Friday, September 21

Think when, not if

I'm doing research for a column here at work when I came across an interesting blog, interesting at least to me. It's news and views from the rabbi of an Orlando shul.

The blog postthat caught my eye was about what the rabbi called "a rather extraordinary commandment" at the beginning of a week's torah portion.

Here's what the rabbi had to say:

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo (Deut 26:1 - 29:8) begins with a rather extraordinary commandment, and one that contains interesting lessons for those who lead communities and organizations.

When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God will choose to establish His name. You shall go to the kohen in charge at that time and say to him “I acknowledge this day before the Lord your God that I have entered the land that the Lord swore to our fathers to assign to us.”

The kohen shall take the basket from you hand and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. You shall then recite as follows before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. The Lord freed us from Egypt by a might hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, by signs and portents. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, oh Lord, have given me.” (Deut. 26:1-10)

A little strange, isn’t it? Remember where this is being said: Moses has led the people out of Egypt, they have endured many trials and hardships, have wandered in the desert for forty years, and stand now on the other side of the Jordan River, preparing to enter into the Land of Israel. Remember, too, that Moses and the generation that came out of Egypt are condemned to perish in the Wilderness, not entering the Land. Remember further that there are many tribes and nations that currently make their home in this Land promised to the People Israel.

What strikes me as enduringly strange is how God is commanding the people to bring an offering from crops that have not yet been planted, grown on land that is not yet cultivated, from soil that is not owned by them, and where none of them have even set foot!....
(I edit out the first two lessons that the rabbi draws from this passage- snip)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a leader always projects an attitude of optimism and hope.Think of the very first word of these verses: “When you enter the land.” Not if, but when. There may be armies arrayed against us and constant complaining from inside our own group, we may have a strong urge inside us to turn and go back to the slavery we know and are comfortable–yet a true leader always says When, not If. Giving hope, encouragement, always being positive and uplifting, these are the traits of a leader.

The point of this story. So what have you been training for? Finishing a marathon. Qualifying for Boston. Setting a new PR.

Think when, not if.


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