Reading through the various stories of the Tanach, one common theme we encounter is that patience is a virtue. Things do not happen as quickly or as exactly as we had expected. Even promises made by Hashem sometimes seem to take a very long time to come true or may even seem to go awry at first.
In Parshat Vayeshev, for example, Yosef receives his prophetic dreams. He understands that he will become royalty one day. He envisions that even his brothers will bow before him. He was supposed to have a blessed life. Then, what happens instead? His brothers try to kill him. They sell him into slavery to a caravan of traveling Arabs. He ends up in prison for 10 years convicted of a fabricated attempted rape charge. Just when he thinks he has an “in” with the king and may get his sentence commuted, he gets forgotten for another couple of years. Surely, this was not what he expected to happen.
Tamar experiences the death of one husband after another. She is promised a levirate marriage to Yehudah’s third son, Sheilah. Instead, “many days pass” (Bereishit 38:12) as she sees Sheilah mature and Yehudah seems to have forgotten his pledge to her. Sheilah is not given to her in marriage. Instead, Tamar has to act in a conniving manner in order to have her destiny fulfilled.
There are many other examples where divine promises are made and we would normally expect things to happen quickly. Instead, the opposite occurs. For example, Hashem promises Avraham that he will have countless offspring. Yet, He makes him wait until he is 100 years old and Sarah is 90 years old before giving the couple a son.
Yitzchak marries Rivka. He too is promised countless offspring. Instead, his wife is barren and he has to wait 20 years before she can finally have children.
Yakov gets married to Leah and Rachel. He loves Rachel but she too is barren. He has to wait many years before she can have children. Not only that, but he had to work seven years for Leah, an additional seven years for Rachel and an additional six years to accumulate his wealth under very adverse conditions. His father-in-law would cheat him a hundred times over. Surely, he must have been wondering, “Where is that blessing I was promised? Wasn’t it supposed to be easier than this?”
The prophet Samuel (Shmuel) comes and anoints David. He tells him to get ready to become the next king of Israel. David must have felt great. It cannot get better than that. Instead, look at the events that unfold. Saul hunts him down, trying to kill him several times. David was a fugitive on the run. His future was in doubt. It took about 15 years after the anointing before he finally became king of the entire nation. Things surely did not work out as quickly as David must have originally expected.
The common theme is that things do not always work out quickly or exactly as planned. Even with a blessing from Hashem, life events can sometimes unfold in a convoluted manner. While all the prophecies and blessings eventually came true, the heroes of the Torah all needed to have much patience and a lot of faith to see it through.
The Talmud in Brachot (64b) tells us that we need to show much patience in life and wait for the right moment for when our blessings eventually come to pass. The important thing to remember, though, is that these blessings will, indeed, come through. Rashi, explaining Talmud Eruvin (13b), tells us that one cannot force the moment when he is destined to attain wealth or honor. The Maharsha explaining Talmud Shabbos (156a) similarly described that in the life of every individual, there will be a propitious time in which he will be presented with the opportunity to attain wealth, power, influence and the like. However, one cannot force the moment. We need to show patience and have faith.
Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi asserts that “the aspects of your life that look imperfect to your eyes will bring you the most growth. Both Yosef (progenitor of Moshiach ben Yosef) and Tamar (whose descendent will be Moshiach ben David) ultimately became ancestors of Moshiach as a result of their challenging situations—but they had to wait it out.”
Therefore, if our prayers are not answered immediately, or if we do not meet our “bashert” right away, or if life circumstances are more challenging than we first expected, we need to take heart. We need to study the examples of the Torah and recognize that our destinies do not necessarily follow our own timetables or expectations. Patience is a virtue. Yosef eventually had his prophecy fulfilled and he became the powerful viceroy of Egypt. Tamar was ultimately recognized by Yehudah as “tzadka,” that she is right (38:26). Similarly, may we be patient and merit to ultimately be blessed, meet with success and have all our prayers answered for our benefit.
Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected]