Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Patience is a Scale

In Genesis on January 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Look up at the trees /
You planted them as a youth /
Now they’ve all grown up

Parsha Vayechi

1 Kings 2.1-2.12
Genesis 47.28-50.26

What does the blessing of Gad mean?

Gad, a troop shall troop upon him; but he shall troop upon their heel.
(Genesis 49.1)

The face value of the blessing seems to promise Gad’s vengeance on some future enemy army. The text doesn’t give any details, however.

King David tells his dying wishes to King Solomon.

Thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did unto me…Do therefore according to thy wisdom.
(1 Kings 2.5-6)

Show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table.
(1 Kings 2.7)

There is with thee Shimei the son of Gera…who cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim…Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man.
(1 Kings 2.8-9)

How does this relate to our parsha? First, the question: how many men make up a troop? One thousand? One hundred? The answer depends on where you are and when you are. Is there such a thing as a troop of one? Where can we find support for this? It is said, He delivered me from mine enemy most strong, and from them that hated me, for they were too mighty for me. (Ps. 18.18) Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17.32) It is also said, “I am the last of my troop.”

David never saw what actions his son took on his behalf. He waited until after death to execute these debts. They trooped upon him in life. Did he troop upon their heel in death? Imagine: you’re dead and buried, but God grants you sight through the walls of your casket. You’re visited by people you loved, and maybe some people you did not love. You’re lowered into the ground, and they walk away. Do you see their heads, or their heels?

The time has come to execute your last will and testament. Your loved ones come to the executor’s office to hear what it has to say. The proceedings conclude. Your loved ones leave.

Is it necessary to wait until after death to take necessary action? If it is the right time to act, then yes. Would Gad troop on his adversary’s heel before he were ready? Could he have? When is the right time to act? Patience answers this question for you.

Patience is a gift and a mitzvah. Adversity troops on us. Contentment troops after it, happy to see the back of it. This is an expression of balance. On this scale, our behaviors are weights and time is the pivot. Impulsive reactions, like Reuben’s, or Simeon and Levy’s, is transgression, tipping the balance to adversity. Judged responses reward contentment. This is the meaning of the space between a troop shall troop upon him and but he shall troop upon their heel.

This does not mean that we should accept attacks on our persons without responding, or that this principle is limited to weathering negative periods in our lives. All debts must be repaid.

Is this another meaning of the phrase and he lived?


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