A neighbor of mine is passionate about sports and the father of four young boys. Even though I’m only a casual acquaintance, I can see how different each of his sons is. Though the third boy clearly has the soul of an artist and just wants to be left alone to draw and paint, he is herded into the backyard for touch football games along with his brothers. I watch this young boy’s spirit being crushed when his ineptitude with a football costs him his father’s esteem. All too easily we mistakenly assume that just because people share one feature such as, “they’re all my sons,” they are therefore identical.
Similarly in business, we segment customers by clever marketing criteria. Then, because they live in the same zip code or read the same magazines, we mistakenly assume they all share identical desires and priorities. Likewise, we share many characteristics, ideas, and actions with our friends, relatives, and colleagues but we can trip up when we forget that notwithstanding the similarities, each of us is unique.
Scripture teaches this vital lesson in human interaction. When the Tabernacle is completed, God directs Moses to allow the heads of each tribe to bring a gift, one leader after another on successive day. (Numbers 7:11)
In six long verses, the Torah then relates that on the first day Nachshon, of the tribe of Judah, brought a silver bowl and a silver basin containing flour and oil, accompanied by a gold ladle filled with incense. Rounding up the gift were twenty-one different animals. (Numbers 7:12-17)
The next six verses inform us that on the second day Netaneil, of the tribe of Issachar, brought his offering. Would you believe that he brought exactly the same items, even with identical dimensions? (Numbers 7: 18-23) The following six verses tell of the third day, the only difference being the name of the leader and tribe. (Numbers 7: 24-29)
So it goes for seventy-two interminable, repetitive verses. Twelve heads of twelve tribes on twelve successive days brought exactly the same gift. (Numbers 7:12-83).
Don’t you agree that it would have been more concise for the Torah to have said, “And these are the names of the heads of the tribes each of whom brought the following gift.” The next six verses could then detail the gift. Doing so would have saved us reading over sixty repetitive verses.
Well, had the Torah been written by humans and edited by humans, that is probably what they would have done. But instead it is God’s message to mankind and each passage is written in the best way to convey vital information about how the world REALLY works. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us how to decode it.
The message here is that while it is true that each tribal leader brought the same items, each gift was still distinct. The spiritual symbolism of the different items was understood differently by each man. God, who created and cherishes every human being separate from all others does not lump them all together. What a lesson for us! Just because people are superficially similar or seem to do similar things, it is wrong to assume they are identical.
This is a powerful message for us as parents, as friends and as business professionals. Whether in personal interaction, by phone or by email, it is good to let each person in our lives know that he or she is not being treated in a standardized, bureaucratic way.
Of course, because your income depends on how usefully you serve as many people as possible, you frequently can’t relate to customers individually. However, everyone wins when you seize opportunities as they present themselves to acknowledge a customer as a cherished, unique person. I know that many of you benefit from using the principles from one of our best-selling audio CDs, Boost Your Income: 3 Spiritual Strategies for Success, to increase your own communication and collaboration with others. Those principles make a difference in my life and remind me that while Thought Tools currently goes out to over 30,000 subscribers, each and every one of you relates to it in your own inimitable fashion.
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