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The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary
   

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 7

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 7

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Rashi's Commentary:

Chapter 7

1. A [good] name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one's birth.   א. טוֹב שֵׁם מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב וְיוֹם הַמָּוֶת מִיּוֹם הִוָּלְדוֹ:
A [good] name is better than good oil: A good name is better for a person than good oil, and on the day of death the name is better than on the day of his birth. For this reason, a good name is compared to good oil more than to other liquids, for oil-you put water into it, and it floats and rises, and is recognizable, but other liquids-you put water into them, and they absorb it.  
A [good] name is better than good oil: Good oil runs down, as it is said: (Ps. 133:2): “As the good oil on the head runs down upon the beard.” A good name, however, goes up, as it is said: (Gen. 12: 2): “and I will make your name great.” Good oil is temporary, but a good name is eternal, as it is said: (Ps. 72:17): “May his name be forever.” Good oil flows from the flask to the palace, and no more, but a good name goes to the end of the world. Said Rabbi Judah the son of Rabbi Simon: We find that those who had good oil entered the place of life and emerged burnt up. These are Nadab and Abihu, who were anointed with the anointing oil. And we find those who possessed a good name, who entered a place of death and emerged alive, viz. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who emerged from the fiery furnace.  
and the day of death than the day of one’s birth: When Miriam was born, no one knew what she was. When she died, however, the well disappeared, and so [it was with] Aaron with the pillar of cloud and Moses with the manna.  
2. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living shall lay it to his heart.   ב. טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל בֵּית אֵבֶל מִלֶּכֶת אֶל בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כָּל הָאָדָם וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ:
It is better to go to a house of mourning: a type of conduct that serves both the living and the dead.  
than to go to a house of feasting: A type of conduct that serves only the living.  
for that is the end of every man: Since mourning marks the end of every man, every man will ultimately come to this. Therefore, the living should put his heart [to the fact] that whatever loving-kindness I bestow upon the dead, I will require that they bestow the same to me upon my death. He who raises his voice in lamentation-they will raise their voices in lamentation for him; he who bears the dead-they will bear him; he who eulogizes-they will eulogize him; he who escorts [the dead]-they will escort him (Ecc. Rabbah, Keth. 72a). Another explanation:  
for that is the end of every man:: For that is the end of the whole man; for death is the end of all man’s days, and if now he does not bestow kindness upon him, he will no longer bestow it upon him, but if he invited him to a house of feasting and he did not go, he can say to him, “A son will ultimately be born to you, and there I will be with you. The joy of your children’s wedding will come to you, and there I will go.”  
and the living shall lay it to his heart: this matter, that if he does not bestow kindness now, he will no longer [have the opportunity to] bestow it upon him.  
3. Vexation is better than laughter, for with a stern countenance the heart will rejoice.   ג. טוֹב כַּעַס מִשְּׂחוֹק כִּי בְרֹעַ פָּנִים יִיטַב לֵב:
Vexation is better than laughter: If one is pursued by the Divine Standard of Justice, let him not be distressed. It would have been better for the Generation of the Flood if the Holy One, blessed be He, had shown them an angry countenance because of the sins in their hands, rather than the laughter that He laughed with them, for had He shown them a slight expression of displeasure, they would have returned to do good (Ecc. Rabbah). It would have been better for Adonijah had his father caused him grief for every sin that he committed, rather than the laughter that he showed him, and for which he was ultimately slain (Ecc. Zuta).  
the heart will rejoice: It will turn over the heart of man to improve his ways.  
4. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, whereas the heart of the fools is in a house of joy.   ד. לֵב חֲכָמִים בְּבֵית אֵבֶל וְלֵב כְּסִילִים בְּבֵית שִׂמְחָה:
The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning: Their thought is about the day of death.  
whereas the heart of the fools is in a house of joy: They do not quake because of the day of death, and their hearts are as sound as a palace.  
5. It is better to hear the rebuke of a wise man than for a man to hear the song of the fools.   ה. טוֹב לִשְׁמוֹעַ גַּעֲרַת חָכָם מֵאִישׁ שֹׁמֵעַ שִׁיר כְּסִילִים:
6. For as the sound of the thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of the fool, and this too is vanity.   ו. כִּי כְקוֹל הַסִּירִים תַּחַת הַסִּיר כֵּן שְׂחֹק הַכְּסִיל וְגַם זֶה הָבֶל:
For as the sound of the thorns: the wood of the thorns, pines in French.  
under the pot: under a copper pot turned over a fire of thorns, and they rattle in it (sic). Said Rabbi Joshua the son of Levi: When all other woods are kindled, their sound does not travel far, but when thorns are kindled, their sound travels far, as if to say, “We too are wood.” They let people know, “We too are wood, and we are needed.” So are the fools very talkative, saying, “We, too, are important!”  
this too is vanity: And it is labor, which the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the people to toil and be vexed with them.  
7. For the taunt makes the wise foolish, and it destroys the understanding, which is a gift.   ז. כִּי הָעֹשֶׁק יְהוֹלֵל חָכָם וִיאַבֵּד אֶת לֵב מַתָּנָה:
For the taunt makes the wise foolish: When the fool taunts the wise man, he confuses his thoughts, and he too stumbles. Dathan and Abiram taunted Moses, saying, (Exod 5:21): “May the Lord look down upon you and judge, etc.,” and they confused him and destroyed his understanding and caused him to speak in anger against the Holy One, blessed be He, and he said, “and You did not save Your people,” and he was punished for this matter, when He replied to him, “Now you will see,” but you will not see the war of the thirty-one kings.  
the understanding, which is a gift: the heart of wisdom, which is a gift to man, as it is said (Prov. 2:6): “For the Lord gives wisdom.”  
the taunt: Heb. עֹשֶּׂק, an expression of conflict and taunts. There are other ways of interpretation; however, they separate the verses one from the other, but כִּי stated at the beginning of the verse proves that it is connected to the preceding verse.  
8. The end of a thing is better than its beginning; better the patient in spirit than the haughty in spirit.   ח. טוֹב אַחֲרִית דָּבָר מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ טוֹב אֶרֶךְ רוּחַ מִגְּבַהּ רוּחַ:
The end of a thing is better than its beginning: [This is to be interpreted] according to its apparent meaning. At the beginning of a matter, we do not know what will be at its end, but when the end is good, it ends well. Another explanation: The end of a thing is good from its beginning: when it is good from its beginning, i.e., that they had good intentions when they started it. Rabbi Meir stood and expounded the entire matter as referring to Elisha the son of Abuyah, in Midrash Koheleth (Ecc. Rabbah).  
a patient one: one who is slow to anger and does not hasten to quarrel.  
9. Be not hasty with your spirit to become wroth, for wrath lies in the bosom of fools.   ט. אַל תְּבַהֵל בְּרוּחֲךָ לִכְעוֹס כִּי כַעַס בְּחֵיק כְּסִילִים יָנוּחַ:
Be not hasty: Heb. אַל תְּבַהֵל. Do not hasten.  
10. Do not say, "How was it that the former days were better than these?" For not out of wisdom have you asked concerning this.   י. אַל תֹּאמַר מֶה הָיָה שֶׁהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים הָיוּ טוֹבִים מֵאֵלֶּה כִּי לֹא מֵחָכְמָה שָׁאַלְתָּ עַל זֶה:
Do not say, How was it that the former days, etc.: Do not wonder about the good that came to the early righteous men, such as the generation of the desert and the generation of Joshua and the generation of David.  
For not out of wisdom have you asked concerning this: For everything is according to the merit of the generations.  
11. Wisdom is good with a heritage, and it is a profit to those who see the sun.   יא. טוֹבָה חָכְמָה עִם נַחֲלָה וְיֹתֵר לְרֹאֵי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ:
Wisdom is good, etc.: Their wisdom stood them in good stead with the heritage of the merit of their forefathers, for wisdom is good.  
and it is a profit to those who see the sun: The wisdom is a profit for all mankind.  
to those who see the sun: This refers to all the creatures, as it was taught in the Mishnah (Ned. 3: 7): He who vows not to derive benefit from those who see the sun, is also prohibited from benefiting from the blind. The intention is to anyone whom the sun looks down upon.  
12. For whoever is in the shade of wisdom is in the shade of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to its possessor.   יב. כִּי בְּצֵל הַחָכְמָה בְּצֵל הַכָּסֶף וְיִתְרוֹן דַּעַת הַחָכְמָה תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ:
For whoever is in the shade of wisdom: Whoever is in the shade of wisdom is in the shade of money, for wisdom causes riches to come.  
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to its possessor: And moreover, wisdom has an advantage over money insofar as wisdom gives life to its possessor.  
13. See God's work, for who can straighten out what He made crooked?   יג. רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ:
See God’s work: how straight it is, everything according to man’s deed: Paradise for the righteous and Gehinnom for the wicked. See for yourself to which one you will cleave.  
for who can straighten out: after death that which he made crooked during his lifetime?  
14. On a day of good, be among the good, and on a day of adversity, ponder; God has made one corresponding to the other, to the end that man will find nothing after Him.   יד. בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה הֱיֵה בְטוֹב וּבְיוֹם רָעָה רְאֵה גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים עַל דִּבְרַת שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא הָאָדָם אַחֲרָיו מְאוּמָה:
On a day of good, be among the good: On a day in which you have the ability to do good, be among those who do good.  
and on a day of adversity, ponder: When evil comes upon the wicked, you will be among those who see it, as it is said (Isa. 66:24): “And they shall go out and see the corpses of the people, etc.,” and you will not be among those who are seen, [i.e., the dead], “and they shall be a sight for all flesh.”  
God has made one corresponding to the other: the good and the reward for doing it, in contrast to the evil and the recompense for its being perpetrated.  
that man will find nothing after Him: to complain about the Holy One, blessed be He.  
15. I have seen everything in the days of my vanity; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in his wickedness.   טו. אֶת הַכֹּל רָאִיתִי בִּימֵי הֶבְלִ י יֵשׁ צַדִּיק אֹבֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ וְיֵשׁ רָשָׁע מַאֲרִיךְ בְּרָעָתוֹ:
there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness: Even though he is perishing, he still persists in his righteousness. There was an incident concerning Joseph the son of Phinehas the priest who had an ulcerating sore on his foot. They called the physician to amputate his foot. He said to him, “When you reach [the last remaining] hairbreadth, let me know.” He did so, and he called his son Hunia. He said to him, “My son, until now, you were obligated to care for me. From now on, you are not obligated to care for me, because a kohen may not become unclean from a limb cut off from his father during his lifetime.”  
16. Be not overly righteous, and be not overly wise; why should you bring desolation upon yourself?   טז. אַל תְּהִי צַדִּיק הַרְבֵּה וְאַל תִּתְחַכַּם יוֹתֵר לָמָּה תִּשּׁוֹמֵם:
Be not overly righteous: like Saul, who thought to be righteous and had mercy on the wicked.  
and be not overly wise: to deduce from a foolish inference from a minor case to a major case, namely that if the Torah said that for [the murder of] one person, bring a decapitated heifer, [surely we must not be allowed to slay an entire nation, i.e., this refers to Saul’s erroneous concern about killing Amalek].  
17. Be not overly wicked, and be not a fool; why should you die before your time?   יז. אַל תִּרְשַׁע הַרְבֵּה וְאַל תְּהִי סָכָל לָמָּה תָמוּת בְּלֹא עִתֶּךָ:
Be not overly wicked: Even if you have dealt wickedly in a small degree, do not continue to deal wickedly.  
why should you die before your time: like Saul, as it is said: (I Chron. 10:13): “And Saul died because of the treachery that he had committed” in the case of Nob the priestly city and in the case of Amalek.  
18. It is good that you should take hold of this, and also from this you shall not withdraw your hand, for he who fears God will discharge himself of them all.   יח. טוֹב אֲשֶׁר תֶּאֱחֹז בָּזֶה וְגַם מִזֶּה אַל תַּנַּח אֶת יָדֶךָ כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים יֵצֵא אֶת כֻּלָּם:
It is good that you should take hold of this, etc.: Take hold of both righteousness and wickedness. If the righteous prophet told you something that appears to you as wickedness, e.g., what Samuel said to Saul, let it not be light in your eyes to doubt it.  
will discharge himself of them all: both of them, to preserve the righteousness and the wickedness according to their rule.  
19. Wisdom affords strength to the wise more than ten rulers who were in the city.   יט. הַחָכְמָה תָּעֹז לֶחָכָם מֵעֲשָׂרָה שַׁלִּיטִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ בָּעִיר:
Wisdom affords strength to the wise: Since he said: Be not overly wicked-if you have dealt wickedly in a small degree, do not add to it, but search your deeds and regret the sin-he says: Wisdom affords strength to the wise, for it counsels him to return in repentance.  
more than ten rulers: We find regarding Josiah, that Scripture testified about him (II Kings 23:25): “Now before him there was no king like him, etc.” Hence, his wisdom stood him in good stead, and he searched his deeds, and it was better for him than the ten kings who behaved wickedly and did not repent of their ways.  
who were in the city: in Jerusalem, viz. Rehoboam, Abijah, Ahaziah, Joash after the death of Jehoiada, Amaziah, Ahaz, Manasseh, Amon, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.  
20. For there is no righteous man on earth who does good and sins not.   כ. כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא:
For there is no righteous man on earth: Therefore, he must examine his deeds.  
21. Also, take no heed of all the words that they speak, lest you hear your servant curse you.   כא. גַּם לְכָל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּרוּ אַל תִּתֵּן לִבֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא תִשְׁמַע אֶת עַבְדְּךָ מְקַלְלֶךָ:
Also take no heed of all the words, etc.: Because he is speaking of Saul, who accepted slander about Nob the priestly city, and concerning him it was stated: “Be not overly wicked,” he says: “Also take no heed of all the words” that talebearers speak to you; do not take heed to accept them.  
lest you hear your servant curse you: It is not good that you bend your ear to hear your servant cursing you. Another explanation:  
[19] more than ten rulers: These are the ten things that condemn a person. His two eyes [which] show him sinful things, his two ears [which] enable him to hear idle talk, his two hands with which he robs and plunders, his two feet which lead him to sinful acts, and his mouth and his heart (Ecc. Zuta). Another explanation:  
Wisdom affords strength to the wise: This is Noah.  
more than ten rulers: more than the ten generations that were before him (Ecc. Rabbah). Another explanation:  
to the wise: This is Abraham.  
more than ten rulers: more than the ten generations that were before him (Ecc. Rabbah). Another explanation:  
to the wise: This is Joseph.  
more than ten rulers: These are his brothers (Ecc. Zuta). Another explanation:  
to the wise: This is Moses.  
ten rulers: the ten organs that minister to the body with food. From the mouth to the esophagus, from the esophagus to the stomach, etc., as appears in Midrash Koheleth (Ecc. Rabbah), but Moses’ wisdom stood him in good stead so that he did not require food for forty days and forty nights. All these interpretations appear in the Midrash, but I do not know how to reconcile them with the following verse: “For there is no righteous man on the earth.”  
All this I tested with wisdom: This refers to the verses below and (some editions: not) to the verses above.  
22. For your heart knows that many times you too cursed others.   כב. כִּי גַּם פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת יָדַע לִבֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר גַּם אַתָּה קִלַּלְתָּ אֲחֵרִים:
23. All this I tested with wisdom; I said, "I will become wise," but it was far from me.   כג. כָּל זֹה נִסִּיתִי בַחָכְמָה אָמַרְתִּי אֶחְכָּמָה וְהִיא רְחוֹקָה מִמֶּנִּי:
I tested with wisdom: with the Torah.  
I said, “I will become wise”: to know the Torah.  
but it was far from me: And what is this?  
24. What was is far off, and [it is] very deep, who can find it?   כד. רָחוֹק מַה שֶּׁהָיָה וְעָמֹק | עָמֹק מִי יִמְצָאֶנּוּ:
What was is far off: the distant things that were in the Creation.  
and very deep: it is; who can find it, for I have no permission to think about them, what is above and what is below, what is ahead and what is behind.  
25. I turned about with my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness and madness.   כה. סַבּוֹתִי אֲנִי וְלִבִּי לָדַעַת וְלָתוּר וּבַקֵּשׁ חָכְמָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְלָדַעַת רֶשַׁע כֶּסֶל וְהַסִּכְלוּת הוֹלֵלוֹת:
And again, I turned about: to know and to search out and to seek the wisdom of the passage of the Red Heifer and the computation of the end of the Redemption.  
and to know the wickedness of folly: to foresee the ultimate end of heresy. וְהַסִכְלוּת הוֹלֵלוֹת, and the confusion and madness therein.  
26. And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, her hands are bonds; whoever is good in God's sight will escape from her, and a sinner will be taken by her.   כו. וּמוֹצֶא אֲנִי מַר מִמָּוֶת אֶת הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר הִיא מְצוֹדִים וַחֲרָמִים לִבָּהּ אֲסוּרִים יָדֶיהָ טוֹב לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים יִמָּלֵט מִמֶּנָּה וְחוֹטֵא יִלָּכֶד בָּהּ:
And I find more bitter than death: which is the most severe of the ten severe things that were created in the world, as appears in Baba Bathra, in [the chapter entitled] “The Partners” (10a), and I find more bitter and more severe than it, the woman, i.e., apostasy.  
whose heart is snares and nets: Heb. חֲרָמִים, an expression of a net, like (Hab. 1:15): “he catches them in his net (בְּחֶרְמוֹ) and gathers them in his trawl.”  
her hands are bonds: and as soon as she seizes a man, he is as though bound in bonds of ropes.  
bonds: Heb. אֲסוּרִים, a noun meaning bonds, like (Jud. 15:14);“and his bonds (אֲסוּרָיו) melted,” and so did Menahem explain it (Machbereth p. 28).  
27. See, this I have found, said Koheleth, adding one to another to find out the account.   כז. רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי אָמְרָה קֹהֶלֶת אַחַת לְאַחַת לִמְצֹא חֶשְׁבּוֹן:
See, this I have found, said Koheleth, adding one to another to find out the account: All the commandments that the righteous perform and the transgressions that the wicked commit are counted before the Holy One, blessed be He, one to another, until they add up to a large sum. So did our Rabbis explain it in Tractate Sotah (8b).  
said Koheleth: said the collection of wisdom, and said his intellectual soul, which collects the wisdom.  
Koheleth: This is a feminine noun, and when it is used in the masculine sense, it refers to the one who gathers it, and that is Solomon. In the Midrash (Ecc. Zuta): Said Rabbi Jeremiah the son of Eleazar: The holy spirit sometimes speaks in the masculine gender and sometimes it speaks in the feminine gender. One verse says (Ps. 70: 6): “You are my help (עֶזְרִי) and my rescuer,” and one verse says (ibid. 40:18): “You are my help (עֶזְרָתִי) and my rescuer.” One verse says: (Nahum 2:1): “a herald (מְבַשֵּׂר) announcing peace,” and one verse says (Isa. 40:9): “the voice of (sic) the herald (מְבַשֶּׂרֶת) of Zion.”  
28. Which my soul sought yet, but I did not find; one man out of a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I did not find.   כח. אֲשֶׁר עוֹד בִּקְשָׁה נַפְשִׁי וְלֹא מָצָאתִי אָדָם אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף מָצָאתִי וְאִשָּׁה בְכָל אֵלֶּה לֹא מָצָאתִי:
which my soul sought yet: In addition to those stated above, which I sought and did not find, my soul sought a proper one among women, but I did not find [one], because they are all lightheaded."  
one man out of a thousand I found: It is customary in the world that [out of] a thousand who enter [a school] to learn Scripture, only one hundred emerge from them to succeed to be fit for Mishnah, and [of] those hundred who enter to [learn] Mishnah, only ten emerge from them to [learn] Gemara, and of those ten who enter to [learn] Gemara, only one emerges who is capable of giving religious instruction, the result being one out of a thousand.  
but a woman among all these: even in a thousand. Therefore, you must be cautious with her.  
29. See, only this one have I found, for God made man straight, but they sought many intrigues.   כט. לְבַד רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם יָשָׁר וְהֵמָּה בִקְשׁוּ חִשְּׁבֹנוֹת רַבִּים:
See, only this one have I found: for a stumbling block came into being through her.  
that… made: The Holy One, blessed be He [made] the first man straight.  
but they: when his wife Eve was paired up with him, and they became two and were called “they.”  
sought many intrigues: plans and designs of sin. So is it explained in the Midrash (Ecc. Rabbah).  
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