Etzah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 5, 2008
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Thank you, but I don't need your etzahs," you might say more or less politely to an interfering, but well-meaning, family member.

Etzah means a piece of advice, plan or counsel. Giving advice seems to be a characteristic Jewish practice. There is even a Yiddish word for someone who does so habitually: etzahgebber.

The most famous etzahgebber in the Bible was Achitofel, who began as adviser to King David and then crossed over to serve David's son Absalom when the latter revolted against his father. The Bible writes: "In those days, the advice (etzah) of Achitofel was accepted like an oracle from God" (II Samuel, 16:23).

Achitofel advised Absalom to sleep with his father's concubines, and to attack David at his most vulnerable: when he and his men were fleeing from Jerusalem. Achitofel appears to have taken great pride in his position as etzah-giver. When Absalom ignored the latter piece of advice, Achitofel went home, set his affairs in order and killed himself.

Chasidim would, and sometimes still do, go to visit their Rebbes hoping to receive an etzah and a berachah (blessing), the etzah being a pertinent and insightful piece of advice addressed directly to the individual Chasid's spiritual situation (eg learn more Torah, spend more time with your children, try to be happy etc).

    Last updated: 2:05pm, November 5 2008