Sage Advice

.מַרְבֶּה עֵצָה, מַרְבֶּה תְבוּנָה. מַרְבֶּה צְדָקָה, מַרְבֶּה שָׁלוֹם

The more counsel, the more understanding. The more charity, the more peace.

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 2:7

In my work as Head of School at Gesher, I am blessed to be close to a wide variety of counselors, to whom I turn on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Some are members of our Gesher community, some are members of the Greater DC Jewish community, some are educators and professionals at other schools, and one in particular (an executive coach) is in a professional advisory relationship with me and with our school.

Growing in my capacity to seek and hear counsel from multiple sources has been transformative in both my life and my career. The idea that each of us can learn from just about anyone is one of my most deeply held core beliefs. I learn every day from our children at school, and from my outstanding colleagues on the faculty and staff, and from my own family members. I learn weekly from conversations with our Gesher lay leaders and Gesher parents, and from communal professionals with whom I am privileged to collaborate regularly.

While I have no doubt that listening to counsel leads to greater understanding, each of us also has an internal compass to which we must attend with just as much commitment, or else our actions will never be genuine. While I might listen and learn from those around me, ultimately it is my own values and beliefs that will form the backdrop against which I measure the counsel of others — I can’t and shouldn’t remove myself from the equation.

To quibble briefly with the translation above, the Hebrew word Tevunah is translated here as “understanding.” There is nothing wrong with this, but Hebrew words often have shades of meaning, and this one includes concepts like reasoning, wisdom, and intelligence. In fact the word comes from the same root as the Yiddish word “maven”, which we translate as expert. What I like about these shades is they link characteristics that we often consider innate to relationships and listening to others. How do you get to be a maven? Certainly through hard work, study, and plenty of innate talents. But also through speaking to others and learning from them.

This Shabbat, I encourage you to speak with your children about the ways in which you learn from them.

Shabbat Shalom,