You have a full day of leisure, so you set aside several tasks to perform around the house or in the neighborhood. At the end of the day, you’ve done barely half of what you planned. That is a result of forgetting the distilled wisdom of computer scientist and author Douglas Hofstadter: Here it is: “Hofstadter’s law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s law.”
Almost everything we wish for in this world — an end to foolish hatreds, eradicating disease, learning how best to educate, achieving peace — is subject to the same law. Sometimes we think the antidote is simply to speed things up. That rarely works, and we get a muddle rather than a solution. The key, instead, is patience and persistence.
Judaism schools us in waiting. “Better is the patient spirit than the lofty spirit,” taught Kohelet [Ecclesiastes 7]. In time, if we have patience, the things we hope for will be realized. But it will rarely be quick or painless; after all, Jews have been praying and working for redemption for an awfully long time. As a people fond of laws, perhaps we should include Hofstadter’s.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).