Iyyar: Savlanut (סבלנות) Patience

Iyyar is the Moon of Healing (April/May)
Iyyar is an acronym for “I am YHVH your Healer” (Ex 15:26).  It is a month to explore healing practices for ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Middah & Netivah

  • Savlanut (סבלנות) Patience
  • Meyaledet (מילדת) Midwife

Keys

  • Anavah (ענוה) Humility
  • Sh’tikah (שתיקה) Silence
  • Dan l’chaf zechut (דן לכף זכות) Judging Others Favorably
  • Nedivut (נדיבות) Generosity
  • Rachamim (רחמים) Compassion
  • Erech apayim (ארך אפים) Slow to Anger

Counterweights 

  • Cheshvan (Oct/Nov)
  • Kavod (כבוד) Honor
  • Mekonenet (מקוננת) 
    Mourning Woman

New to Mussar or the Kesharim K’doshim approach? Read the intro first.


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Savlanut (סבלנות) Patience

Opening the Space between
the Match and Fuse

Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr

Patience is really a way of handling delayed gratification with grace and ease. The reason many of us get impatient is because we feel like things aren’t happening as we would like them too, there’s a blockage, or an obstruction. Think about people when they get what we call “road rage” in these modern times, in the Western world. Why are they rage-filled? Because they are reacting from impatience. Why are they impatience? Because of a perceived flow/pace that they expect to move at. I could add a sense privilege and pride to that too. ” Because I am important this traffic should not be in my way.” But if you can put yourself in the context of anavah (ענוה) humility – right space/place you might find yourself reacting with patience because this traffic isn’t about you. Maybe there is construction to improve the road or (g!d/dess forbid) a terrible accident.   The other soul-traits that I find under it are b’lev shalem (בלב שלם) willingness, bitachon (בטחון) trust in G!d/dess, rachamim (רחמים) compassion, erech apayim (ארך אפים) slow to anger and nedivut (נדיבות) generosity. It also connects to kavod (כבוד) honor, which is the soul-trait for the calendar counterpoint – which is the Mekonent in Cheshvan.  Any or all of these may be what we need to explore to really get to work on savlanut (סבלנות) patience.

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Things that go too fast or too slow cause us to react impatiently. People not seeming to listen to us or be attentive in ways that we recognize can cause us to react impatiently. People have an emotional reaction when WE HAVE THINGS TO DO, can cause us to react impatiently. And generally this has a lot more to do with us than the other person/people or situation. The idea of opening the space between the match and the fuse is all about taking a moment to focus on your responsibility in your own reaction and not putting all your energy and focus on how the other person or situation is wrong. It/they may be wrong or at fault – but you are responsible for your own reaction. And your choice to get angry or frustrated and act on that causes you to suffer, not just the other people.

Right pace as prayer

Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ

I find myself often not being patient because I’m asked to live at a pace that I don’t feel is my own. The modern world, especially in the city, moves fast – at the speed of business. I find it’s a forced pace, a false pace. Too many people in America, and much of the Western World don’t live in a perspective of their real place in the Universe. They must invent importance around things that are just process. They must invent emergencies, because our lives are generally pretty easy. Yes, there is real struggle – but few of us worry about where we will sleep or find the next meal. I had the opportunity a few years ago to live almost six months at the pace of my choosing, and it was slow. I’ve never felt such contentment and ease. I got SO MUCH DONE, but it was ease-filled. What I didn’t figure out was how to monetize all the many glorious things I was creating – which is why many of us live at pace that is not right for us.

Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

So often it’s perceived imperfection of a moment in time that tests our patience. Just the phrase “test our patience” seems like it comes right out a mussar world view. Remember the part of mussar practice that is about the concept of bechirah (בחירה) or choice points? As we talked about in week two, just when you think that you have mastered patience, gratitude, enthusiasm, or any middah – a bechirah moment appears.  These are the life challenges that let us move to new levels of our soul-curriculum.  The bechirah moments present those challenges that push us past our default settings.

See the many bechirah moments that we’re given with savlanut? So many opportunities to embody the Divine, and learn to do it better and better. Every traffic jam, annoying conference call, child’s tantrum is a bechirah moment. It’s an opportunity to let the light in through the cracks; the imperfection we perceive to be blocking our way.

Why were there ten generations from Noah to Abraham? To show God’s patience, for each generation disappointed God, but the tenth produced Abraham to receive the reward the others shunned.

Pirkei Avot 5:3 (Rami Shapiro Translation)

This isn’t about being passive or the even the Buddhist concept of “radical acceptance.” It’s about making a choice in how much suffering you will put on yourself by reacting to these moments. It’s about trying to behave as though we live in a “virtuous reality”, as Alan Morinis puts it. Another way to say that might be: “Be the change you wish to see.” That last quote is an unverifiable quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but he did say something verified that sounds like it could have come directly from Pirkei Avot: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

After doing a little research, I had another opportunity to practice patience by simply pointing out (and not screaming) that once again a teaching by a woman is mistakenly attributed to a man. Based on the amazing post by the Quote Investigator, I learned that “Be the change you wish to see in the world” should be credited to Arleen Lorrance.

Alan Morinis’ teaches around “witnessing and naming” as part of practicing patience as a soul-trait and when you feel yourself losing patience, how to call it back to you by saying aloud or in your head, “yesh savlanut” (יש סבלנות) There’s Patience, “azkirah savlanut” (אזכירה סבלנות) I call patience to mind, or “azkirah Achaiyah” (אזכירה אכאיה) I call on Achaiyah – angel of patience). Use these to remove the loss of patience just from yourself. In some Jewish teachings, angels are sometimes seen as emotions or feelings. So when you have a strong emotion – you are being visited by angel – which can be a positive or negative experience. Your impatience may be the angel of fear, pride, perfectionism, etc —so invoke the Angel of Patience through the kabbalistic name Achaiyah (אכאיה) or just by naming Savlanut as an angel. 

Just by forming those words, you are holding open at least a tiny crack through which the light of consciousness can still shine, and if you can do that, then at that point what is going to happen to that impatience is suddenly no longer so certain.

Alan Morinis, Every Day Holy Day

I found Achaiyah (אכאיה) first in Gustav Davidson’s, Dictionary of Angels and then did a bit more investigation to verify Jewish (or Jew-ish) sources. Like much of practical kabbalah, it is hard to say if it started with Christian derivations of Jewish teachings or with the Jewish teachings. Achayah or Achaiah can be traced to teachings on Shem HaMephorash (שם המפורש), the 72-fold name of the Divine (and sometimes 4, 12, 22, 42 letter name). Those teachings did start with Jewish sources, namely the Talmud. If you search online for more, please keep in mind much of the information is from bad, bad, bad translations of texts in Hebrew, Latin, French, or German and/or filtered through Christian or modern Neo-Pagan teachings. 

Lastly, it’s important to mention that this is one of the soul-traits that can be used by people in power to oppress or act in an oppressive manner against other people.  Historically, women are criticized for getting angry far more quickly and often than men. People of color are also among the groups that are not “allowed” to get angry or react. When we work on expanding the space between the match and the fuse, it’s about us as individuals — never what someone else is doing. We can model savlanut (סבלנות) patience for others to inspire them, but we shouldn’t lecture, impose, or punish others.  There is one last soul-traits that that I think is important to take a moment to discuss — dan l’chaf zechut (דן לכף זכות) judging others favorably. We should also judge others favorably and not assume when they lose their patience that it was a short distance between the match and the fuse.  We don’t know how much others are holding, what led to that moment, or how long they have been holding that match, so we should be generous with ourselves and others when we do lose our patience.

This doesn’t mean that you should allow others to abuse you, or just say “well that’s where I am” if you have a hair trigger of a temper.  It means recognizing the choices you are making and that others are on their own journey.  If you have a short fuse, give yourself credit every time you make it even a tiny bit longer, and admit and do the work when you don’t. If there are people in your life like this, be generous – but take care of yourself and set boundaries.

Forget your perfect offering
Ring the bells that you can ring
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Chant based on Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”

PRACTICE

Reflections

At this moment in time:

  • WHAT does Savlanut/Patience mean to you?
  • HOW do you feel about the idea of externalizing patience, as an angel or non-corporeal being?
  • WHEN you lose your patience – where does it go?  What replaces it?
  • WHY do you lose your patience?
  • WHERE do you feel most able to expand the distance between the match and the fuse?

Text Study

  • There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, to demonstrate the great extent of [God’s] patience, for each one of those generations provoked [God] continually until [God] brought the waters of the flood upon them. There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham, to demonstrate the extent of [God’s] patience, for each one of those generations provoked [God] continually, until Abraham, our father, came and received the reward of them all. (Pirkei Avot 5:2)
  • You can train yourself to be patient. You can train yourself to open the space between the match and the fuse. (Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, as found in Every Day Holy Day by Alan Morinis)
  • Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. (A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh)

Affirmations

  • Right Pace as Prayer*
  • Be Patient as the Future Unfolds.
  • Hold Space for What Needs to Be.
  • Help Bring New Things into Being.

from the Eht/Aht: a netivot wisdom oracle
* As taught by Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ

Embodied Practice

  • Practice four-part breathing and explore the spaces between your breaths.  Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale on a count of four, and hold for a count of four.

Action

  • Whenever you feel like you are losing your patience call it back to you by saying aloud or in your head, “azkirah Achaiyah” (אזכירה אכאיה) I call to mind Achaiyah (the angel of Patience), “yesh savlanut” (יש סבלנות) there’s Patience; or “azkirah savlanut” (אזכירה סבלנות) I call Patience to mind.

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