Friday, 20 October, 2017 - 1:13 pm

I know a principal of a high school who told me that he always waits at least one full day before administering serious punishment to misbehaving students.  That way, he explained, I know I am not acting out of angry impulse, but from measured discipline.

When I read this week’s Torah portion, Noach, and remembered that G-d asked Noach to build the ark to prepare for the flood, I learned a great lesson in patience.

G-d was angry with the behavior of mankind. He wished to destroy the world. He decided that He would spare Noach and his family, but the rest would perish.

Yet G-d does not mete out His plan for another 120 years! Yes, G-d waits one hundred twenty years before the flood actually begins.  Certainly, G-d need not be concerned with the human frailties of my friend the principal.  But G-d still chose to postpone.

I gleaned a double-lesson from this.  Even though G-d was not susceptible to our mood swings, He still wants us to learn about patience.

And He also wants us to recognize that the key is not punishing the wicked, but rather influencing them to mend their ways.  The Almighty gave a 120-year warning to the citizens of the world, by way of Noach’s record-breaking ark construction (have any construction projects lingered longer?). Every time someone asked Noach what he was up to, the reply would be a warning of things to come. “Mend your ways and I will abandon my task,” Noach would say.

So maybe, my friend’s insistence on delaying punishment was not only good measure for himself, but also a lesson to students about the opportunities for redemption.

And maybe, the next time I am challenged by bad behavior from my children or others, I need to think about patiently guiding them to change.

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