The Hebrew word for patience is סבלנות, pronounced sav•la•noot. I learned the word when my brother was in nursery school; it seemed the teacher used the word with him in those days. I had occasion to use it with three-year-old Leah recently when she got into the loop of asking when we were going to the park. “Soon,” “When Grandpa gets back,” “After your nap,” did nothing to short circuit the loop. When three-year olds want something they want it NOW! (So do 67-year-olds but we’ve learned to curb the agitation. Outwardly, anyway.)
Thinking back to my brother I said, “Savlanut, Leah. Have a little savlanut.” I could have been offering her a plate of spanikopita for all she knew. “Do you know what savlanut is, Leah?” She looked up and me and replied, “God?” Out of the mouths of babes.
Leah sensed I was using a Hebrew word, and she knew that Hebrew had to do with synagogue and synagogue had to do with God. It was a perfectly logical guess. I love it when my children’s and grandchildren’s innate leaps of wisdom stop me in my tracks. They cut away all the clutter and get right to the essence. Jewish tradition holds that there are seventy names for God among them: Shepherd, Healer of the Sick, Master of the Universe. Why not Patience?
I imagine if I were the Divine I would often look down and think, “Again? Again you haven’t learned to get along? Still bickering, stil polluting? Still taking lives? How many more millennia is it going to take? OK, so I’ll wait some more.” Maybe there are days the One Who Sees leans micro. Divine patience is offered in silent compassion to a couple struggling with infertility or a patient aching to be well.
I went over to Leah and told her that savlanut meant patience and that she was right it is a Hebrew word. “And,” I continued, “I think Patience is a great name for God, too.” With that, I got her sneakers and we headed out to the park. On the way, we called Grandpa to meet us there.