Thirsty for Wise Advice
Yael Eckstein | March 23, 2023
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. —Leviticus 10:1
In Judaism, wisdom is something that should be sought, cultivated, and taught — no matter what age we are. Enjoy this collection of inspirational thoughts and insights about this godly pursuit.
There’s an old Jewish joke. Why did God give us two ears and only one mouth? To teach us to listen twice as much as we talk!
Listening to others — seeking their counsel — is one of the truest signs of wisdom. But sometimes we get so full of ourselves that we think we don’t need to ask anyone else’s advice. At the same time, however, we are much quicker to give advice. Like the old joke, we talk more than we listen.
Ethics of the Fathers, the 2,000-year-old book of Jewish wisdom, teaches us, “Let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily their words.”
“Drink thirstily.” What a powerful image. We shouldn’t see the advice of others as a last resort, something we turn to only when we are at a loss ourselves. We must be thirsty for wise advice. We should seek it before making any important decision.
Thirsty for Wise Advice
We see the importance of seeking counsel from others, as well as the tragic consequences of not doing so, hinted at in the Bible. Leviticus tells of the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron the High Priest: “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.”
The literal Hebrew of the beginning of this verse says, “Nadab and Abihu each took his censer…” The Jewish sages noted that the verse could have simply said that “Nadab and Abihu took censers.”
The sages answer that these extra words hint at their mistake — they each decided on their own. They didn’t even consult with each other about whether or not this was a good idea.
Nadab and Abihu did not die because of any wickedness. They wanted to show their love for God. The problem was that they decided for themselves how they were going to serve God in the Tabernacle.
Inspired to bring an offering to God, they could easily have asked Moses or Aaron. Instead, they acted on their own. Had they talked their plans through with one another, or with those who were older and wiser, they never would have made their fatal mistake.
Let us be thirsty for wise advice and seek out the wisdom of others — teachers, spiritual mentors, or even just friends who will hear us out.
Are you facing a big decision right now? Remember to seek advice from others, and may we be humble enough to hear it and wise enough to listen.