The following is a sentence we are all familiar with. Who hasn’t heard it numerous times?: “When I grew up, the world was very different.”
Let me give you an example of how times have changed. Traveling by boat used to be the norm. My parents made the journey from Belgium to Israel, and back, on a ship more than once. The trip consisted of boarding a train to Italy, transferring three times until one arrived at Trieste, and then sailing on the Mediterranean Sea for a week.
How did people communicate between countries in those days? Carrier pigeons were already out of fashion, so the only option left was the mail system started by Augustus Caesar (yes, it’s that old). Even if a matter was crucially important, there was no faster way to communicate. People simply had to acquire an angelic amount of patience.
I recall a shidduch suggestion proposed for one of my siblings. Rub your eyes before continuing to read. Stage 1: A letter addressed to good friends was sent out, asking that inquiries be made about the suggested proposal. It took close to two weeks before it reached the shores of Israel. Stage 2: Another week, at least, passed before some information was gathered and a handwritten letter made its way out of Israel. Stage 3: Another two weeks passed before the letter reached us.
What excitement when the mailman delivered that much-anticipated letter! We ran over to our father, of blessed memory – a patriarchal impressive figure whose every action was as instructive as a book – waiving the communiqué.
I will never forget the way he reacted. He took the letter, deposited it on the dining room table next to the Gemara he was immersed in – the Gemara was his eternal companion – and said: “No rush. There’s time to look at its contents later in the day.”
I looked at him in total disbelief. Another long day would pass before he looked at the letter he had so eagerly awaited?
When I think about it, that message of patience was highlighted in our home in so many ways. At the end of a fast day, my father would never rush to eat; rather, he would allow some time to elapse before breaking his fast. After Pesach, eating chametz wasn’t even on the agenda. And we, the children? We learned that things don’t have to happen overnight – that not everything resolves itself in the blink of an eye and that patience pays off.
Today, everything is different. Technology has changed the face of society. How is a generation living under the dominion of technology meant to develop endurance? How is it meant to acquire the strength to sit back and allow situations to unfold at their own pace and eventually be resolved?
The fact is that not everything is attainable on demand. When one deals with children’s education, results are not immediate. It can take years before we see the fruit of our labor. Building trust in relationships can take a tremendous amount of time, a pregnancy still carries on for nine months (sometimes even longer…), and so on.
What happens to the “instant generation” when things don’t fall into place and situations don’t resolve themselves almost before they arise? Do we realize how effected we have become by the influence of advanced technology? Do we realize that we are caught in a net and entangled in a web? (Are these the roots of Internet and website?)
If we serve Hashem properly, though, we are immune to this modern danger. Our holy Torah has foreseen and prepared the cure. We say Friday night in Lecha Dodi: “sof ma’aseh bemachshava techilla – the thought at the outset was far-reaching and covers even the trials of the end of days. Think about it. Don’t the mitzvos convey the lesson of patience?
A farmer in the era of the Beis Hamikdash could not eat his first produce despite the sweat he had invested in planting and growing them. Rather, he had to set them aside as an offering to the kohen. Prior to breakfast, a Jew must go to shul and daven. Before he eats, he must recite a blessing. If he anxiously wishes to eat dairy, he might have to wait six hours if he just finished a meat meal.
The mitzvos teach a Jew restraint and free him from the servitude of things having to materialize instantaneously. Jewish family life presents the apogee of constraint. The message presents itself over and over again and is so clear.
The Torah lovingly teaches us to halt before accessing the abundance, offering us the tools to escape the dangers that the world at large present, enabling us to escape the bondage of the immediate.