Glance Back; Continue Forward

I arrived in Israel Thursday morning and went right to the office. It was our company’s CEO’s last day, so I wanted to catch up with her and properly wish her well before she moves on. I primarily am here on a six-week assignment to help facilitate some necessary transitions.

That evening, I went to a reunion and reconnected with childhood friends; most of whom I haven’t seen for over forty-five years. My family lived in Ramat Gan (a suburb of Tel Aviv) back in the early seventies and I attended the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades with local Israeli kids. Those three years in Israel had a profound influence on the person I’ve become. And so, I wanted to go, albeit with a touch of excitement and trepidation.

Reunions accompany mixed feelings and actions as adult selves re-encounter their youthful versions. A few refused to attend (in protest?) because of resentments and emotional scars they still carry. Others came and proudly revealed successes they’ve achieved. Some assumed patterns of behaviors that were well-established as youngsters. As for me, I reaffirmed I was a foreigner then and remain so today. Even though I felt very accepted as a girl — and was graciously welcomed now as a grown woman — I know am “other.” And I’m okay with that reality. I’ve learned that being an outsider who can effectively mingle with insiders is a good skill to have developed. Simultaneously, being an insider who can see and understand what the outsider does, is even more beneficial. The ability to adapt and combine perspectives has served me well.

After a very full first day in the country, yesterday followed suit with a day of business meetings. And so today — the Sabbath — I truly feel I’ve earned a day of rest. Today I will sleep, read, meditate, and realign my entire being.

***

The Torah portion for this Sabbath is Sh’lach L’cha. God had promised the Land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham. Yet now, in this week’s chapter, Moses is told by God to “send for yourself” scouts into the land to check it out before entering. These “spies,” in turn, were each chosen to represent one of the twelve tribes. Together they go, conduct their surveillance, and come back with a report. Ten of them relay daunting and fearful information, which causes mass hysteria. Only two return with a “we can do this!” attitude. So what happens? The factions of the ten — the naysayers, the fearful, and those resistant to change — are doomed to wander the desert for forty years. The two with the optimism and vision earn the right to lead the younger generation into the Promised Land.

In many ways, I feel this story is an ironic joke. If God promised the land, why were the Israelites told to “check it out”? Where’s the faith and trust? Besides that — good, bad or indifferent — what’s the point of investigating? Isn’t this in category of “it is what it is”? Why did God invite doubt? On top of that, when the scouts do what they’re told and come back with an overwhelmingly negative report, why punish them? Were’t they obligated to honestly share their concerns with the people? Then, when the people respond with anxiety and regret, why banish them from tasting from the Land of Milk and Honey?

The cruel reality of this situation relates to the understanding of the roles of leaders. It starts with God essentially saying, “this is your land; now go, check it out, and make it work.” Leaders must look at opportunities, figure out how to maximize them, develop a plan, and then bring others on board. Generating buy-in often is THE key to success. The scouts had the power to gather data, spin the story, influence and then guide the members of their tribes. Instead turned them off. Once the people’s minds were made up, that was that.

And so, it became clear to God. The right people were not on the bus.

***

Today’s parasha and the last couple of days resonate….

  • Let the past inform, but not prevent you from moving forward.
  • Keep striving to be the best version of yourself, no matter what others do or say.
  • Have a vision of the future that is positive and motivating.
  • Be a leader (or surround yourself with leaders) who is mission-aligned, confident, communicative, and inspires participation. The team, in turn, should feel valued and supported.
  • Ensure you are on the bus with the right people. Those who live in the past, are afraid of change, or don’t have faith will ultimately ruin the journey for everyone.

Go forward and conquer!

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