When my family first moved to Israel some twenty years ago, my father asked my little brother what he thought the most important thing to have in Israel was (he was hoping for an answer like 'family'). My brother thought hard and finally answered: Savlanut ("patience").

Surely, there is a lesson in those broken tablets.

This Thursday is the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple, and marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B'Av.

But the day also commemorates the destruction of the twin tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Seventeenth of Tammuz occurs forty days following the holiday of Shavuot. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and remained up there for forty days. The Children of Israel built the Golden Calf on the afternoon of the sixteenth of Tammuz, when it seemed that Moses was not coming down when promised. Moses descended the next day (forty days by his count), saw that the Israelites were violating many of the laws he had received, and smashed the tablets.

I often wonder about those broken tablets. In spite of the terrible events that transpired - the Golden Calf, the smashing of the tablets and the aftermath - in the end Moses went back up Mount Sinai and brought back another set (cut by Moses this time). Both the first shattered set of tablets and the second unbroken set were stored in the Ark of the Covenant as an eternal reminder of what transpired.

Surely, there is a lesson in those broken tablets, and I keep going back to the story I was told in Hebrew school. The people had waited for forty days for Moses to return and were growing very impatient. They franticly went to Aaron, Moses' brother, urging him to do something. Aaron tried a stall tactic, having the people bring him their gold, but it backfired and produced the Golden Calf instead.

I keep thinking that this whole terrible episode could have been averted if the people had just been a little more patient. Had the Israelites waited just one more day, Moses would have returned with God's tablets (the original ones) and the story would have ended quite happily right there and then.

I also thought about Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, when he too used a stall tactic last month to delay a decision on the opening of a municipal parking lot near Jerusalem's Old City on Shabbat. Barkat first decided that the

"Savlanut" is the most important thing to have in Israel.

controversial parking lot would remain closed for two Sabbaths as City Hall sought to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution with the Eidah HaHareidit. It appeared City Hall complied with a police department suggestion to keep the parking facility closed until a solution was reached, in order to avoid confrontations between the Hareidi community and police. The mayor then gave negotiations a two-week extension. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the last thing the public wants or needs is violence, and that's why the mayor took his time.

We all talk about sovlanut ("tolerance"), but before we can get there we need to have some savlanut, just a little patience. My little brother was right, savlanut is the most important thing to have in Israel. It doesn't matter if you are waiting for your leader to descend from a mountain or if you are waiting for a verdict on a parking lot. A little patience followed by a little tolerance can really ease tensions.

It's worth thinking about that this 17th of Tammuz. And if you feel you are short on patience and tolerance, take two tablets.