do you wait and let the child get up on their own?

Usually, our first reaction is to pick up the kid out of the dirt and wipe away their tears. Then we continue to teach them how to hit the ball or ride the bike. A question to consider: Why do we rush to help? Is it the smartest thing to do?

I believe we rush to help because Jews are a giving people. We are a people with a heart. When we see a child crying, our natural instinct is to help.

However, is this always the right thing to do? Maybe sometimes it is wrong for us to rush to the rescue. Perhaps part of our motivation is selfish: We can’t stand the crying. We have to do something. It is about us, not about the child.

Sometimes restraining ourselves and waiting accomplishes something very important. If you wait and let the child get up by themselves, you teach the child how to pick themselves up when the time arrives when you won’t be there for them. Of course, this has to be done with love. For a child, learning how to get up after making a mistake, defeat, or failure is more important than learning how to ride a bike or hit a ball.

This lesson is derived from G-d’s treatment of Abraham. Abraham, the first Jew, is commanded by G-d at the age of ninety-nine to circumcise himself and the rest of his household. When Abraham is recuperating, you would expect G-d to come and visit him right away. However, G-d waits three days before his first visit. Why the wait? 

We know that G-d cares about Abraham and has shown compassion to him. The waiting was not an act of negligence, but an act of love. The reason: If G-d visited right away, Abraham would not have learned important lessons from his circumcision and the subsequent pain. Generally, we do not serve G-d through pain, however, pain can help us grow and bring us to our senses. It can help increase our awareness of the value of being alive. The circumcision and pain enabled Abraham to sense G-d’s presence more than before. Until this point Abraham only saw G-d in the form a vision; now Abraham understood G-d’s revealed presence with greater insight and clarity.

Waiting is sometimes constructive, as G-d helped Abraham by waiting to visit him. Likewise, helping can sometimes be destructive.

Let’s take this lesson into current times. In the current harsh economic climate, you or someone you know may have been demoted, lost their job, or suffered a serious financial setback. When hardship strikes, at first we think to ourselves “poor me, what is going to happen to me.” We may start questioning our self-worth and can easily fall into depression.

The pain and suffering we experience is real. However, if we learn from the story of Abraham, rather than focus on our suffering, we can look at this time in life - this waiting period - as a time for growth. We can develop greater empathy for others who experience setbacks. We can explore new opportunities and untapped potential for growth. We have time to ask ourselves “what can I learn from this experience?” “How can I grow?” “What do I want the next phase of my career to be like?”

This waiting period between your last opportunity and your next opportunity should be a constructive time and not a destructive time. Sometimes G-d gives us His greatest gifts by making us wait.




Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.