To succeed, one must be prepared for a lengthy process to resolve challenges
“And they dug another well, and they quarreled about it… And he moved away from there, and he dug another well….”
When I was a young boy, I had two distinct images of a strong man. One was of Charles Atlas, a muscular character who appeared on the rear cover of the comic books I voraciously read. If you remember him, you’re no longer a youngster.
The other image was a member of the small synagogue where my father z”l prayed. I don’t think anyone knew his real name; they all referred to him as “the Shtarker,” the Strong Man. To me, he looked at least seven feet tall. His physical prowess was demonstrated when he lifted the Torah for hagba’ah, always his honor, as no one else could compete with his strength. (Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU Torah)
Shloime’s been going through a contrary stage. Maybe it’s the weather change, or the fact that his teacher was out for a while, but he has a serious case of the “opposites,” and my patience is getting a workout.
Bedtime’s taking longer as we have to agree on the pajamas, the book we’re reading that night, and even the angle of his pillow. And mornings are fraught with tension because all these negotiations must be made before the school bus starts honking.
But I persevere… I try… This isn’t my first kid, remember? I know how to do this, it’s a matter of control, firmness, and huge dosages of patience, patience, patience. But it’s getting harder by the day. Don’t diets get easier the longer you hold out? Why is this any different?
I’ve come to reflect upon the many “shtarkers” in the Torah. Shimshon is an obvious candidate. But kindly Avraham was a warrior, and Moshe, Yehoshua, Shaul and Dovid were all shtarkers, leading their people in battle.
One figure stands out as a “non-shtarker,” a gentle soul, perhaps even a pacifist: Yitzchak. He commits no aggressive acts, however legitimate, and never even asserts himself verbally. Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv (MiSinai Ba) reflects upon this portrait of Yitzchak and questions that according to Kabbalah, the trait of gevurah — strength — is assigned specifically to Yitzchak, who seems to least exemplify it.
Today I picked up both my son and grandson from school. Their classrooms are a few feet apart, so it’s always a kick to go generation-hopping on days that I babysit.
Today, though, appeared to be toddler tantrum day.
Thing One and Thing Two were both exhausted from a family simchah the night before. Neither wanted to read, to play, certainly not to share the single (also exhausted) mother/grandmother present. The minutes ticked by and nerves — mine and theirs — were fraying.
Rabbi Shaviv answers with this provocative sentence: “Forgoing the military option is itself a show of strength.” There are two types of strength. One way is to exert power, as Avraham, Yehoshua, and Dovid found necessary.
But Yitzchak knew the secret of another way of demonstrating strength. When confronted at the hands of the Pelishtim who stopped up his wells, what was Yitzchak’s response? Not war! Instead, he left the scene, dug new wells. Again, he faced violent opposition; in response, he dug another well and yet another. He persisted, swallowing his pride and suppressing every impulse of striking back. Ultimately, he prevailed and dug a well which was uncontested.
The Midrash Tanchuma remarks: “Behold! See what strength Isaac possessed!” As it says in Mishlei (16:32): “Better to be forbearing than mighty; to have self-control than to conquer a city.”
Yitzchak’s way recognizes the necessity for great patience and forbearance. To succeed, one must be prepared for a lengthy process to resolve challenges. Patience is essential. But to quote Jane Austen, “You want nothing but patience — or give it a more fascinating name: call it hope.”
Part of me wanted so badly to stoop down to their toddler level and protest with them my exhaustion and frustration. I wanted to let them know that their whining was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. But I had to shift gears. Because the mature part of me knew that the one who was going to win this game was the one who’d stay in control, and for everyone’s good, that had better be me.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 766)
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