Our Middat HaShavuah this week reminds us to be flexible. It comes from this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, where Abraham demonstrates his flexibility in letting his nephew Lot choose the direction in which he prefers to settle when they arrive in Canaan. Abraham says to Lot:

אִם-הַשְּׂמֹאל וְאֵימִנָה, וְאִם-הַיָּמִין וְאַשְׂמְאִילָה 

(בראשית יג:ט)  

“Is not all the land before you? Pray part from me! 

 If to the left, then I to the right, if to the right, then I to the left.”

(Genesis 13:9)

Being flexible is an important character strength, and there are numerous sources in our tradition where our rabbis remind us of the importance of being flexible. For example, in a later section of the Torah, Rashi, in commenting on a verse found in Deuteronomy 6:18, where it says, “that which is right and good”, famously says: “This refers to a compromise, acting beyond the strict demands of the law.” In other words, sometimes doing the right thing requires us to compromise and go beyond the letter of the law. Being principled and following rules is important, but often in life we are called upon to be flexible. In Hebrew, the concept of flexibility is called גְמִישׁוּת – Gimishut. The ability to compromise can often contribute to better interactions and relationships among people. Being flexible can often lead to better outcomes for everyone involved. Every day, we are faced with difficult choices to make in our lives. We can stand our ground, be obstinate, and dig in our heels, or we can compromise and be flexible. We need the ability to do both, because, at times we need to stand firm and at other times we need to be flexible. But most importantly, we need discernment and good judgment as to when to choose one over the other.

Shabbat Shalom,

Moreh Alan