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The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 12

Kohelet - Ecclesiastes - Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

1And remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of evil come, and years arrive, about which you will say, "I have no desire in them."   אוּזְכֹר אֶת בּוֹרְאֶיךָ בִּימֵי בְּחוּרֹתֶיךָ עַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָבֹאוּ יְמֵי הָרָעָה וְהִגִּיעוּ שָׁנִים אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵין לִי בָהֶם חֵפֶץ:
And remember your Creator: There (Avoth 3:1) we learned: Akabia the son of Mahalalel says: Reflect upon three things etc. And he derived it from this verse: And remember your Creator (בּוֹרְאֶי) that you will give an accounting and reckoning before Him; and remember your pit (בּוֹרֶ), your grave, a place of earth, maggots, and worms; and remember your well (בְּאֵרֶ), the well that flows from its source: that is the putrid droplet of seed and semen.  
the days of evil: the days of old age and feebleness.  
2Before the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars darken, and the clouds return after the rain.   בעַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֶחְשַׁךְ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְהָאוֹר וְהַיָּרֵחַ וְהַכּוֹכָבִים וְשָׁבוּ הֶעָבִים אַחַר הַגָּשֶׁם:
Before the sun… darken: Our Sages said: This is the forehead, which gives light and shines on a young man, but when he grows old, it becomes wrinkled and does not shine.  
and the light: This is the nose, which is the form of the features of the face.  
and the moon: This is the soul, which gives light for a person, for once it is taken away from him, he ceases to have light in his eyes.  
and the stars: These are the cheeks, the pomegranates of the face, called pomels (cheekbones) of the cheeks, which shine.  
and the clouds return after the rain: The dimming of the light will come after the tears of the weeping for the many troubles that passed over him.  
3On the day that the keepers of the house tremble, and the mighty men are seized by cramps, and the grinders cease since they have become few, and those who look out of the windows become darkened.   גבַּיּוֹם שֶׁיָּזֻעוּ שֹׁמְרֵי הַבַּיִת וְהִתְעַוְּתוּ אַנְשֵׁי הֶחָיִל וּבָטְלוּ הַטֹּחֲנוֹת כִּי מִעֵטוּ וְחָשְׁכוּ הָרֹאוֹת בָּאֲרֻבּוֹת:
the keepers of the house: These are the ribs and the flanks, which protect the entire body cavity.  
and the mighty men are seized by cramps: Heb. וְהִתְעַוְּתוּ. עִוּוּת, called crampe, will seize them. וְהִתְעַוְּתוּ is encranpiront in Old French, will be seized with cramp.  
the mighty men: These are the legs, upon which the body supports itself.  
and the grinders cease: These are the teeth.  
since they have become few: In old age, most of his teeth fall out.  
and those who look out of the windows: These are the eyes.  
4And the doors shall be shut in the street when the sound of the mill is low, and one shall rise at the voice of a bird, and all the songstresses shall be brought low.   דוְסֻגְּרוּ דְלָתַיִם בַּשּׁוּק בִּשְׁפַל קוֹל הַטַּחֲנָה וְיָקוֹם לְקוֹל הַצִּפּוֹר וְיִשַּׁחוּ כָּל בְּנוֹת הַשִּׁיר:
And the doors shall be shut: These are his orifices.  
when the sound of the mill is low: the sound of the mill grinding the food in his intestines, and that is the stomach.  
and one shall rise at the voice of a bird: For even the voice of a bird awakens him from his sleep since he has become old.  
and all the songstresses shall be brought low: Heb. וְיִשַּׁחוּ. All the sounds of musical instruments seem to him like conversation (שִׂיחָה). Its apparent meaning is like its simple interpretation, that יִשַּׁחוּ is like יִשְׁפָּלוּ, shall be brought low. All the singers and songstresses shall be low in his eyes, and so did Barzilai the Gileadite say to David, (II Sam. 19:36): “or can I still listen to the voice of singers and songstresses?”  
5Also from the high places they will fear, and terrors on the road, and the almond tree will blossom, and the grasshopper will drag itself along, and sexual desire will fail, for man goes to his everlasting home, and the mourners go about in the street.   הגַּם מִגָּבֹהַּ יִירָא וּ וְ חַתְחַתִּים בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְיָנֵאץ הַשָּׁקֵד וְיִסְתַּבֵּל הֶחָגָב וְתָפֵר הָאֲבִיּוֹנָה כִּי הֹלֵךְ הָאָדָם אֶל בֵּית עוֹלָמוֹ וְסָבְבוּ בַשּׁוּק הַסּוֹפְדִים:
Also from the high places they will fear: from the mounds and bumps in the streets: he is afraid to go out into the street lest he stumble on them.  
and terrors on the road: Heb. וְחַתְחַתִּים. He has many fears and terrors on the road. חַתְחַתִּים This is a word consisting of doubled language, like גַלְגַלִים, wheels, קַשְׂקַשִׂים, scales, זַלְזַלִים, tendrils.  
and… blossoms: Heb. וְיָנֵאץ, an expression of (Song 7:13): “whether the pomegranates have blossomed (הֵנֵצוּ) ,” for the “aleph” in it is not pronounced. Our Rabbis said: This is the haunch, hanche in French, into which the hip bone is thrust, and in his old age, the flesh is emaciated, and the bone protrudes, like the blossom of a tree which protrudes.  
the almond tree: Heb. הַשָׁקֵד, an almond tree, i.e., old age will spring upon him like this almond tree, which hastens to blossom before all the other trees.  
and the grasshopper will drag itself along: These are the buttocks, for his buttocks will seem to him to be as one who bears a heavy burden. וְיִסְתַּבֵּל, ert porfessez in Old French, and will be overburdened.  
and the sexual desire will fail: the desire for women; for he will have no urge to be intimate with women. הָאֲבִיוֹנָה, means desire, like (Deut. 1:26): “But you did not want (אֲבִיתֶם) ” (Ps. 119:174): “I yearned (תָּאַבְתִּי) for Your salvation.”  
6Before the silver cord snaps, and the golden fountain is shattered, and the pitcher breaks at the fountain, and the wheel falls shattered into the pit.   ועַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא יֵרָתֵק (כתיב יֵרָחֵק) חֶבֶל הַכֶּסֶף וְתָרֻץ גֻּלַּת הַזָּהָב וְתִשָּׁבֶר כַּד עַל הַמַּבּוּעַ וְנָרֹץ הַגַּלְגַּל אֶל הַבּוֹר:
Before the silver cord snaps: This is the spinal cord, which is as white as silver, and when he dies, its marrow diminishes and empties out and dries and becomes crooked within the vertebrae, and it becomes like a chain. יֵרָתֵק is an expression of silver chains (רְתֻקוֹת).  
and the golden fountain is shattered: This is the male organ, which emits a flow of water (urine), which flows like a fountain, like (Josh. 15:19): “the upper springs (גֹת).” וְתָרֻץ is an expression of shattering (רְצִיצָה).  
and the pitcher breaks at the fountain: This is the stomach, which is thick and splits upon his death.  
and the wheel falls shattered into the pit: The eyeball will be shattered within its socket. According to its simple interpretation, this is a wheel with which they draw water from the cistern. So is this entire matter expounded in Tractate Shabbath (151b 152a). Midrash Kinoth (Lam. Rabbah, Proem 23), however, interprets it as referring to all Israel: [1]  
And remember your Creator in the days of your youth: As long as your you are still called chosen, as long as the priesthood still endures, as it is said (I Sam. 2:28): “And I did choose him from all the tribes of Israel to be My priest” ; as long as the covenant of the Levites still endures, as it is said (Deut. 18:5): “For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes” ; as long as the kingdom of the House of David still endures, as it is said (Ps. 78:70): “And He chose His servant David” ; as long as Jerusalem still endures, as it is said (I Kings 11:32): “the city that I have chosen” ; as long as the chosen Temple still endures, about which it is stated (II Chron. 7: 16): “And now I have chosen and consecrated this House” ; as long as you still endure, as it is said (Deut. 7:6): “the Lord your God has chosen you.”  
before the days of evil come: These are the days of the exile. [2]  
Before the sun… darken: This is the kingdom of the House of David of which it is written (Ps. 89:37): “And his throne is like the sun before Me.”  
and the light: This is the Torah, as it is said (Prov. 6:23): “For a commandment is a candle and the Torah is light.”  
and the moon: This refers to the Sanhedrin, of which we learned (Sanh. 4:3): “The seating of the Sanhedrin was in the shape of a semi-circular threshing floor.”  
and the stars: These are the Rabbis, as it is said (Dan. 12:3): “and those who bring the multitudes to righteousness are like the stars.”  
and the clouds return after the rain: calamity after harsh calamity. You find concerning all the harsh prophecies that Jeremiah prophesied about them, that they befell them only after the destruction of the Temple. [3]  
On the day that the keepers of the house tremble: This refers to the watches of the priests and the Levites.  
and the mighty men are seized by cramps: These are the priests, who are mighty in strength. Said Rabbi Abba bar Kahana: Aaron lifted twenty-two thousand Levites in one day. Said Rabbi Hanina: The bird’s crop is a light thing, yet the priest would throw it more than thirty cubits.  
and the grinders cease: These are the great collections of Mishnah: the Mishnah of Rabbi Akiva, the Mishnah of Rabbi Hiyya, and the Mishnah of Bar Kappara.  
and those who look… become darkened: that the Talmud will be forgotten from the heart. [4]  
And the doors are shut in the street: for example, the doors of Nehushta the son (read: the daughter) of Elnathan, which were wide open.  
when the sound of the mill is low: because they did not engage in the words of Torah. Said Rabbi Samuel: Israel is compared to the grinding of the millstones; just as the millstones are idle neither by day nor by night, here too, (Josh. 1:8): “you shall meditate therein day and night.”  
and one rises at the voice of a bird: This is the wicked Nebuchadnezzar. Rabbi Levi said: For eighteen years a heavenly voice went forth and in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace and proclaimed: “Wicked slave, go and destroy your Master’s House because His children disobey Him.”  
and all the songstresses are brought low: (Isa. 24:9): “In song, they shall not drink wine.” [5]  
Also from the Most High they fear: He was afraid of He Who is Supreme in the universe, and his heart was concerned lest He do to him as He did to his predecessors.  
and terrors on the road: Because of this, he will seek omens and portents [to see if] he will succeed on the way that he will go, as it is stated (Ezek. 21: 26): “For the king of Babylon stood at the crossroads, to divine; he furbished the arrows, he inquired of the teraphim.”  
and the almond tree will blossom: Jeremiah’s prophecy will grow, as it is said (Jer. 1:11): “I see the rod of an almond tree.” Said Rabbi Eliezer: This almond tree, from the time it blossoms until its fruits are ripe, are twenty-one days. Likewise, from the seventeenth of Tammuz until the ninth of Av are twenty-one days.  
and the grasshopper will drag itself along: This is Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Dan. 3:1): “its height sixty cubits, its width six cubits.” Now, if its thickness is not six, it cannot stand, and you say that, “he set it up in the plain of Dura” ? Said Rav Beivai: They set it up and it fell; they set it up and it fell, until they brought all the gold in Jerusalem and poured it out as a base on its feet, to fulfill what is stated (Ezek. 7:19): “and their gold will be repugnant.”  
and the avionah fails: This is the ancestral merit; the support of your Patriarchs will fail; accordingly, אֲבִיוֹנָה is derived from אָב, father.  
for man goes: Israel, who were called (Ezek. 36:37) “men like a flock of sheep” ; (ibid. 34:31) “you are men.”  
to his everlasting home: They came from Babylon, and they returned to Babylon. Terah, the father of Abraham, was from the other side of the river [Euphrates].  
and the mourners go about in the street: The exile of Jeconiah preceded the exile of Zedekiah by eleven years. When Nebuchadnezzar exiled the exile of Zedekiah in neck irons, the exile of Jeconiah came out toward Nebuchadnezzar against their will, with the rest of the city dwellers, to praise him, that he was a hero and a victor, and they would see the captives and ask them, each one about his kinsman, what happened to him, and they would answer them, (Jer. 15:2): “Such as are for death to death, and such as are for captivity to captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword.” And they would praise with one hand, and with their other hand, they would clap their hands and beat their sides in mourning for their brothers and for their children. [6]  
before the silver cord snaps: This is the genealogical chain.  
and the golden fountain is shattered: These are the words of Torah, as it is said (Ps. 19: 11) “They are to be desired more than gold.”  
and the pitcher breaks at the fountain: The pitcher of Baruch the son of Neriah on the fountain of Jeremiah. They were both exiled to Babylon and stopped their studies because of the hardship of the journey. At first, they were exiled to Egypt, for Johanan the son of Kareah exiled them, and when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Egypt, he exiled them to Babylon.  
and the wheel falls shattered into the pit: This is Babylon, which is the depository of the world.  
7And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God, Who gave it.   זוְיָשֹׁב הֶעָפָר עַל הָאָרֶץ כְּשֶׁהָיָה וְהָרוּחַ תָּשׁוּב אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר נְתָנָהּ:
And the dust returns, etc.: They came from Babylon and they returned to Babylon.  
and the spirit returns: This is the holy spirit, for as soon as the holy spirit departed, they were exiled.  
8"Vanity of vanities," said Koheleth; "all is vanity."   חהֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר הַקּוֹהֶלֶת הַכֹּל הָבֶל:
Vanity of vanities: I see in the world.  
said Koheleth: he who had a collection of wisdom within him.  
all is vanity: all that was created in the six days of Creation.  
9And more [than this], Koheleth was wise, he also taught knowledge to the people; he listened and sought out, he established many proverbs.   טוְיֹתֵר שֶׁהָיָה קֹהֶלֶת חָכָם עוֹד לִמַּד דַּעַת אֶת הָעָם וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר תִּקֵּן מְשָׁלִים הַרְבֵּה:
And more [than this], Koheleth was wise: And more than what is written in this Book, Koheleth was wise.  
he listened: Heb. אִזֵן. He made ears (handles) for the Torah, like a basket which has no ears with which to hold it, and he came and made ears for it, for he instituted “Eruvin” as a safeguard for the observance of the Sabbath, and he instituted the ritual washing of the hands as a safeguard for purity, and he instituted secondary forbidden marriages as a safeguard for the prohibitions against incest.  
10Koheleth sought to find words of delight and properly recorded words of truth.   יבִּקֵּשׁ קֹהֶלֶת לִמְצֹא דִּבְרֵי חֵפֶץ וְכָתוּב יֹשֶׁר דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת:
Koheleth sought: He set his heart and sought the matter and found it.  
words of delight: the halachah for Moses from Sinai.  
and properly recorded: This refers to the Written Torah and the Prophets.  
11The words of the wise are like goads, and like well-fastened nails with large heads, given from one shepherd.   יאדִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת וּכְמַשְׂמְרוֹת נְטוּעִים בַּעֲלֵי אֲסֻפּוֹת נִתְּנוּ מֵרֹעֶה אֶחָד:
The words of the wise: They made a fence for the Torah with decrees to distance a person from sin, e.g., eating hallowed things until dawn, and they said “Until midnight,” and likewise, the evening recitation of the Shema [which the Sages limit to midnight].  
are like goads: Just as this goad directs the cow to its furrows, so do their words direct a person to the ways of life.  
and like well-fastened nails: Just as this nail is fastened, so are their words fastened [i.e., permanent], and just as a sapling (נְטִיעָה) is fruitful and multiplies, so are their words fruitful and multiply, to find for them a reason.  
with large heads: Heb. אֲסֻפּוֹת, nails that have a large and thick head, grosse in French, large. So did Dunash the son of Labrat explain it (Teshuvoth Dunash, p. 44).  
given from one shepherd: All their words are the words of the living God. He said them, and one shepherd gave them, viz. Moses from God. וּכְמַשְׂמְרוֹת This is written with a “sin,” for the Torah (Tenach), with the twenty-four books coincide with the number of the watches (מִשְׁמָרוֹת) of the priests and the Levites.  
12And more than they, my son, beware; making many books has no end, and studying much is a weariness of the flesh.   יבוְיֹתֵר מֵהֵמָּה בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר:
And more than they, my son, beware: more than the uprightness of the words of truth, the words written in the aforementioned books.  
my son, beware: to observe the words of the Sages. Now if you ask, “If they are necessary, why were they not written down?”  
making many books has no end: If we would attempt to write, we would be unable to do so.  
and studying much is a weariness of the flesh: And if he comes to memorize large amounts, more than the heart can grasp, that is weariness to man, but let one not say, “Since I cannot complete the work, why should I begin?” But…  
13The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.   יגסוֹף דָּבָר הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר כִּי זֶה כָּל הָאָדָם:
The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God: What you can, do, and let your heart be to Heaven.  
and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man: Because, for this matter, the entire man was created.  
14For every deed God will bring to judgment-for every hidden thing, whether good or bad.   ידכִּי אֶת כָּל מַעֲשֶׂה הָאֱלֹהִים יָבִא בְמִשְׁפָּט עַל כָּל נֶעְלָם אִם טוֹב וְאִם רָע:
For every deed: that a person performs, God will bring to judgment. Therefore, מַעֲשֶׂה is vowelized with a “pattah,” [meaning a “seggol”], and the cantillation sign is above, since it is not connected to the name [of God].  
for every hidden thing: even for the unintentional sin.  
whether good or bad: even if he stumbled in [the performance of] a commandment, such as giving charity to a poor man in public [causing him embarrassment].  
The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God, etc.:  
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