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The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary
   

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 4

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 4

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Rashi's Commentary:

Chapter 4

1. But I returned and saw all the oppressed who are made [so] under the sun, and behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they have no consoler, and from the hand of their oppressors there is power, but they have no consoler.   א. וְשַׁבְתִּי אֲנִי וָאֶרְאֶה אֶת כָּל הָעֲשׁוּקִים אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשִׂים תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְהִנֵּה | דִּמְעַת הָעֲשׁוּקִים וְאֵין לָהֶם מְנַחֵם וּמִיַּד עֹשְׁקֵיהֶם כֹּחַ וְאֵין לָהֶם מְנַחֵם:
But I returned and saw: with the holy spirit.  
all the oppressed: who were made to be oppressed in Gehinnom for the deeds that are done.  
under the sun: instead of the exchange for Torah.  
and behold, the tears of the oppressed: weeping for their souls, which are oppressed in the hand of the destructive and cruel angels, and so it says (Ps. 84:7): “Transgressors in the valley of weeping make it into a fountain.” These are the ones who descend to Gehinnom (Mid. Ps. 84:3). And this verse too is expounded in this manner in Sifrei (Deut. 11:26).  
and from the hand of their oppressors there is power: Their oppressors overpower them and attack them with force.  
2. And I praise the dead who have already died, more than the living who are still alive.   ב. וְשַׁבֵּחַ אֲנִי אֶת הַמֵּתִים שֶׁכְּבָר מֵתוּ מִן הַחַיִּים אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה חַיִּים עֲדֶנָה:
who have already died: before the evil inclination overwhelmed them to repel them from the Holy One, blessed be He, like the early Patriarchs, for Moses was not answered except through them, and like my father David, for I was not answered with twenty-four praises until I said, (II Chron. 6:42): “Remember the kind deeds of David Your servant.”  
3. And better than both of them is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.   ג. וְטוֹב מִשְּׁנֵיהֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר עֲדֶן לֹא הָיָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא רָאָה אֶת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה הָרָע אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ:
yet: Heb. עֲדֶן, [like] עֲדַיִן.  
who has not seen: I saw in Midrash Koheleth (Zuta pp. 117, 125): These are the 974 generations that were decreed to be created, but were not created.  
4. And I saw all the toil and all the excellence of work, which is a man's envy of his friend; this too is vanity and frustration.   ד. וְרָאִיתִי אֲנִי אֶת כָּל עָמָל וְאֵת כָּל כִּשְׁרוֹן הַמַּעֲשֶׂה כִּי הִיא קִנְאַת אִישׁ מֵרֵעֵהוּ גַּם זֶה הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ:
And I saw all the toil: These are the sins, which are toil in the eyes of the Holy One, blessed be He.  
and all the excellence of work: which is not for the sake of Heaven, but for one’s envy of his friend, both of which are vanity.  
which is a man’s envy: [as translated,] which is a man’s envy of his friend.  
5. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.   ה. הַכְּסִיל חֹבֵק אֶת יָדָי ו וְאֹכֵל אֶת בְּשָׂרוֹ:
The fool: The wicked man folds his hands and does not toil, and he does not eat except from robbery.  
and eats his own flesh: on the Day of Judgment, when he sees righteous men experiencing honor, while he is being judged. It is explained in this manner in Sifrei (Deut. 11: 26).  
6. Better is a handful of ease than two handfuls of toil and frustration.   ו. טוֹב מְלֹא כַף נָחַת מִמְּלֹא חָפְנַיִם עָמָל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ:
Better is a handful of ease: to acquire few possessions, but with his toil, so that his Creator should have satisfaction therefrom.  
than two handfuls: many possessions through sin, which is toil and grief to the Omnipresent.  
7. And I returned and saw vanity under the sun.   ז. וְשַׁבְתִּי אֲנִי וָאֶרְאֶה הֶבֶל תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ:
under the sun: like, “under the heaven.”  
8. There is one, and there is no second; yea, he has neither son nor brother, and there is no end to all his toil; neither is his eye sated from wealth. Now for whom do I toil and deprive my soul of pleasure? This too is vanity and an unhappy affair.   ח. יֵשׁ אֶחָד וְאֵין שֵׁנִי גַּם בֵּן וָאָח אֵין ל וֹ וְאֵין קֵץ לְכָל עֲמָלוֹ גַּם עֵינו לֹא תִשְׂבַּע עֹשֶׁר וּלְמִי | אֲנִי עָמֵל וּמְחַסֵּר אֶת נַפְשִׁי מִטּוֹבָה גַּם זֶה הֶבֶל וְעִנְיַן רָע הוּא:
There is one, and there is no second: There is a man who does his work alone.  
yea, he has neither son nor brother: If he is a Torah scholar, he does not acquire for himself a disciple, who is like a son, or a companion, who is like a brother. And if he is a bachelor, he does not take a wife, to be to him like a brother, and to beget a son. And if he is a merchant, he does not acquire partners for himself, but he goes out on the way alone.  
and there is no end to all his toil: He toils in study, and if he is a merchant, he toils with merchandise.  
neither is his eye sated from wealth: He will not be sated from the insights of Torah, for a person learns much Torah from his pupils, and regarding money, he constantly pursues money.  
Now for whom do I toil: since I do not raise disciples, and I do not take a wife to beget children?  
9. Two are better than one, since they have good reward for their toil.   ט. טוֹבִים הַשְּׁנַיִם מִן הָאֶחָד אֲשֶׁר יֵשׁ לָהֶם שָׂכָר טוֹב בַּעֲמָלָם:
Two are better: in all respects.  
than one: Therefore, a person should acquire for himself a companion and take his wife, for they have more profit in their toil. Much work is done by two, which the individual does not begin alone.  
10. For if they fall, one will lift up his friend, but woe to the one who falls and has no second one to lift him up.   י. כִּי אִם יִפֹּלוּ הָאֶחָד יָקִים אֶת חֲבֵר וֹ וְאִילוֹ הָאֶחָד שֶׁיִּפֹּל וְאֵין שֵׁנִי לַהֲקִימוֹ:
For if they fall: [To be explained] according to its apparent meaning. And regarding studies, if his studies were too difficult for him, his companion will restore them to him, or if he stumbles and was not exact in what he heard from his mentor, his companion will set him on the truthful course.  
but woe: Heb. וְאִילוּ, but woe is to him.  
11. Moreover, if two lie down, they will have warmth, but how will one have warmth?   יא. גַּם אִם יִשְׁכְּבוּ שְׁנַיִם וְחַם לָהֶם וּלְאֶחָד אֵיךְ יֵחָם:
they will have warmth: according to its apparent meaning, and regarding male and female, they are aroused by one another and reproduce.  
12. And if a man prevails against the one, the two will stand against him, and a three- stranded cord will not quickly be broken.   יב. וְאִם יִתְקְפוֹ הָאֶחָד הַשְּׁנַיִם יַעַמְדוּ נֶגְדּוֹ וְהַחוּט הַמְשֻׁלָּשׁ לֹא בִמְהֵרָה יִנָּתֵק:
And if a man prevails against the one: If bandits came upon him to prevail against him, if they are two, they will stand against him, and surely, if they are three, for a three-stranded cord will not easily be broken. Another explanation: Whoever is a Torah scholar, as well as his son and his grandson, the Torah will never cease from his seed, and so Scripture states (Isa. 59:21): “shall not move from your mouth or from the mouth of your seed or from the mouth of your seed’s seed.” Another explanation:  
and a three-stranded cord: in Bible, Mishnah, and good manners-will not quickly sin. “There is one, and there is no second,” is expounded in the Midrash in other ways, but the sequence of all these verses does not fit in with them.  
13. Better a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows to receive admonition.   יג. טוֹב יֶלֶד מִסְכֵּן וְחָכָם מִמֶּלֶךְ זָקֵן וּכְסִיל אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַע לְהִזָּהֵר עוֹד:
Better a poor and wise child: This is the good inclination, and why is it called a child? Because it does not enter man until thirteen years.  
poor: because the limbs do not obey it, as [they do] the evil inclination.  
wise: which gives a person intelligence to [follow] the good way.  
than an old and foolish king: the evil inclination, which rules over all the limbs.  
old: for when the child is born, it is put into him, as it is said (Gen. 4:7): “sin lies at the opening.”  
and foolish: for it misleads him in the way of evil. In this manner, it is interpreted in the Midrash (Ecc. Rabbah).  
who no longer knows to receive admonition: for he has become old and does not accept reproof.  
14. For out of the prison he has come to reign, for even in his kingdom, he becomes humble.   יד. כִּי מִבֵּית הָסוּרִים יָצָא לִמְלֹךְ כִּי גַּם בְּמַלְכוּתוֹ נוֹלַד רָשׁ:
For out of the prison he has come to reign: Heb. הָסוּרִים; from the place of filth and stench, as we translate: (Exod. 16:29) וַיִבְאַשּׁ, (and it became putrid) as וּסְרִי.  
for even in his kingdom: Since he reigned over man, the poor one was born; the poor one, who was better than he, and who came out of purity, not out of the filth of the womb. So did our Rabbis interpret it in the Midrash. [See Ecc. Rabbah.] Another explanation:  
[13] Better a poor and wise child, etc.: according to its apparent meaning.  
who no longer knows to receive admonition: for he has already aged in his wickedness and foolishness.  
[14] For out of the prison he has come to reign: For the poor child-it will ultimately be said about him that he came to reign from the midst of his affliction and from the place of his imprisonment, for the “sammech” of הָסוּרִים is punctuated without a “dagesh,” which is equivalent to הָאֲסוּרִים. [Some editions: like (Isa. 13:20): “and no Arab shall pitch his tent (יַהֵל) there, like יֶאֶהַל], for so we found that Joseph reigned following his being freed from prison, and so David, (II Sam. 7: 8): ” I took you from the sheepcote, from following the sheep."  
for even in his kingdom he becomes humble: For it is fitting and proper that he should reign, because even in his kingdom, he changed from the custom of the ruling class and he humbled himself to the sages, like the custom of the poor. And so (Job 11: 12): “and [from] a wild donkey a man will be born (יִוָלֵד),” that he will be changed and converted from what he was, resembling a wild donkey, and he will become a man. נוֹלַד means “becomes,” and it is in the present tense.  
15. I saw all the living who walk under the sun, with the second child who will rise in his stead.   טו. רָאִיתִי אֶת כָּל הַחַיִּים הַמְהַלְּכִים תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ עִם הַיֶּלֶד הַשֵּׁנִי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲמֹד תַּחְתָּיו:
I saw all the living, etc.: I found in the Midrash of this Book (Ecc. Zuta): This refers to the Generation of the Flood, about which it says (Gen. 6:19): “And of every living thing.”  
with the second child: who will exist instead of that generation, who were Noah and his sons.  
16. There is no end to all the people, to all that were before them; also the last ones will not rejoice with him, for this too is vanity and frustration.   טז. אֵין קֵץ לְכָל הָעָם לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר הָיָה לִפְנֵיהֶם גַּם הָאַחֲרוֹנִים לֹא יִשְׂמְחוּ בוֹ כִּי גַם זֶה הֶבֶל וְרַעְיוֹן רוּחַ:
There is no end to all the people: They were fruitful and multiplied too much, as it is said (Job 21:8): “Their children are well established in their sight.” A woman would conceive and bear in three days; (ibid. verse 11): “They send forth their infants like sheep.”  
to all that were before them: There was no end to all the good that was before them, but all was lost, and in a moment descended to the grave.  
also the last ones: the Generation of the Dispersion.  
will not rejoice: with the good that was given into their hands.  
for this too: Its end is that of vanity and frustration, when one follows his evil inclination.  
17. Watch your feet when you go to the House of God, and be ready to obey rather than fools should give sacrifice, for they know not that they do evil.   יז. שְׁמוֹר רַגְלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ אֶל בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים וְקָרוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ מִתֵּת הַכְּסִילִים זָבַח כִּי אֵינָם יוֹדְעִים לַעֲשׂוֹת רָע:
Watch your feet when you go the House of God: [Watch] how you go: if you bring a thanksgiving offering or a voluntary peace offering, that is good, but watch yourself that you should not have to bring sin offerings or guilt offerings.  
and be ready: Be ready to obey the words of the Holy One, blessed be He.  
rather than fools should give sacrifice: that he should sin and bring a sacrifice.  
for they know not that they do evil: The fool does not realize that he is doing harm to himself.  
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