“Before I started learning Torah, I thought the whole world was deficient except me. After I started learning, I saw that the whole world consisted of sinners including me. Now that I’ve learned some more, I realize I’m a sinner and I must judge the rest of the world favorably.”
“When I first started learning Mussar, I wanted to change the world, but found it was hard to do that, so I tried to change my town. I couldn’t change my town, so I tried to change my family. I wasn’t able to change my family and finally I realized that I could only change myself.”
These quotes are both attributed to R Yisrael Salanter. I know there are other variations out there, as well.
I found myself thinking of these quotes in shul this past Shabbos morning. Why? Because I found myself losing my patience and getting frustrated. It was good thing that this week, thanks to the Tomer Devorah chabura I’m involved with, I’ve been working on patience/tolerance. We learned that even when a person uses free will and make the choice not to serve Hashem and commit an aveira, Hashem never stops being patient.
My take on both of the “quotes” of R Yisrael Salanter is that it all starts and stops with me. RYS starts off by saying that when he started learning and ends off with how he must judge others and/or change himself.
People will do what they will do and it may go against halacha or what I view as common-sense derech eretz and it stinks, but patience is key. By exercising that middah we emulate Hashem and attach ourselves to him. I know there are many areas that I fall short in, but Hashem’s patience with me is everlasting.
That being written, it’s not always easy to look the other way, hoping that someone will eventually get a clue. While not a fan of confrontation, I am a fan of finding a proactive way to fix problems that doesn’t involve complaining to myself. Sometime, like, now, the only fix is to attempt to set an example, even if I am the only one who notices the effort I put forth in regard to being patient.