Becoming a Visionary
Do you have a vision of your life in, say, 10 years? What
dreams and aspirations would you like to see fulfilled?
(And this is not about how much money you want to make...).
Do you have an overall vision for your life, or is you life
driven and defined by the needs and demands of the moment?
No enterprise or business can function without a vision
statement. Can you? A life with vision is dramatically and
radically different than and a life without it. The former
is guided by a unifying principle; the latter, by random
circumstances. Vision provides direction. Lack of vision
is aimless. Can you imagine driving without seeing the road
ahead, without knowing where you want to reach? Do you control
the details of your life, or do the details control you?
Do you ever wonder what your life would look like from a
birds' eye view? What is the bigger story of your life,
rather than the frame-by-frame chapters? And what will the
picture look like years from now – when you can see
your life in retrospect?
The name of this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, means
“see,” or “behold.” In one word we are being told that we
each have the power to be a visionary.
By no means is this a minor statement.
Usually we think of visionaries as rare beings. Governments,
monarchies and institutions throughout history have been
build on the premise that most people, consumed with daily
survival, preoccupied with petty details, are not equipped
– or for that matter interested – to be leaders,
or even educated enough to choose good leaders.
Some thinkers have expressed outright disdain and condescension
toward the “masses,” dismissing them, in Voltaire’s
words, as "la canaille” [the rabble],
a phrase used to denigrate the masses. “As for the
canaille,” Voltaire told d'Alembert, “I have no concern
with it; it will always remain canaille… [without]
the time and the capacity to instruct themselves; they will
die of hunger before they become philosophers.... We have
never pretended to enlighten shoemakers and servants; that
is the job of the apostles.” Diderot couldn’t
have agreed more. “The general mass of mankind,”
he wrote, “can neither follow nor comprehend this
march of the human spirit.” Diderot believed that
we must distrust the judgment of the “multitude”
in matters of reason and philosophy because “its voice
is that of wickedness, stupidity, inhumanity, unreason and
prejudice.” “The multitude,” he concluded,
is “ignorant and stupefied.”
Other, less elitist, scholars have not been quite so heartless,
but still hold that the masses are not fit for leadership
or choosing leaders. Take the USA’s electoral college.
It is built on the basis that the general population is
not able to wisely choose leaders; they therefore vote for
their local Electors, who in turn are more educated and
suitable to choose the right leader.
Even in our so-called modern age, in which democracy thrives,
the debate still rages amongst theorists what capacity the
average “Joe,” the common citizen, has when
it comes to leadership, direction and looking at the bigger
picture. Cynics, many of whom actually lead political campaigns,
argue that with well-tuned marketing, advertising and manipulation
of the media, people can be convinced to believe virtually
If this is true about basic leadership, where does that
leave visionaries? Few and far between. When was the last
time you met a visionary – someone who was able to
see the forest from the trees?
Yet, this week’s Torah chapter unequivocally tells each
and every one of us: “Behold,” “see” – you have the power
to step back from the details of your life, to transcend
your immediate circumstances, to focus and discover the
vision of your life.
"Behold" is one of the most powerful words we
will ever hear. It means that you have a choice. As difficult
as it may seem, you are not doomed. You need not be consumed
and overwhelmed with the pedestrian concerns of the struggle
to survive. Left to our own accord, we humans will usually
gravitate to the easiest option, which is to our materialistic
needs and immediate impulses and desires. If this means,
living in the moment and not seeing the larger horizon and
the long (or even short) term consequences of our behavior
for the sake of instant gratification – so be it.
The greatest casualty of this myopia is, of course, ourselves.
The directive “behold” gives each of us the mandate – and
the power – to be a visionary in our own right. You have
the ability, should you choose to access it, to climb up
and see your life in perspective.
But how? How can we rise above the multitude of forces
that dominate our lives; the constant demands and expectations
placed upon us; the psychological wounds and ghosts that
haunt us; the fears and insecurities plaguing our psyches?!
“Behold” informs us that despite all these voices, you
have within another most powerful voice. But it may have
been silenced by the surrounding din; it may have gone undercover
due to the anxieties we have allowed to control us. This
voice is the song of your soul. And your soul contains a
vision – the vision of your entire life’s mission.
“Behold” you are told. Behold the larger picture, and then
allow it to inform the details of your life, rather than
the other way around.
This week you are given the power to become a visionary.
The first step is to believe in yourself and in your soul’s
capacity. The second step is to work on it – to establish
regimens in your daily schedule that allow your visionary
soul to emerge, to allow it to rear its head and breathe…
No different than your daily body exercises, your soul
too needs daily work. And in this material universe, you
need extra effort to draw out your soul.
When you begin to exercise your soul, you will be surprised
by the discovery of new tools that will help you discern
and establish the vision of your own life. Armed with this
vision your life will never be the same.
For practical steps and tools to discover your personal
vision/mission statement, please click
For an elaborate discussion on this topic, click here to view this week’s
class with Rabbi Jacobson.