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The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary
   

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 1

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 1

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Rashi's Commentary:

Chapter 1

1. The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.   א. דִּבְרֵי קֹהֶלֶת בֶּן דָּוִד מֶלֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם:
The words of Koheleth: Wherever it says, “the words of,” it refers to words of reproof. (Deut. 1:1): “These are the words that Moses spoke” … (ibid. 32:15): “And Jeshurun became fat.” (Amos 1:1): “The words of Amos” … (ibid. 4:1): “Hearken to this word, O cows of Bashan.” (Jer. 1:1): “The words of Jeremiah” … (ibid. 30: 6): “Ask now and see whether a male gives birth, etc.” (II Sam. 23: 1): “And these are the words of David” … (verse 6): “But the wicked are all as thorns thrust away.” “The words of Koheleth… The sun rises… All the rivers run into the sea.” He refers to the wicked as the sun, the moon, and the sea, which have no reward. So it was taught in Sifrei (Deut. 1:1). I learned from there that the section deals with the wicked and compares them to the rising of the sun, which ultimately sets. Addendum: Another explanation: All the rivers run into the sea. What is the meaning of this? This is stated concerning idolaters, the fools who prostrate themselves to the water and think that it has substance since they see the Great Sea, into which all the rivers run, and it is not full, but they do not know that to the place where the rivers flow, they repeatedly go, for the water of the rivers that flow into the sea is the very same water that already flowed. They flow from under the deep and go above the ground until the sea and repeatedly flow. Therefore, the rivers do not stop, and the sea does not become full, and not because they have substance. End of addendum.  
Koheleth: Because he gathered (קִהֵל) many wisdoms, and similarly, elsewhere (Prov. 30:1) Scripture calls him Agur the son of Jakeh, because he gathered (אָגַר) all the wisdom and vomited it (וְהִקִיאָה), and some say that he would say all his words in an assembly (בְּהַקְהֵל).  
king in Jerusalem: the city of wisdom.  
2. Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth; vanity of vanities, all is vanity.   ב. הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר קֹהֶלֶת הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים הַכֹּל הָבֶל:
Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth: Koheleth complains about the creation of the seven days of Creation, that all is vanity of vanities.  
Vanity of: Heb. הֲבֵל is punctuated with a hataph pattah because it is in the construct state; i.e., the vanity of the vanities. Seven vanities [are mentioned], corresponding to the seven days of Creation.  
3. What profit has man in all his toil that he toils under the sun?   ג. מַה יִּתְרוֹן לָאָדָם בְּכָל עֲמָלוֹ שֶׁיַּעֲמֹל תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ:
What profit: reward and remainder.  
under the sun: in lieu of the Torah, which is called light, as it is stated (Prov. 6:23): “and the Torah is light.” All the toil which he does instead of engaging in the Torah-what reward is there in it?  
4. A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth endures forever.   ד. דּוֹר הֹלֵךְ וְדוֹר בָּא וְהָאָרֶץ לְעוֹלָם עֹמָדֶת:
A generation goes and a generation comes: As much as the wicked man toils and labors to oppress and to rob, he does not outlive his works, for the generation goes and another generation comes and takes all away from his sons, as it is stated (Job 20:10): “His sons will placate the poor.”  
but the earth endures forever: But who are the ones who endure? The humble and low, who bring themselves down to the earth, as it is stated (Ps. 37:11): “But the humble shall inherit the earth.” And Midrash Tanhuma states: All the righteous of Israel are called earth [or land], as it is said (Mal. 3:12): “for you shall be a desirable land.”  
5. The sun rises and the sun sets, and to its place it yearns and rises there.   ה. וְזָרַח הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וּבָא הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְאֶל מְקוֹמוֹ שׁוֹאֵף זוֹרֵחַ הוּא שָׁם:
The sun rises, etc.: A generation goes and a generation comes as the sun rises at dawn and sets at eventide, and it goes throughout the night, yearning to rise from the place whence it rose yesterday, that it will rise from there also today.  
6. It goes to the south and goes around to the north; the will goes around and around, and the will returns to its circuits.   ו. הוֹלֵךְ אֶל דָּרוֹם וְסוֹבֵב אֶל צָפוֹן סוֹבֵב | סֹבֵב הוֹלֵךְ הָרוּחַ וְעַל סְבִיבֹתָיו שָׁב הָרוּחַ:
the will: Heb. הָרוּחַ, the will of the sun, talant in Old French, like (Ezek. 1: 12): “wherever would be the will (הָרוּחַ) to go.”  
returns to its circuits: Also on the morrow, the entire circuit and encircling that it encircled yesterday, it encircles and goes around today.  
it goes to the south: forever in the day.  
and goes around to the north: forever in the night.  
goes around and around: to the eastern and western sides, which it sometimes goes through by day, and sometimes goes around at night. In Tammuz it goes through them, and in Teveth it goes around them. Also the wicked, no matter how much their sun rises, they will ultimately set. No matter how much they gain power, they will ultimately return to the place of filth. From the place of filth they came, and to the place of filth they will go. And so…  
7. All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers flow, there they repeatedly go.   ז. כָּל הַנְּחָלִים הֹלְכִים אֶל הַיָּם וְהַיָּם אֵינֶנּוּ מָלֵא אֶל מְקוֹם שֶׁהַנְּחָלִים הֹלְכִים שָׁם הֵם שָׁבִים לָלָכֶת:
All the rivers flow into the sea: because they do not remain therein, for the ocean is higher than the entire world, as it is said (Amos 5:8): “He calls the water of the sea and pours it, etc.” Now from where does a person pour? From above downward, and the rivers flow in the tunnels under the mountains from the ocean and repeatedly flow, and this is the meaning of: “to the place where the rivers flow, there they repeatedly go.” Also, the wicked man, (below 5:15) “just as it came, so shall it go.”  
8. All things are wearisome; no one can utter it; the eye shall not be sated from seeing, nor shall the ear be filled from hearing.   ח. כָּל הַדְּבָרִים יְגֵעִים לֹא יוּכַל אִישׁ לְדַבֵּר לֹא תִשְׂבַּע עַיִן לִרְאוֹת וְלֹא תִמָּלֵא אֹזֶן מִשְּׁמֹעַ:
All things are wearisome… the eye shall not be sated from seeing, nor shall the ear be filled: This refers back to, “What profit [has man]” if he exchanges the study of Torah to speak wasteful words? They are only wearisome, and he will not be able to acquire them all, and if he comes to engage in the vision of the eye, it will not be satisfied, and if in the hearing of the ear, it will not be filled.  
9. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.   ט. מַה שֶּׁהָיָה הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה וּמַה שֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה הוּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה וְאֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ:
What has been is what will be, etc.: In whatever he learns, in a matter that is an exchange for the sun, there is nothing new. He will see only that which already was, which was created in the six days of Creation. But one who meditates on the Torah constantly finds new insights therein, as it is stated (Prov. 5:19): “her breasts will satisfy you at all times.” Just as this breast, whenever the infant feels it, he finds a taste in it, so are the words of Torah (Er. 54b), and so we find in Tractate Hagigah, that Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus said things that the ear had never heard, concerning the account of the Celestial Chariot.  
10. There is a thing of which [someone] will say, "See this, it is new." It has already been for ages which were before us.   י. יֵשׁ דָּבָר שֶׁיֹּאמַר רְאֵה זֶה חָדָשׁ הוּא כְּבָר הָיָה לְעֹלָמִים אֲשֶׁר הָיָה מִלְּפָנֵנוּ:
There is a thing: that comes to your hand under the sun about which the speaker will say, “See, this is a new thing!” But it is not new, for it has already been so for ages that have passed before us, but “there is no remembrance of former [generations].” Therefore, it seems to be new.  
11. [But] there is no remembrance of former [generations], neither will the later ones that will be have any remembrance among those that will be afterwards.   יא. אֵין זִכְרוֹן לָרִאשֹׁנִים וְגַם לָאַחֲרֹנִים שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לֹא יִהְיֶה לָהֶם זִכָּרוֹן עִם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לָאַחֲרֹנָה:
neither will the later ones that will be: after us have any remembrance in the generations that will be after them. And the Midrash Aggadah interprets this as referring to the obliteration of the remembrance of Amalek, for his remembrance will ultimately be obliterated, as it is said (Obadiah 1:18): “and the house of Esau will have no survivors.”  
12. I am Koheleth; I was king over Israel in Jerusalem.   יב. אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת הָיִיתִי מֶלֶךְ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם:
I am Koheleth; I was king: over the whole world, and later, over Israel, and then, over Jerusalem alone, and finally, [only] over my staff, for it says: “I was king in Jerusalem,” but now, I am no longer king.  
13. And I applied my heart to inquire and to search with wisdom all that was done under the heaven. It is a sore task that God has given to the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.   יג. וְנָתַתִּי אֶת לִבִּי לִדְרוֹשׁ וְלָתוּר בַּחָכְמָה עַל כָּל אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם הוּא | עִנְיַן רָע נָתַן אֱלֹהִים לִבְנֵי הָאָדָם לַעֲנוֹת בּוֹ:
And I applied my heart to inquire: in the Torah, which is wisdom, and to ponder over it concerning all the evil deeds mentioned above, which are committed under the sun, and I pondered that it is a sore task that the Holy One, blessed be He, set before the children of men. (Deut. 30:15): “life and good, and also death and evil.”  
a sore task: Heb. עִנְיַן רַע. They have evil behavior.  
with which to occupy themselves: Heb. לַעֲנוֹת בּוֹ, to behave with it. עִנְיַן may be interpreted as an expression of an abode (מָעוֹן) and a dwelling, and it may also be interpreted as an expression of study (עִיוּן) and thought, and the same is true of בּו ֹלַעֲנוֹת.  
has given: has placed before them.  
14. I saw all the deeds that were done under the sun, and behold, everything is vanity and frustration.   יד. רָאִיתִי אֶת כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְהִנֵּה הַכֹּל הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ:
and frustration: Heb. וּרְעוּת רוּח, the breaking of the will, like (Isa. 8:9): “Shatter (רֹעוּ), O peoples, and be broken.” רוּחַ is synonymous with talant in Old French, will. The end of the deed is that he comes to heartache.  
15. What is crooked will not be able to be straightened, and what is missing will not be able to be counted.   טו. מְעֻוָּת לֹא יוּכַל לִתְקֹן וְחֶסְרוֹן לֹא יוּכַל לְהִמָּנוֹת:
What is crooked: during his lifetime, will not be able to be straightened after he dies. Whoever toiled on the eve of the Sabbath will eat on the Sabbath, and our Sages explained this as referring to one who was intimate with a woman forbidden to him and begot a mamzer, or to a Torah scholar who parted with the Torah, who was originally straight and became crooked.  
and what is missing will not be able to be counted: One who excluded himself from the number of the righteous will not be able to be counted with them in their reception of reward.  
16. I spoke to myself, saying, "I acquired and increased great wisdom, more than all who were before me over Jerusalem"; and my heart saw much wisdom and knowledge.   טז. דִּבַּרְתִּי אֲנִי עִם לִבִּי לֵאמֹר אֲנִי הִנֵּה הִגְדַּלְתִּי וְהוֹסַפְתִּי חָכְמָה עַל כָּל אֲשֶׁר הָיָה לְפָנַי עַל יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם וְלִבִּי רָאָה הַרְבֵּה חָכְמָה וָדָעַת:
I spoke to myself: Now that I have sunk from my greatness, I set my heart, saying, “Who would have said about me that I would come to such a state?”  
Look, I have acquired great wisdom, etc.:  
17. And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I know that this too is a frustration.   יז. וָאֶתְּנָה לִבִּי לָדַעַת חָכְמָה וְדַעַת הֹלֵלוֹת וְשִׂכְלוּת יָדַעְתִּי שֶׁגַּם זֶה הוּא רַעְיוֹן רוּחַ:
And I applied: my heart now to know the nature of wisdom, what its end is, and the nature of madness and folly.  
madness: Heb. הֹלֵלוֹת, dullness and confusion of thoughts, an expression of mixing, like (Isa. 1:22): “diluted (מָהוּל) with water.”  
and folly: foolishness.  
I know: now that also wisdom has frustration in it, for in great wisdom, a person relies on his great wisdom and does not distance himself from prohibition, and much vexation comes to the Holy One, blessed be He. I said, “I will acquire many horses, but I will not return the people to Egypt,” but ultimately, I returned [them]. I said, “I will take many wives, but they will not turn my heart away,” but it is written about me, (I Kings 11:4): “his wives turned away his heart.” And so he says, (Prov. 30:1): “The words of the man concerning, ‘God is with me’; yea, God is with me, and I will be able.”  
18. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge, increases pain.   יח. כִּי בְּרֹב חָכְמָה רָב כָּעַס וְיוֹסִיף דַּעַת יוֹסִיף מַכְאוֹב:
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