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The Sanctity of Hesitation
By Gershon Winkler
Here's a great teaching from the ancient rabbis: "Had Adam and
Eve waited just one more day before eating of the Forbidden Fruit
they would not have been kicked out of Paradise " (oral tradition).
Wow. What a concept. To hesitate, to wait just a little longer,
before embarking on a binge. Just one more minute, or half an
hour, can make all the difference. Let's say, for example, your
plane is scheduled to depart at 4:40 PM. You get to the terminal
entrance at 4 and are about to rush like a maniac to make it in
time, through check-in, through security, and to the gate some
4,000 feet away. But then you remember this ancient Jewish bit
of wisdom and you stop at the revolving doors of the terminal,
take a deep breath, look around you, maybe even lean against the
wall and greet people as they rush past you. And then, after a
minute or two of this holding-back (that's all it would take),
you continue your harried sprint for your gate across the
gauntlets of check-in kiosks, ID checks, and security. What a
difference that would make, to your heart, your blood pressure,
your sanity, and your demeanor once you're on board the plane.
I've tried this Talmudic application and its worked wonders for
me, plus 100% of the time the plane didn't leave on time anyway,
and all the rushing and huffing and puffing and irritability and
impatience would have been for naught. I would have slumped down
in my assigned seat sweaty, anxious, dripping wet, with a heart-
rate skyrocketing past Danger. For nothing. It's not worth it.
When we take a little extra time, even if we are late, to just
breathe a little, park the car at the curb of our place of
appointment, and wait just one more tardy minute -- even so
little as 30 seconds, we could be prolonging our lives. Of
course, the people waiting anxiously for our timely arrival will
be the ones suffering cardiac ills and the secretions of unwanted
toxins through their arteries. This is why it is important to
share with them too this wonderful teaching from the Talmud. They
too should learn to wait just one extra minute, several times,
before panicking or growing anxious.
“A man,” the second-century Rabbi Akiva advised, “should never
burst into his home abruptly” (Talmud, Pesachim 112a). Of course,
this does not apply if you’re living alone. But if you do live with
others, take a breath first, hesitate at the doorway, work at
generating a smile or something close to it. Then knock.
Hesitation is not synonymous with procrastination. It’s about
taking time out to embody ourselves in the intention of the
circumstance, in the consciousness of the moment. In the
Kabbalah, you don’t just dive into any action; you first
establish intention and chant “l’shem yee’chud kud’sha
b’reech hu ush’chin’tay ahl y’dey ha’hu, beed’chee’lu
ur’chee’mu l’yachayd shem yah v’wah bee’y’chuda sh’leem”
which means “For the sake of the unification of the Sacred Wellspring
and the Holy Presence through this action, in awe and in love,
to unify the name Yud Hai within Vuv Hai in a complete union.”
Even in our people’s Creation story, God is depicted as
“hesitating” before calling forth the primeval Light of
Beingness; hovering over the many faces of possibility
before calling forth the beginnings of Creation (Genesis 1:2).
If we all learned to live this way, we would be coming home to
our loved ones more refreshed, not harried, not angry, not
nerve-wrecked. A minute. Even half a minute. Even fifteen sweet
little teeny tiny seconds before jumping out of the car into
oncoming traffic -- could save your life, and your relationship.
Damn. "The Cosby Show" is on. Gotta run...
from the December 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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