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The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 9

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

1For all this I laid to my heart and to clarify all this, that the righteous and the wise and their works are in God's hand; even love, even hate, man does not know; everything is before them.   אכִּ֣י אֶת־כָּל־זֶ֞ה נָתַ֤תִּי אֶל־לִבִּי֙ וְלָב֣וּר אֶת־כָּל־זֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר הַצַּדִּיקִ֧ים וְהַֽחֲכָמִ֛ים וַֽעֲבָדֵיהֶ֖ם בְּיַ֣ד הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים גַּם־אַֽהֲבָ֣ה גַם־שִׂנְאָ֗ה אֵ֤ין יוֹדֵ֨עַ֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם הַכֹּ֖ל לִפְנֵיהֶֽם:
and to clarify: Heb. וְלָבוּר [like] וּלְבָרֵר.  
all this: I clarified and tested.  
that the righteous and the wise and their works are in God’s hand: He helps them and He judges them in order to benefit them in their end.  
and their works: These are their disciples, their servants, who follow in their ways.  
even love, even hate: The rest of mankind does not know, and they do not discern to apply their hearts to what makes them beloved by the Omnipresent and what causes them to be hated.  
everything is before them: before the righteous and the wise.  
2Everything [comes to them] as [it comes] to all; [there is] one occurrence for the righteous and for the wicked, for the good, and for the pure, and for the unclean, and for he who sacrifices, and for he who does not sacrifice; like the good, so is the sinner; he who swears is like him who fears an oath.   בהַכֹּ֞ל כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר לַכֹּ֗ל מִקְרֶ֨ה אֶחָ֜ד לַצַּדִּ֤יק וְ לָֽרָשָׁע֙ לַטּוֹב֙ וְלַטָּה֣וֹר וְלַטָּמֵ֔א וְלַ֨זֹּבֵ֔חַ וְלַֽאֲשֶׁ֖ר אֵינֶ֣נּוּ זֹבֵ֑חַ כַּטּוֹב֙ כַּֽחֹטֶ֔א הַנִּשְׁבָּ֕ע כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֖ר שְׁבוּעָ֥ה יָרֵֽא:
Everything as to all: All take heart when an occurrence happens to someone, and they know that ultimately everyone will receive his just deserts.  
one occurrence: And they know that the end of everyone-whether righteous or wicked-is to die, and they all have one fate in this world. All this they know, but nevertheless, they choose for themselves the good way, because they know that there is a difference between them in the World to Come.  
for the righteous: such as Noah.  
and for the wicked: such as Pharaoh-Neco. This one became crippled, and that one became crippled.  
for the good: This is Moses.  
and for the pure: This is Aaron.  
and for the unclean: These are the Spies. These [Moses and Aaron] spoke well of the Land of Israel, but those spoke derogatorily about it. These did not enter the Land, and those did not enter the Land; hence, they have one fate.  
and for he who sacrifices: This is Josiah, as it is said: “And Josiah offered a sacrifice.”  
and for he who does not sacrifice: This is Ahab, who caused Israel to refrain from performing the festival pilgrimages. This one died from arrows, and that one died from arrows.  
like the good: This is David.  
so is the sinner: This is Nebuchadnezzar. This one built the Temple, and that one destroyed it. This one reigned forty years, and that one reigned forty years.  
he who swears: This is Zedekiah, who swore falsely, as it is said (II Chron. 36:13): “And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who adjured him, etc.”  
like him who fears an oath: This is Samson, as it is said (Jud. 15:12): “And Samson said to them: Swear to me, lest you strike me yourselves.” We learn that he was strict in his observance of an oath. [Nevertheless], this one died after his eyes were plucked out, and that one died after his eyes were plucked out. Therefore…  
3This is the most evil in all that is done under the sun, that all have one occurrence, and also the heart of the children of men is full of evil, and there is madness in their heart in their lifetime, and after that they go to the dead.   גזֶ֣ה | רָ֗ע בְּכֹ֤ל אֲשֶֽׁר־נַֽעֲשָׂה֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כִּֽי־מִקְרֶ֥ה אֶחָ֖ד לַכֹּ֑ל וְגַ֣ם לֵ֣ב בְּֽנֵי־הָֽ֠אָדָ֠ם מָֽלֵא־רָ֨ע וְהֽוֹלֵל֤וֹת בִּלְבָבָם֙ בְּחַיֵּיהֶ֔ם וְאַֽחֲרָ֖יו אֶל־הַמֵּתִֽים:
the heart of the children of men is full of evil: for they say: There is no judgment of retribution for the wicked. Everything is pure happenstance. Sometimes [bad things happen] to the righteous, and sometimes to the wicked.  
and after that, they go to the dead: and they ultimately descend to Gehinnom.  
4For whoever is joined to all the living has hope, for concerning a live dog [it is said that] he is better than a dead lion.   דכִּי־מִי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יְחֻבַּ֔ר (כתיב יְבֻחַ֔ר) אֶ֥ל כָּל־הַֽחַיִּ֖ים יֵ֣שׁ בִּטָּח֑וֹן כִּֽי־לְכֶ֤לֶב חַי֙ ה֣וּא ט֔וֹב מִן־הָֽאַרְיֵ֖ה הַמֵּֽת:
For whoever is joined to all the living has hope: For as long as he is alive, even if he is wicked and is joined to the wicked, as it is said: “to all the living” -even [if he is joined] to the wicked-he has hope, perhaps he will repent before his death.  
for concerning a live dog he is better than a dead lion: and they are both wicked. It was better for Nebuzaradan, who was a wicked slave and converted to Judaism, that death did not overtake him early, than for Nebuchadnezzar his master, who was called “lion,” as it is said (Jer. 4:7): “A lion has come up from his thicket,” who died in his wickedness, [and ended up] in Gehinnom, while his slave is in the Garden of Eden. Our Rabbis expounded upon this the rule that we may butcher a carcass for dogs on the Sabbath, but a human corpse, lying in the sun, may not be moved unless one places a child or a loaf of bread thereon.  
5For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for their remembrance is forgotten.   הכִּ֧י הַֽחַיִּ֛ים יֽוֹדְעִ֖ים שֶׁיָּמֻ֑תוּ וְהַמֵּתִ֞ים אֵינָ֧ם יֽוֹדְעִ֣ים מְא֗וּמָה וְאֵֽין־ע֤וֹד לָהֶם֙ שָׂכָ֔ר כִּ֥י נִשְׁכַּ֖ח זִכְרָֽם:
For the living know that they will die: and perhaps their hearts will return on the day of death and they will repent of their ways, but after they die, they do not know anything, and they have no more reward for the actions that they do from their deaths and onwards, for whoever toils on the eve of the Sabbath will eat on the Sabbath.  
6Also their love, as well as their hate, as well as their provocation has already been lost, and they have no more share forever in all that is done under the sun.   וגַּ֣ם אַֽהֲבָתָ֧ם גַּם־שִׂנְאָתָ֛ם גַּם־קִנְאָתָ֖ם כְּבָ֣ר אָבָ֑דָה וְחֵ֨לֶק אֵֽין־לָהֶ֥ם עוֹד֙ לְעוֹלָ֔ם בְּכֹ֥ל אֲשֶֽׁר־נַֽעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ:
Also their love: that they loved folly and scorn.  
as well as their hate: that they hated knowledge.  
as well as their provocation: that they provoked the Holy One, blessed be He, with the deeds of their hands.  
and they have no more share, etc. in all that is done, etc.: The merit of a son or daughter did not avail those wicked men who worshipped idols, and they have no atonement after death.  
7Go, eat your bread joyfully and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your deeds.   זלֵ֣ךְ אֱכֹ֤ל בְּשִׂמְחָה֙ לַחְמֶ֔ךָ וּֽשְׁתֵ֥ה בְלֶב־ט֖וֹב יֵינֶ֑ךָ כִּ֣י כְבָ֔ר רָצָ֥ה הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶֽת־מַֽעֲשֶֽׂיךָ:
Go, eat your bread joyfully: But you, the righteous man, whose good deeds the Holy One, blessed be He, has accepted, and who will merit the World to Come, go, eat, joyfully.  
8At all times, let your garments be white, and let oil not be wanting on your head.   חבְּכָל־עֵ֕ת יִֽהְי֥וּ בְגָדֶ֖יךָ לְבָנִ֑ים וְשֶׁ֖מֶן עַל־רֹֽאשְׁךָ֥ אַל־יֶחְסָֽר:
At all times, let your garments be white: Prepare yourself at all times with good deeds, so that if you die today, you will enter in peace. And Solomon likened this to a man whom the king invited for a day of feasting, without setting a time for him. If he is wise or clever, he will immediately launder his garments, and bathe, and anoint himself. So did our Rabbis expound it in Tractate Shabbath (153a).  
9Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all the days of the life of your vanity, whom He has given you under the sun, all the days of your vanity, for that is your portion in life and in your toil that you toil under the sun.   טרְאֵ֨ה חַיִּ֜ים עִם־אִשָּׁ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֗בְתָּ כָּל־יְמֵי֙ חַיֵּ֣י הֶבְלֶ֔ךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י הֶבְלֶ֑ךָ כִּ֣י ה֤וּא חֶלְקְךָ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים וּבַֽעֲמָ֣לְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה עָמֵ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ:
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love: See and understand to learn a craft to earn a livelihood therefrom, together with the study of the Torah which you have acquired.  
for that is your portion in life: If you have done so, your share will be life in this world, by earning a livelihood from the craft, and in the World to Come, because toiling with both causes one to forget sin.  
10Whatever your hand attains to do [as long as you are] with your strength, do; for there is neither deed nor reckoning, neither knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, where you are going.   יכֹּ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּמְצָ֧א יָֽדְךָ֛ לַֽעֲשׂ֥וֹת בְּכֹֽחֲךָ֖ עֲשֵׂ֑ה כִּי֩ אֵ֨ין מַֽעֲשֶׂ֤ה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן֙ וְדַ֣עַת וְחָכְמָ֔ה בִּשְׁא֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֖ה הֹלֵ֥ךְ שָֽׁמָּה:
Whatever your hand attains to do: the will of your Maker, as long as you have your strength, do.  
for there is neither deed, etc. in the grave: for your merit after you die, and if you did so, you have no reckoning in the grave to worry about. The verse is transposed, [to be explained]: for there is neither deed nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave for the wicked, nor reckoning for the righteous, when the wicked give their accounting. So is it expounded in the Midrash (unknown). And one who interprets it without transposing it, according to its apparent meaning, interprets חֶשְּׁבּוֹן as an expression of “thought,” what he can still do to free himself from judgment.  
11I returned and saw under the sun, that the race does not belong to the swift, nor the war to the mighty; neither do the wise have bread, nor do the understanding have riches, nor the knowledgeable, favor; for time and fate will overtake them all.   יאשַׁ֜בְתִּי וְרָאֹ֣ה תַֽחַת־הַשֶּׁ֗מֶשׁ כִּ֣י לֹא֩ לַקַּלִּ֨ים הַמֵּר֜וֹץ וְלֹ֧א לַגִּבּוֹרִ֣ים הַמִּלְחָמָ֗ה וְ֠גַ֠ם לֹ֣א לַֽחֲכָמִ֥ים לֶ֨חֶם֙ וְגַ֨ם לֹ֤א לַנְּבֹנִים֙ עֹ֔שֶׁר וְגַ֛ם לֹ֥א לַיֹּֽדְעִ֖ים חֵ֑ן כִּי־עֵ֥ת וָפֶ֖גַע יִקְרֶ֥ה אֶת־כֻּלָּֽם:
I returned and saw: Heb. וְרָאֹה, seeing, like זָכוֹר, vadant or vedant in Old French, (continually) looking.  
the race does not belong to the swift: Asahel’s swiftness did not avail him when his time arrived.  
nor the war to the mighty: Abner’s might did not avail him when his day arrived.  
neither do the wise have bread: For example, I (Solomon), whose bread for a day was (I Kings 5:2): “thirty kor of fine flour etc.,” and now, (above 2: 10): “this was my portion from all my toil,” my staff and my cup.  
nor do the understanding have riches: e.g., Job, in the beginning, (Job 1:3): “His livestock consisted of, etc.,” and when his time came, he said, (ibid. 19:21): “Have pity on me, you, my friends.”  
nor the knowledgeable, favor: Moses, for example-there was no one more knowledgeable and wiser than he in Israel, and yet he did not find favor with his prayer to enter the Land.  
for time and fate: as its apparent meaning. Another explanation: for time will befall them, and they should be accustomed to entreaty (פְּגִיעָה) and supplication, that these things should not befall them.  
12For a person does not even know his time, like the fish that are caught with an inferior trap and like the birds that are caught in the snare; like them, the children of men are trapped at a time of evil, when it falls upon them suddenly.   יבכִּ֡י גַּם֩ לֹֽא־יֵדַ֨ע הָֽאָדָ֜ם אֶת־עִתּ֗וֹ כַּדָּגִים֙ שֶׁנֶּֽאֱחָזִים֙ בִּמְצוֹדָ֣ה רָעָ֔ה וְכַ֨צִּפֳּרִ֔ים הָֽאֲחֻז֖וֹת בַּפָּ֑ח כָּהֵ֗ם יֽוּקָשִׁים֙ בְּנֵ֣י הָֽאָדָ֔ם לְעֵ֣ת רָעָ֔ה כְּשֶׁתִּפּ֥וֹל עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם פִּתְאֹֽם:
like the fish that are caught with an inferior trap: Like large fish that are caught in an inferior and weak trap, and our Rabbis (Ecc. Rabbah) explained: This is a fishhook, which is no more than a sort of needle, yet a large fish is caught with it.  
like them, the children of men are trapped: with a small and weak trap, like the weak trap and the snare. People stumble at the time of the visitation of their evil, when the time comes for evil to fall upon them suddenly, in an inferior trap, malvayse in Old French, bad, evil.  
like them: Heb. כָּהֵם, כְּמוֹתָם.  
13This also have I seen as wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me.   יגגַּם־זֹ֛ה רָאִ֥יתִי חָכְמָ֖ה תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וּגְדוֹלָ֥ה הִ֖יא אֵלָֽי:
14[There was] a small city, with few people in it, and a great king came upon it and surrounded it and built over it great bulwarks.   ידעִ֣יר קְטַנָּ֔ה וַֽאֲנָשִׁ֥ים בָּ֖הּ מְעָ֑ט וּבָֽא־אֵלֶ֜יהָ מֶ֤לֶךְ גָּדוֹל֙ וְסָבַ֣ב אֹתָ֔הּ וּבָנָ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ מְצוֹדִ֥ים גְּדֹלִֽים:
15And there was found therein a poor wise man, and he extricated the city through his wisdom, but no man remembered that poor man.   טווּמָ֣צָא בָ֗הּ אִ֤ישׁ מִסְכֵּן֙ חָכָ֔ם וּמִלַּט־ה֥וּא אֶת־הָעִ֖יר בְּחָכְמָת֑ וֹ וְאָדָם֙ לֹ֣א זָכַ֔ר אֶת־הָאִ֥ישׁ הַמִּסְכֵּ֖ן הַהֽוּא:
but no man remembered: No one attributed any importance to him.  
16And I said, "Wisdom is better than might, but the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and his words are not heard."   טזוְאָמַ֣רְתִּי אָ֔נִי טוֹבָ֥ה חָכְמָ֖ה מִגְּבוּרָ֑ה וְחָכְמַ֤ת הַמִּסְכֵּן֙ בְּזוּיָ֔ה וּדְבָרָ֖יו אֵינָ֥ם נִשְׁמָעִֽים:
And I said: when I saw this, “Wisdom is better than might,” for this one’s wisdom was despised by all, but now, they were all rescued through him. The Midrash Aggadah, [however, explains the verses as follows]:  
[14] [There was] a small city: This is the body.  
with few people in it: These are the limbs of a person.  
a great king: This is the evil inclination, which all his limbs feel.  
[15] a poor man: This is the good inclination.  
17The words of the wise are heard [when spoken] softly, more than the shout of a ruler of fools.   יזדִּבְרֵ֣י חֲכָמִ֔ים בְּנַ֖חַת נִשְׁמָעִ֑ים מִזַּֽעֲקַ֥ת מוֹשֵׁ֖ל בַּכְּסִילִֽים:
are heard [when spoken] softly: They are accepted by mankind.  
more than the shout of a ruler of fools: Moses passed away many years ago, but his decrees are still accepted by Israel, and how many kings of the nations make decrees over Israel, but their words are not accepted.  
18Wisdom is better than weapons, and one sinner destroys much good.   יחטוֹבָ֥ה חָכְמָ֖ה מִכְּלֵ֣י קְרָ֑ב וְחוֹטֶ֣א אֶחָ֔ד יְאַבֵּ֖ד טוֹבָ֥ה הַרְבֵּֽה:
Wisdom is better: This refers to the wisdom of Serah, of whom it is said (II Sam. 20: 22): “And the woman came to all the people in her wisdom,” [which] availed them more than the weapons that were in their hands, to fight with Joab.  
and one sinner destroys much good: Had she not slain Sheba the son of Bichri, they would all have been destroyed by him. (Ecc. Rabbah). Another explanation:  
and one sinner destroys much good: If Israel were [composed] half of righteous people and half of wicked ones, and one person came and sinned, making the wicked the majority, the result would be that he weighed them all down to the guilty side.  
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