Wise Counsel

by Deanna Chart

This is based on Pirkei Avoth/Ethics of our Fathers, Chapter 2, Verse 7 and on the commentary of Rav Chaim of Volozhin.

 

"The more advice, the more wisdom."

 

Our sages would say, "Take advice and follow your own judgment." Although this statement appears to be contradictory, in fact, it reveals a great secret.

 

A person who is asked to give advice cannot see the whole picture because he or she is viewing the problem from "the outside." Put another way, he or she is not “in the shoes” of the person with the problem, whereas the person who actually has the problem is aware of "the inner details," but is too close to the situation to see the best solutions.

 

In this situation, the person seeking a solution is not objective enough to solve the problem. And although the adviser sees the problem objectively, he or she does not grasp the details of the surrounding issues.

 

Now we can understand the meaning of the saying, "Take advice and follow your own judgement."  Take advice from many different advisers who are known to be wise and in whom you have confidence in order to gain insight from each adviser’s perspective. It is as if each one holds one piece of the puzzle. Once you see it clearly through their eyes, you can render the best decision for your situation. (I would just add here that we’re not talking about taking advice from rabbis, as only 1 rabbi can be asked and his advice should be followed, whereas we can ask different advisers, who should be suitably qualified and/or be known to be wise and give good advice).

 

And this is why the Mishnah says, "The more advice, the more wisdom." This means that, in order to see a clear picture, we need to take the advice of many people. In the end, the composite opinion of each person will throw light on a solution. When we consider their collective opinion through the eyes of our own intimate grasp of the situation, we then have the capability to make a sound judgement.

 

TODAY AND IN THE FUTURE: Seek advice from a number of advisers until you achieve clarity.

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