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Thursday, May 20, 2010


With life experience one develops a wider perspective on many issues. You have been there, you have done that, and now you should be ready to share it with others. It is a truly noble attitude and generous commitment. However, the advice must be genuine and disinterested. It should also inspire conduct.
It is beneficial to heed people with experience, whether they are above you or beneath you, for wisdom can be found in any age. According to the Rabbis even God took counsel with the angels when God decided to create the first human being: “Let us create man” (Gen. 1:2).
I have a friend who was very successful in business and decided to become an advisor after his own retirement. He sits with an executive of the company, looks at the operation of the institution, and gives him/her free recommendation as to how things ought to be handled in order to produce better results. But not everyone pays attention to good counsel.
In the Bible, after the death of King Solomon, his son, King Rehoboam faced a rebellion by the northern tribes. They told him, if you ease our burden we will serve you well, if not, we will part company. Rehoboam first consulted with his senior advisors who told him to go easy on the northerners, whereas the younger counselors suggested that he needs to stand up and show them who the real king is.Rehoboam ignored the old and preferred the young. The northerners did not like Rehoboam’s response, seceded and set up their own Kingdom of Israel in the north.
In the rabbinic period, the Sages, having deposed Rabbi Gamaliel II, nominated Rabbi Eleazar b. Azariah (2nd cent. CE) to become the new head of the Sanhedrin. Before accepting the offer, however, he said he needed to consult with his wife; she told him not to take the position but he ignored her advice, and ended up keeping his new post just a short while.
It is exhilarating when your recommendations are welcome and they bring good results. On the other hand, it is frustrating when you give your best advice but the advisee ignores your counsel. There is no way to force him/her to accept your word. Thus you see failure in front of your eyes, when it could have been success. But, as the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.” You end up saying to yourself, why don’t they just listen to experience?
Rifat Sonsino

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