Patience and Timing by Dani Gross


The Gemara in Masechet Sukkah (31a) tells a story about a lady who came before Rav Nachman and said that the Reish Galuta (exilarch) and all the Rabbanim in his house were using a Sukkah that was stolen from her.  She cried and yelled, but Rav Nachman ignored her.  She asked Rav Nachman how he could ignore a woman whose father had 318 servants, but Rav Nachman still ignored her.  She continued to plead with him until he finally said to his students that she is only entitled to the value of the wood of her Sukkah.

Rabbi Yosef Grossman cites the ערוך לנר, who asks the following three questions:  First, why did Rav Nachman ignore the lady?  Second, why did the lady cite her lineage to Avraham Avinu (her “father,” who had 318 servants)?  Finally, why did he answer his students and not answer the lady directly?

The answer given is that the lady came to Rav Nachman on Yom Tov instead of waiting until after Yom Tov.  There is a Halacha that one cannot judge monetary disputes on Yom Tov; this is why Rav Nachman did not answer her.  The lady then thought that Rav Nachman was afraid to incriminate the Reish Galuta.  She therefore reminded him that Avraham Avinu commanded all his servants not to take anything from the land even though it was all to belong to his descendants.  Even though the land was, in theory, his, he was still very careful not to take what he did not fully own.  Similarly, the Reish Galuta was given power over the land by the Roman government, but that should not have given him the power to steal from the citizens he was governing.  This argument still did not sway Rav Nachman, as the Halacha about judging monetary disputes on Yom Tov was still in effect.  However, when Rav Nachman saw that her yelling might embarrass the Reish Galuta, he answered her in the form of a Shiur to his Talmidim.  The prohibition only extends to ruling in monetary cases, not in teaching the theory behind these rulings; this is why he told his students what she was entitled to instead of telling her directly.

The third Perek of Kohelet states, לכל זמן ועת לכל חפץ תחת השמים...עת לחשות ועת לדבר, “Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the sun…a time to be silent and a time to speak.”  This story illustrates these Pesukim.  We should learn the importance of timing and patience from this story.  When people ask their questions at improper times, they are not treated nicely, but when they wait until the appropriate times, they are treated politely.


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