Waiting (Wasting) Time

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We all spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for a light to change, waiting for a bus or ride to come, waiting for a class to start, waiting in line, waiting for a baby to be born, or a special event to occur.
Today, it is not uncommon to see someone send a WhatsApp or an email and then stare at their phone waiting for a reply. As a whole, we have become a very impatient people.
Sometimes, we even wish away time. We wish a day would already come, or another one would end. What does that say about the time we are wishing away? Is it irrelevant? Is it “bad” time which we would rather not exist? Is there such a thing as “good time” and “bad time?”
Let’s take a look at Jacob, our forefather from whom the twelve tribes of Israel came. (In fact it is in this week’s Torah portion of Vayislach that Jacob takes on his alternative name of Israel.) He ran away from his homeland (our homeland) to get away from his brother, Esau, who threatened to kill him. In Vayislach, Jacob, who has lived for twenty years in Haran, starts to travel back to Canaan (which is now known as Israel).   He decides to warn Esau, that he is returning, so, he sends messengers (angels) to Esau. Jacob in return receives a warning that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men, and he becomes very worried.
So, what does Jacob do with his time before he meets his brother? Does he count the minutes? Does he walk around and complain and fret? No, he comes up with a plan and he executes it.
He divides his family and possessions into two groups. This is to give at least some of them a chance to survive, should the first be attacked. You may not like the concept of “rating” his family and possessions by choosing who would be most in danger, but for now let’s focus on the fact that he did something.
Then Jacob prayed. Again, that may not be what you would do, but he did something meaningful and calming to him. Jacob reminded God (and perhaps himself) that He had told Jacob to return to his land and his relatives and promised to do good with him.
Then Jacob sent gifts to his brother. A large gift of two hundred she-goats, twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty nursing camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty she-donkeys and ten he donkeys. Besides being a very generous gift he made a plan to deliver the gift in stages. Servants were to divide up the animals into groups. Each time Esau was to meet a servant with animals the servant was to tell him that these animals were a tribute sent to Esau and that Jacob was coming on his way.
Jacob’s plan was clearly to soften his brother and hope that the time that had passed and the gifts that kept coming would lead to a new relationship so that Jacob would not have to be afraid for his life and could settle with his family in his ancestral land.
While Jacob was waiting in Haran, he also did not just wait for his time to return home. He started a family, he learned a trade and he built a life. When the time came to actually go home, he didn’t just run into the future, he planned for it. He sent his brother word and he planned out what he considered the best way to meet his brother.
Waiting at a bus stop or for an event to happen, we can just wait or we can do something with our lives. We can listen to a podcast, read a book, or think out a plan. Wishing for the bus or an event to come, does not make it happen. Let’s take a lesson from Jacob and use our time constructively.
We all need to get on with life. But, just as Jacob did not just rush home, when the time came, we also need plans. And sometimes we need to reevaluate our plans and reevaluate those plans.  Of course plans by themselves are not so helpful. We need also to execute the plans.
Waiting, even today, in our fast paced environment is inevitable. And we all want the best possible outcome from any event and every single day of our lives. So, let’s follow Jacob’s lead and use our time to plan for the best possible future for ourselves and those around us.
Marcia Goldlist is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online. She was the author of one of the blog postings selected for the Second Quarter 5779 Jewish Values Online Best Blogs.
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
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