Reading this week’s Torah portion, VaEtchana, I’m reminded of a class discussion from rabbinical school. It was 1999, I was entering the last year of my studies, and our dean challenged us to write a personal mission statement. Having completed my MBA, I understood the distinction between a vision statement and a mission statement: the former being what an individual or organization sees for the future and the latter an explication of how that vision will be achieved through the individual’s or organization’s actions.
My mission statement went something like, To work and serve for the betterment of family, people, and society. It felt very noble at the time. More than twenty years later, it still feels central to how I have lived—and how I live—my life.
The assignment came to mind today, both because we just commemorated Tisha B’Av, the day on which our people’s greatest calamities befell us, and because of this week’s Torah portion.
It begins with Moses’s anguish at not being allowed to enter the Land of Israel and moves swiftly to a restatement of the Ten Commandments and a reiteration of warnings against assimilation. Key to the reading is what we might call the Jewish people’s mission statement: Listen, Israel, God is our Lord, God is One. Love God your Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
Imagine if all our actions, regardless of our faith, exemplified this mission. Imagine if it connected us all, one to another, in a divine and absolute oneness. What might the world look like then?
On this Shabbat Chazon, this Shabbat of Vision, what is your mission? And how might our people’s mission provide you with clarity of purpose?