Kohelet – Additional reading on Succot

This book is read on Shabbat,  Chol Hamoed Succot.  The public reading of Kohelet had a beneficial function reminding people as they rejoiced with the harvest that they should separate their tithes, as well as know that man’s ultimate purpose was beyond mortal life and its material joys.

 

Kohelet was written by King Solomon, and it’s teaching includes a number of principles.  It is beyond human thought to grasp the essence of G-d, for example “I said I would become wise, but it is far from me”, and “A man will be at a loss to comprehend what  G-d has made from first to last”. The purpose of man’s creation is to attain wisdom, to fear G-d and to keep the mitzvoth.  For example, “wisdom is a stronghold to the wise,” and “one who fears G-d will give all things their due”.

 

Some scholars wanted to hide the book but they did not because the beginning and the end are words of Torah. The logic was that everything in between must also be Torah, and that coming to realise the futilities of this world is a product of Torah study. Some verses seem contradictory. For example, “better is anger than gaiety” and “anger abides in the hearts of fools”. This pattern is used repeatedly, as Kohelet presents dissenting opinions and then refutes them.

 

King Solomon was called Agur, for he was a storehouse (igur) of accumulated wisdom.  He was called Kohelet, because it was his custom to address assembled multitudes (kahal) and because he would then collect (kihel) and edit his sayings and record them in a scroll.  It says “I increased and gathered wisdom beyond all who were before me in Jerusalem”. One of the key statements is “All is devoid of substance” meaning that all that man gathers in this life is passed on to others, and the only thing he keeps is his own righteousness.

 

The Book of Kohelet MeAm Lo’ez commentary by R’ Shmuel Yerushalmi.  Translation by Dr Zvi Faier. 1986.

 

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