The most ubiquitous phenomenon in my Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon is not the prevalence of English speakers, although there are a lot of us. No, it’s the white triangle with the blue letter lamed atop the cars signaling the presence of a student driver. They are everywhere. And, invariably, right in front of me. On their very first driving lesson, no less.
It appears that our lovely neighborhood also has a large percentage of the driving features which the student will have to negotiate during their actual driving test. If they master it here, they will hopefully be successful when they have the driving test examiner seated next to them. So, if you are one day watching an Israeli driver in shock and wondering, “Where on earth did they learn to drive!?!”, you now know the answer. Katamon.
And if you are in a hurry (and I always am) it is more than distressing to be behind a cautious student driver proceeding at approximately 20kph. It is tempting to try and pass, but, for one thing, that is usually impossible on narrow Jerusalem roads and, additionally, since these fledgling motorists frequently are unpredictable, passing could be dangerous. So, one sits and stews and thinks all sorts of unpleasant things about the driver ahead and about how unfair it is that the various driving schools can’t somehow distribute those lameds more equitably around the city!
However, there is an alternative to these ungenerous and unpleasant reactions. One could, in fact, exercise patience and tolerance. The savlanut and sovlanut muscles are unfortunately underused. But I have been thinking that in my car, crawling along, I might work at flexing these muscles and work on my hostility and resentment. Of course, one could begin by imagining that it’s your own child (or, better yet, grandchild) in the car ahead. That would certainly reduce the antipathy. It’s at least a start.
And, of course, there is the thought that “well everyone has to learn to drive at some time.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t work so well for me since I wonder how it is that Israelis, who have to take so many driving lessons (and all in my neighborhood), don’t end up better drivers after all that investment of time and money. Still, I can imagine that, perhaps, without the lessons it might be much worse!
So, I have decided to work on my manner of relating to the student drivers of Katamon. Perhaps, if we all would introduce more patience and tolerance into the world in our own small ways, it might result in a ripple effect. If the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause change, then perhaps greater savlanut and sovlanut might result in:
…Our children or grandchildren finding that their teachers begin to display greater patience and understanding towards them when they fail to grasp a subject as quickly or thoroughly as other students, and recognize that children learn in different ways, speeds, and with different abilities.
…Someone being a little less annoyed when the customer just ahead in the grocery line who has already begun to check out discovers that they have forgotten “just one important item” that happens to be in the back of the store. The customer might even be me.
(Do I begin to hear strains of John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the background?)
…Drivers waiting patiently and with a smile at a cross walk, as an old person or someone physically handicapped slowly makes their way across the street.
…Two people in a heated discussion allowing each other to finish a thought or a sentence without abruptly breaking in.
…The clerical worker in the kupat cholim understanding that it might take a little longer for the confused oleh chadash on the other side of the desk to fill out the forms correctly.
You can now proceed to fill in any appropriate situation where you would like to see people practicing greater forbearance, compassion, and empathy.
In last week’s Torah portion of Ki Tissa, we have the 13 Attributes of God which were revealed to Moses after the sin of the Golden Calf. One of those attributes is His long-suffering and forbearance. God tolerates our foibles and failings and patiently awaits our self-improvement and repentance.
So, just maybe, if we practice these qualities of patience and tolerance, we can hope for some of the same from those with whom we share our lives and even from God himself. Because, in a sense, we are all student drivers, cruising through life trying to get it right, making errors, learning from our experience and hoping that we reach our destination successfully.