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Monday, 6 March 2017

What's your spiritual elevator pitch?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 42

What are the most important words in the English language?  What are the most important words in any language?  If you could master one phrase in every language, what would it be?

I used to think my one master phrase would be ‘thank you.’  Imagine knowing how to give gratitude in every language, to any person at any time in any place.  What cross-cultural bridges you could build!  How this world would be a happier, more appreciative place to live!

Rav taught: If one sells a field using witnesses, the purchaser may claim even from encumbered property (i.e. property with a lien against it).
The Gemara asks: Did Rav really say that?  For we learned, ‘One who loans his friend using a contract may collect from encumbered property.  But using witnesses, he may collect only from unencumbered property!’
The Gemara answers: Can you compare loans to sales?  Regarding loans, when a person borrows he does so privately, in order that his property values not depreciate (on account of the perception that he is cash-strapped and eager to sell).  In contrast, one who sells land does so publicly, in order that word of the sale should spread (thereby maximizing the potential sale price)!

The Almighty placed us here on Earth with a special mission: transform the world into a Divine abode.  Put differently, transform the physical into the spiritual.  From the beginning of humankind, we’ve been working at making this world a place for G-d.  That’s what Adam and Eve did.  That’s what Noah and family did.  That’s what Shem and Ever did.

But then along came our patriarch and matriarch, Avraham and Sarah, and revolutionized the job.  They said to themselves, ‘It’s one thing for us to occupy ourselves in the Divine mission.  But imagine if we could motivate others to also devote themselves to the Divine mission!”  And that they did, travelling throughout the region, selling the message of monotheism, and maximizing their effectiveness in transforming this world.

And we, as their children, inherited this important role from Avraham and Sarah.  We are now entrusted with the task of telling the world about the greatness of Hashem!  And encouraging our own brothers and sisters to be part of our national mission!

In essence, our mission is to sell “G-d” to the world; to let everyone know that they are not here randomly.  That G-d needs them to fulfill His ultimate purpose for the universe.  And as far as encouraging our brothers and sisters goes, the goal is to pitch them on the unique role of the Jewish people in making this place a dwelling place for the Divine!

But like our Gemara teaches, when you’re selling something, you want as many people to know as possible.  You don’t want to keep it a secret; otherwise nobody will be on hand to purchase your goods!  If that’s true of material goods, it is certainly true of spiritual sales!  Sometimes we’re tempted to go about our religious business and keep it as private as possible.  But how can you sell a product that nobody knows about?

Baruch Hashem, we live in an era when we no longer need to be embarrassed to order kosher food to an office party.  If we need to pop out in the middle of the day to daven Mincha, our colleagues will respect us for our devotion.  Most employers understand when we need to leave early on a Friday afternoon to be home in time for Shabbos.  Not only are these moments okay to mention, but they’re opportunities to open up the conversation with colleagues and friends about our purpose on Earth.

Now, it goes without saying that Judaism doesn’t proselytize.  We don’t believe G-d wants everyone to be Jewish.  But He does want to have a relationship with all His children – Jews and gentiles alike!  And unless we educate them and ‘sell’ them on the important of G-d in their lives, they’ll miss out!

Anyone in sales will tell you that one of the first things you need is an elevator pitch.  Sometimes you only get a minute or two with a potential client (like when you’re riding an elevator together).  How do you condense your message into a core lesson that you can impart to as many people as possible? 

Let’s return to the question of the most important phrase in the English language, or indeed in any language: I used to think the most important words were ‘thank you.’  However, I now believe the primary message is ‘G-d needs you.’  If I had just one message to convey to everyone and anyone I came into contact with, it’s that G-d needs them.  That’s why He created us.  That’s why He sustains us.  Because He wants you to accomplish great things in this world and partner with Him in making this world a Divine abode!

What’s your spiritual elevator pitch?  How do you get as many people as possible to know about the out-of-this-world message you were sent here to ‘sell?’  May you be a true heir to Avraham and Sarah and make this world a dwelling place for the Almighty!