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Don't Just Do Something, Stand There

01/24/2021 12:22:00 PM


Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum

“Don’t just stand there, do something” is a phrase we all know well, and it calls us to action
when action is needed. But could it be there are times when the opposite is appropriate, when
we would say, “ don’t do something, just stand there”?
There is a word in Hebrew--sovel--which is defined as patience. The dictionary defines
patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry
or upset. Actually, sovel implies much more than that. It also means the ability to bear another.
The model for this, according to Tomer Devorah, is Hashem. He states: “No sin has ever been
committed unless at the very instant the person was sinning, Hashem was knowingly granting
him the power to exist and move his limbs”. While a person is sinning, Hashem is giving him
the very ability to sin and commit acts of rebellion.
This attribute is particularly important in this era. We live in an impatient and intolerant world. It
is no longer merely “my way or the highway”; it is now “my way or no way”. If you don’t see
things the way I do, if you don’t think as I think, not only does your opinion lack merit, you are
undeserving of respect for having the opinion. It isn’t even sufficient that I don’t respect you; I
must make sure that no one else does, either.
This is antithetical to the Torah. We have 12 tribes, each with their own personalities and
strengths, and 70 ways the Torah can be understood. Even when there are philosophies
expressed that are beyond the pale, we reject the philosophy, not the one who holds it. A great
Rosh Yeshivah once told me “We can be intolerant of a philosophy while being tolerant of the
person. Most people are intolerant of the person.” Being sovel means the willingness to respect
the person with whom we disagree, and while disagreeing, doing so without anger.
Our country is at a crossroads. The level of intolerance on all sides is very dangerous. We have
to respect opinions that we disagree with and engage in meaningful conversation to
understand different perspectives. And we certainly have the right to demand this of the
country’s leadership.
Indeed, there are times when faced with opposing views, don't do something, just stand there

Sun, July 21 2024 15 Tammuz 5784