In early January we tend to focus on the future. Yet, while New Year’s resolutions are not about reexamining last year’s failures, it is important to remember that there is no moving forward if we fail to integrate our past realities with our future plans. Our past realities shouldn’t haunt us and hinder us. But we do well to recognize them, adjust for them where necessary and reject the notion that they have the power to keep us anchored in an unchangeable present.
What is one of the most powerful tools for moving forward? Make meetings matter.
Genesis chapters 32-33 tell of Jacob and his family departing the home of his father-in-law, Lavan, on their way to encounter his brother Esau. Before he meets Esau, he is confronted by a vaguely sinister supernatural being who wrestles with him until dawn. This divine messenger delivers an injury to Jacob’s leg, then changes Jacob’s name to Israel and blesses him. Thereafter Jacob meets Esau, they appear to reconcile from their long-ago estrangement and Jacob continues on his way to Shechem.
Allow me to describe another Biblical story in Exodus 4. These circumstances concern Moses and his family departing the home of his father-in-law, Yitro, on the way to encounter his brother Aaron. Before he meets Aaron, Moses is confronted by God who seeks to kill him because he neglected to circumcise his younger son. Thereafter, Moses meets up with Aaron and together they embark upon the mission of rescuing the Children of Israel.
I am sure you spotted the similarities in these two stories. In each case, the hero is traveling from his father-in-law’s home. In each situation, the hero has his family with him and meets his brother. In both stories the hero experiences a mysterious, life-threatening encounter and then moves towards his destiny. Jacob returns to the Promised Land while Moses gathers the Elders and commences the process of national redemption.
When you remember that there is no concept of coincidence in Biblical thinking, these two parallel stories are interesting enough. What I am going to impart to you now, however, escalates it into the realm of mind-blowingly wild.
Ready? The Hebrew root word ‘to meet’ is PaGaSH. This word is used twice in each story.
…when my brother Esau meets you… – (Genesis 32:18)
…what did you intend by that entire camp that I met?… – (Genesis 33:8)
And it was on the road, at the hotel that God met him… – (Exodus 4:24)
…and he went and met him at the Mountain of God… – (Exodus 4:27)
The King James Bible incorrectly translates the last verse:
And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God… – (Exodus 4:27)
It is incorrect because the Hebrew text uses another word entirely—KoReH— for ‘…to meet Moses’ while it uses PaGaSH for ‘…met him’. If you regard Scripture merely as a narrative, then one ‘meet’ can be much like another ‘meet’. If Scripture is instead a complex encoded message to mankind, then every letter and every word is important. Hebrew possesses no exact synonyms. PaGaSH does not mean the same as KoReH.
What makes this mind-blowingly wild? These four instances are the ONLY usages of the word PaGaSH in the entire Five Books of Moses! That’s right. Whereas KoReH occurs about thirty times in the Torah, PaGaSh occurs only four times, twice in the Jacob story in Genesis and twice in the Moses story in Exodus.
The exclusive double use of PaGaSH in each story MUST link the stories. What is similar about Jacob and Moses? Jacob shaped the Hebrew family while Moses shaped the Jewish nation. The book of Genesis is the story of the evolution of the family of Jacob while the book of Exodus is the story of the evolution of the Israelite nation under Moses’ leadership.
What is the difference between Hebrew’s two words for meet? KoReH means a meeting that is a means to the end. As I was out walking the dog I happened to meet Tom and invited him to our party. PaGaSH means a meeting that is the end purpose. I went to meet Tom and invite him to become our CEO.
As we evolve and grow, whether on the micro level, our family, or on a macro level, our nation or any large organization of which we are a part, two truths endure. First, we have to integrate our origins and our history with our future and our destiny.
Even if our origins are not glorious, we have to know that they are a part of us and then move forward. Jacob’s father-in-law was an unpleasant scoundrel and his brother certainly meant him no good. Nonetheless, Jacob refused to settle for mediocrity and removed himself from his father-in-law’s home. Moses moved from settled domesticity with his father-in-law to an eventful encounter that taught him a lesson of priorities and toward a rewarding partnership with his brother Aaron.
Second, we have to arrange meetings that matter; meetings with powerful purpose. Jacob sought the meeting with his brother knowing that he could not move on until that relationship had been settled.
Moses’ meeting Aaron was not to have a brotherly discussion about the root causes of Egyptian anti-Semitism. They no sooner met then the two of them and the elders marched into Pharaoh’s palace. As we enjoy the early days of 2016 let’s not lose sight of last year and the years before that while we engineer the successes of this year by making all our meetings consequential.
Meetings between males and females are often much more consequential than we intend or realize. Gila Manolson’s book, Hands Off: This May Be Love will set you thinking—and send you to those meetings equipped to help them serve your best interests.