I’m an expert at multitasking.

As soon as I start doing something, I automatically think of ten other things that I need to get to.

Yesterday afternoon my daughter said, “Mommy, come and sit with me.”

“In a few minutes,” I promised. But when I finally relaxed with her, the multitasking hadn’t stopped; I’d just relegated it to my head. While I listened to her, I was making mental notes of things I needed to accomplish after the kids were asleep.

It’s a dangerous addiction.

Can you think about what you really want out of life?Here’s the scam—multitasking is not always time effective! It tends to diffuse my focus. Beneath the illusion of control and efficiency is my resistance to be fully present to the details of life. Perhaps it’s a lack of appreciation for work in progress that breeds distraction and teases my mind with “more important” things to get to.

It’s easier to quantify the value of a final product. I want my kids to grow into healthy adults; but tonight’s dinner seems like only a small step in the process. I’d love to learn Torah; but studying today’s segment of the Torah portion isn’t interesting. My goal is to have an outrageous relationship; but today’s conversation isn’t going to make it or break it.

Can I value a work in progress?

Can you think about what you really want out of life? (It should make you smile.) Now think about what it would take to get there. (Exhausting!)

Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn (1860–1920) was the fifth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. His chassidic discourses were so soul-stimulating, so rich with brilliance and depth, that his students couldn’t get enough of them. One day, as the rebbe prepared to teach them, something happened to surprise him. The students were singing a deep and meditative song that is customarily sung before a chassidic discourse is taught. But the Rebbe sensed that the melody didn’t flow in the slow and reflective way that it was meant to be sung. His students were so eager to finish the song and hear the discourse that they were rushing through its sweet notes.

Instead of teaching a discourse, the Rebbe taught them a valuable life lesson:

If you can’t appreciate the song, you can’t appreciate the Torah. If you can’t be fully present in the preparatory stages, you won’t be fully present even when you arrive. Value the means towards the end.

Miraculously, the lot picked was always the perfect size for the matching tribeIn Kabbalistic lingo, accessing our core desires, what we really want out of life, is cultivating our portion of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. The word eretz shares a root with the Hebrew word ratzon, desire. Just like everyone’s passion and soul mission is unique, every family that entered the Holy Land was given a unique plot to cultivate.

Our individual calling and aspirations grow from a mosaic of variables: family dynamics, culture, work, and our personal strengths and challenges. Together they comprise our unique terrain, the most fertile terrain for the particular soul’s mission.

When the Jewish nation entered Israel, G‑d made it crystal clear to each tribe and every family which plot of land was theirs to cultivate. G‑d told Joshua to divide the land through lots. The names of the tribes were inscribed on twelve slips, and the twelve territories were written on another twelve slips. Miraculously, the lot picked was always the perfect size for the matching tribe. In the second round, Joshua subdivided the land to the families within the tribe; again, a perfect match each time.

“The inheritance shall be appointed between the numerous and the few by the mouth of the lot,” says G‑d.1

Rashi catches G‑d’s unusual verbiage—“by the mouth of the lot.” “The lot actually spoke out,” Rashi explains. As Joshua pulled out the paper, “the lot itself cried out and said, ‘I am the lot for such-and-such a tribe in such-and-such a territory.’”

Even without the talking, it was clear that the lots expressed G‑d’s plan for the division of the land. What was the purpose of the miraculously vocal lots?

G‑d evidently saw it important to place more value on the process of dividing the land. It wasn’t simply a pragmatic step in their immigration. It wasn’t just a reference guide, directing them to their individual mission. The division of land was so essential that G‑d fully invested Himself in its process. The lots not only exhibited the perfect match, they also spoke it. It was a visual and auditory experience for the nation, one that perhaps left a lifelong imprint.

In fact the talking lots left a millennia-long imprint. They spoke not only to the Jews entering Israel, but to all people who journey their way towards their portion in the land, their core life-desires. It’s a winding route getting there, a route that can seem so trivial, even disconnected from the target. Which makes it tempting to disconnect and distract from the scenic route.

Connect everyone’s highest destiny, and you’ll see a world of MoshiachSo G‑d goes all out when He matches the tribes to their new land. It would take years and decades before the tribe finally settled their land, and more time before they tilled the soil and fertilized the fields. But they remembered the voice of the lots: “I am your highest destiny—to reach me you’ll need to be very invested in my development.”

Connect everyone’s highest destiny, and you’ll see a world of Moshiach. In the time just before Moshiach is manifest, we are still a collective work in progress, a world in progress. The secret is how invested we can be in the process of global transformation. Sure, we’ll all value its impact when global Redemption is complete, but until then, how strong is our focus?

Here’s a meditation for addicted multitaskers like me:

If I’d only know how much G‑d is invested in my progress, I’d give each moment the attention it deserves.2