Must miracles occur in an instant? The Torah’s miracles teach us that patience is a virtue!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32) and in it we read about the great flood which God sent to destroy the world. The Torah says that the world had become so corrupt that God regretted having created it. He decided that it was time to start anew and He destroyed the world through a flood.
It rained for 40 days straight. The rain not only covered the earth but even the highest mountains were completely submerged in water, as well.
The question is asked: If there was so much water that it even covered the highest mountains, then how is it possible that such an amount of water could have receded in a few short weeks (which is the case according to many interpretations)? It should have taken YEARS, not weeks! Obviously, it was yet another miracle in the story of Noah. (My “favorite” miracle was how 2-7 pairs of all the animals in the world were able to fit onto a boat with such limited dimensions!)
But here’s the better question: If a miracle was needed to drain the world of all its water, why not get the job done in a day, or in an hour, or even in an instant? Why did God drag out the miracle for weeks?
The answer, it is explained, is that God is trying to teach us a lesson. The lesson is patience. We are living in a world where everything has to be immediate: food has to be microwaved, internet connections must be constantly updated to the fastest possible speed, the parking spot must be within seconds of the door, canned food, fast food, drive through, and the list goes on. We truly are living in the “I want it now” generation. Patience is gone. Waiting is not an option.
This attitude is not God’s attitude. God will help us all, bless us, and perform miracles in our lives. But it won’t be at Star Trek or The Jetsons speed. God’s salvation will come at His speed. As the Talmud says, “One who prays and expects his prayer to be immediately answered is going to be disappointed.” Did God smite the Egyptians and free the Jews in one shot? Nope, it was 10 plagues over the course of a year until the Exodus occurred. Why did God make the Jews walk through the Red Sea? He certainly could have teleported them! Even Moses needed patience.
We all have lows in life. And we pray for them to pass. Has it ever happened instantly? Never. Healing will come, but you have to first get to the doctor, then get to the pharmacist to fill out the prescription, and then go through the many days of treatment that are required. Healing will come, but in its time. The same is true for the job search, the spat with the spouse, and the noisy neighbor. When it comes to God and prayer, patience is key. Nothing happens instantly.
This is the lesson of Noah having to wait for his prayers to be answered and having to wait awhile before disembarking from the ark. It is the lesson of Moses having to wait for his prayers to be answered, and it is our lesson when it comes to waiting for our prayers to be answered. Not everything in life is instantaneous.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.