The question is, who is your tribe, and why does it matter anyway?
The Book of Numbers takes great pains to describe how the Children of Israel moved through the desert in formation, carefully camping around the holy meeting tent according to their tribes: “[they] shall encamp, each man at his division, according to the flags of their fathers’ house, at a distance surrounding the Tent of Meeting” (Numbers 2:2). Each campsite was positioned in such a way that they were close to the others but still had privacy.
In a world of conflict we are often focused on unifying with one another at the expense of our own individuality. On the other hand, some people can express their individuality at the expense of being part of a community, and in doing so they lose all of the many benefits that come with joining the larger group.
This tribal formation has a deeper teaching; to be an individual but to have the deep confidence of knowing what your individuality means. To join with the larger community, but not to be afraid of losing yourself and your ideals in the process. To tap into a deeper confidence, knowing who you are and what you stand for, to be unafraid to wave your flag high, but still to be respectful of the other tribes nearby, and to live peacefully with them.
There is a huge benefit to knowing your tribe in the business world. Time and again we see that the companies who enjoy the greatest success are those who offer their product or service to a specific tribe (i.e. Apple), whereas those who fail or begin to fall over typically do so because they fail to be specific about who they are reaching out to.
Kabbalistic wisdom explains how each tribe corresponded to a different part of the body, a different sign of the Zodiac, a different letter in the Hebrew alphabet, a different sefirah (Divine quality) and so forth. The teachings go deeper and deeper but we will focus on just one today.
There is a cost to defining our tribe – knowing who we are, who we align with, what are values are, and what we stand for. The cost is that in making one decision, we cut off other options (the word ‘decide’ means to ‘kill off’ other routes, e.g. the ‘cide’ is also found in genocide/suicide/fratricide etc).
But what do you stand for? Who are you really? When you are clear about this, and fly your flag high, it is inevitable that others will follow.
HOW TO APPLY THIS IN THE BOARDROOM: Who is your tribe when it comes to customers? How clear are you about the profile of your ideal customer? Who would you like to serve more than anyone else, and who is your product or service not appropriate for?
HOW TO APPLY THIS ON THE YOGA MAT/MEDITATION CUSHION: Where have you been hiding away from stepping into your true self? In a yoga pose, notice which positions you gravitate to – this could be standing poses, sitting poses or inversions. During an insight meditation (Zen-meditation style), hold the question; ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Where have I been holding back?’
Based on Parshat Bamidbar. For more information on Tribes and Kabbalah, visit www.inner.org or read Aryeh Kaplan’s Meditation and Kabbalah.