Welcome to week 2 of my new exercise: applying the weekly teachings of the Torah to modern life, branding/marketing and, occasionally, the Middle East Conflict. The Torah is considered the “blueprint of Creation”; I believe it’s also a wireframe for today’s global and digital society.
Last week’s portion, Metzora, teaches that it’s always possible for someone who has become spiritually “impure” by committing an act of wrongdoing, to be forgiven. Someone who distances himself from his community (or from God) is offered an opportunity to turn the situation around by attaching oneself to the Torah, which acts like a spiritual lighthouse guiding lost souls away from the abyss. Those who choose to climb out of the darkness are rewarded for the effort – but it does require an effort. Forgiveness doesn’t come instantly, but requires remorse, sacrifice and willingness to undergo a process.
Relation to Social Change: The Ability to Turn Things Around
Whoever said there’s no such thing as second chances hasn’t read this Torah portion. Every single day is a chance to turn it all around; a chance for “salvation to sprout.” This is an extremely empowering concept on an individual level; we are allowed to make mistakes and by recognizing those mistakes, we have the power to transform a negative into a positive.
Consider the implications of this on a macro level: entire groups of people may be forgiven and large-scale social change can take place. For social entrepreneurs, this belief is sometimes taken for granted; it’s pretty reassuring to see it referenced in scripture dating back centuries.
The organization Seeds of Peace incorporates this concept into its conflict-resolution efforts. Their approach to peace relies on the connection of people, as opposed to governments. By establishing connections and creating relationships amongst groups who are otherwise divided by hate, Seeds of Peace keeps hope alive by believing it’s never too late to change the conversation. It’s extremely difficult to retain this perspective, especially if you’re living in an area of conflict. But those committed to enacting real change and in bringing peace, the possibility of TRANSFORMATION is of utmost importance.
Relation to Branding: The Value of Humility
Humility = the truth; if you humble yourself, there’s no need to be humiliated by others. The modern trend in branding in which companies and organizations make themselves fully transparent to their users in order to build trust, takes this teaching quite seriously.
Companies like Everlane, with its tagline of “Radical Transparency”, The Honest Company and Innocent all place a value on authenticity and accountability, which translates directly into real business value via consumer loyalty. These brands essentially “humble themselves” and forge an emotional connection with the consumer, establishing a relationship built on trust.
The Value of Work, Patience and Appreciating the Process
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and forgiveness isn’t rewarded to those who simply admit to their wrongdoing. It requires remorse and appreciation for what has been committed. I can’t help but make a comparison to the Catholic concept of Confession as an absolution of sin. The path toward forgiveness in the Torah is more rugged, and seems to require more of a personal investment and sacrifice in order for the sin to be truly absolved. The constant struggle for self-improvement and a kind of moral “rugged individualism” is endorsed here. Here, we see an overlap in Jewish and American values. Great opportunities exist, but they require hard work and perseverance.