In the 1970s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open a business. They wrote a business plan for a bagel delivery company. Fortunately for dessert-lovers, that business didn’t do too well. They switched direction, opening an ice cream factory. Mr. Toyoda spent the 1920s trying to build a fabric weaving loom. After ten years of struggle, he switched direction—starting the Toyota car company in 1937.
William Wrigley founded his company in 1891 selling baking soda and soap, but not terribly successfully. Discovering that chewing gum sold better, he switched direction. Many modern companies like Google and Apple have similarly made major changes.
Families also switch directions. Parents unhappy with their children’s friends move to another neighborhood. Sometimes a husband and wife switch directions to escape the unhealthy rut into which their marriage has fallen.
Switching directions can save a floundering firm or a failing family. Nevertheless, conceiving of the new corporate direction or family makeover is incredibly difficult. We all tend to think the current way is the only way. How to escape these shackles and open up limitless possibilities?
The fourth book of the Torah, opens with these words:
And the Lord spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai…
After setting the scene “in the desert of Sinai” the book continues with a detailed census of the Israelites followed by an equally detailed description of how the Israelite campsite must be laid out.
Isn’t it odd that the Children of Israel are to be counted when the Torah records God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 15:5 and 22:17) and to Jacob (Genesis 32:13) that their descendants will be too numerous to count?
Second, why spend so much time arranging the camp site when, at this point in the narrative, they are heading directly for the Promised Land? (Numbers 10:29) The decree of spending forty years in the desert hasn’t happened yet. Why worry about a few camping occasions until they reach Israel?
Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals how both the counting and the positioning are crucial preparations for the permanent settlement of the Land of Israel and the future of the Jewish people.
The Hebrew name for Numbers is Bamidbar, meaning “In the desert.” However, ancient Jewish wisdom offers a second name for the book, “Sefer haPekudim.” This can translate as “The Book of Numbers,” but Pekudim also means appointments, positions, purposes, or assignments, or the “Book of Assignments.”
It follows that the numbering and positioning in the first two chapters of Bamidbar share a function, namely establishing everyone’s physical position in the community as well as everyone’s purpose or assignment in the community. Switching direction from their earlier lives in slavery was essential if they were to succeed as a nation.
Determining how all the elements in the organization would dovetail is best accomplished in a desert!
In ancient Jewish wisdom a desert does not suggest a physical place like the Sahara, Kalahari or Mojave Deserts. In Hebrew, “midbar” or desert means barren emptiness. No sight of wildlife, no sounds of birds, nothing growing. Just the people and God.
This desert is a metaphor for a place of no distractions, no preformatted reality, and no life pattern into which the visitor must fit. It is the place open to almost anything. In other words, when having to develop a new paradigm for your family or your business, get yourself into a desert. Strip away all structure and let your imagination soar. It is a ‘place’ increasingly difficult to find in today’s world, and increasingly necessary to access.
There are only 24 hours left in our Appreciation Day Sale. Before heading into your desert, make sure you know how the world really works. Our low-priced library packs (Complete and PLUS) are always such a great value that we don’t often put them on sale. Right now, for only 24 more hours, prices are reduced by 15%. Act quickly and get incredible savings on hours of enjoyable growth and inspiration through understanding ancient Jewish wisdom. Invest in resources that provide practical application of God’s wisdom for your finances, family and community life. Bless yourself and others and choose the best direction for your life.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: Protecting the Planet…or People?
I’m not sure of a delicate way to put this, but I’d like to talk about toilets. You see, we were in Israel for the Biblical holyday of Sukot (Tabernacles) and in addition to the fantastic experiences we had (along with seeing our daughter, son-in-law, incredibly cute grandson, friends and relatives) I also had an environmental epiphany…READ MORE
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here
What response can I give my son when he states that he doesn’t believe in God?
Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE