Turning Away from Scarcity and Toward Abundance
by Allison Fine
[Editor's Note: The following post was delivered as a d'var Torah at a meeting of the URJ's North American Board at the URJ Biennial on Dec. 11, 2013.]
I write about how organizations can become communities using social media to spread the good stuff around. For the last 10 years, I’ve been trying to answer the following question: What does it take to turn organizational default settings from negative to positive? Meaning how do we automatically say yes rather than no, how do we become more open than closed, how can we look for opportunities rather than problems? In summary: How do we turn away from scarcity and toward abundance?
I’ll come back to this question in a bit.
Va-y’chi is the last parashah in the Book of Genesis. It’s the end of patriarchs and matriarchs. On his deathbed, Jacob blesses Joseph and, surprisingly, blesses Joseph’s children, Manasseh and Ephraim, who are strangers to him. He said, “God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” And not only does Jacob bless his grandsons but he intentionally blesses the second son, Ephraim, as if he were the firstborn. Why?
Ephraim means “double fruitfulness,” and he was known as being selfless and humble. Joshua would come from Ephraim’s line of descendants. Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s children creates a line of continuity to people he didn’t know, a future he wouldn’t live to see, but one he could hope for: a people that became abundant and fruitful. Of course, we have never been without significant hardships and obstacles, but by never losing faith in G-d and always, ultimately, coming back to our fundamental goodness, we have thrived.
And this is our charge again today: to overcome significant obstacles in this moment of disruption while never losing wavering in our faith or our best instincts.
We have as many possible pathways forward as Jacob had sons and grandsons. The future is never a straight line forward, that’s what makes it unknowable. We need to find the hereditary line of Ephraim, the one filled with humility and selflessness that will lead us towards a great and abundant nation.
Back to my original question of how we change our default settings from scarcity to abundance.
After 10 years and as the immediate past president of a congregation, here is what I’ve learned: The key is “being” something that feels great, and leverages our natural strengths, like being generous and kind and empathic and focused on building relationships.
Being this way turns into doing great things. When you look at your work through this lens of abundance and generosity good things will happen – your congregations will feel that they matter to you, people will go more not less than they have to, ideas, resources, capital will flow through the networks you create and a cascade of goodness will follow.
Please write your own blessing. What blessings do you want to leave for future generations through the work you are doing today?
My blessing and my hope is that today is an opportunity to imagine the world through a lens of abundance not scarcity, through generosity not selfishness, to infuse this work with our best instincts and spirits.
Allison Fine is the co-author of the bestselling The Networked Nonprofit and author of the award-winning Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age. She is also the author of Social Citizens Beta and a co-editor of Rebooting America.