Chapter 1

1The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.   אדִּבְרֵי֙ קֹהֶ֣לֶת בֶּן־דָּוִ֔ד מֶ֖לֶךְ בִּירֽוּשָׁלָֽ ִ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.  
2Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth; vanity of vanities, all is vanity.   בהֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל:
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.  
3What profit has man in all his toil that he toils under the sun?   גמַה־יִּתְר֖וֹן לָֽאָדָ֑ם בְּכָ֨ל־עֲמָל֔וֹ שֶֽׁיַּֽעֲמֹ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ:
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?  
4A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth endures forever.   דדּ֤וֹר הֹלֵךְ֙ וְד֣וֹר בָּ֔א וְהָאָ֖רֶץ לְעוֹלָ֥ם עֹמָֽדֶת:
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.”  
5The sun rises and the sun sets, and to its place it yearns and rises there.   הוְזָרַ֥ח הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ וּבָ֣א הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְאֶ֨ל־מְקוֹמ֔וֹ שׁוֹאֵ֛ף זוֹרֵ֥חַֽ ה֖וּא שָֽׁם:
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.  
6It goes to the south and goes around to the north; the will goes around and around, and the will returns to its circuits.   והוֹלֵךְ֨ אֶל־דָּר֔וֹם וְסוֹבֵ֖ב אֶל־צָפ֑וֹן סוֹבֵ֤ב | סֹבֵב֙ הוֹלֵ֣ךְ הָר֔וּחַ וְעַל־סְבִֽיבֹתָ֖יו שָׁ֥ב הָרֽוּחַ:
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…  
7All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers flow, there they repeatedly go.   זכָּל־הַנְּחָלִים֙ הֹֽלְכִ֣ים אֶל־הַיָּ֔ם וְהַיָּ֖ם אֵינֶ֣נּוּ מָלֵ֑א אֶל־מְק֗וֹם שֶׁ֤הַנְּחָלִים֙ הֹֽלְכִ֔ים שָׁ֛ם הֵ֥ם שָׁבִ֖ים לָלָֽכֶת:
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.”  
8All things are wearisome; no one can utter it; the eye shall not be sated from seeing, nor shall the ear be filled from hearing.   חכָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים יְגֵעִ֔ים לֹֽא־יוּכַ֥ל אִ֖ישׁ לְדַבֵּ֑ר לֹֽא־תִשְׂבַּ֥ע עַ֨יִן֙ לִרְא֔וֹת וְלֹֽא־תִמָּלֵ֥א אֹ֖זֶן מִשְּׁמֹֽעַ:
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.  
9What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.   טמַה־שֶּֽׁהָיָה֙ ה֣וּא שֶׁיִּֽהְיֶ֔ה וּמַ֨ה־שֶּׁנַּֽעֲשָׂ֔ה ה֖וּא שֶׁיֵּֽעָשֶׂ֑ה וְאֵ֥ין כָּל־חָדָ֖שׁ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ:
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.  
10There is a thing of which [someone] will say, "See this, it is new." It has already been for ages which were before us.   ייֵ֥שׁ דָּבָ֛ר שֶׁיֹּאמַ֥ר רְאֵה־זֶ֖ה חָדָ֣שׁ ה֑וּא כְּבָר֙ הָיָ֣ה לְעֹֽלָמִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הָיָ֖ה מִלְּפָנֵֽנוּ:
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.   יאאֵ֥ין זִכְר֖וֹן לָרִֽאשֹׁנִ֑ים וְגַ֨ם לָאַֽחֲרֹנִ֜ים שֶׁיִּֽהְי֗וּ לֹא־יִֽהְיֶ֤ה לָהֶם֙ זִכָּר֔וֹן עִ֥ם שֶׁיִּֽהְי֖וּ לָאַֽחֲרֹנָֽה:
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.”  
12I am Koheleth; I was king over Israel in Jerusalem.   יבאֲנִ֣י קֹהֶ֗לֶת הָיִ֥יתִי מֶ֛לֶךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בִּירֽוּשָׁלָֽ ִ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.  
13And 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.   יגוְנָתַ֣תִּי אֶת־לִבִּ֗י לִדְר֤וֹשׁ וְלָתוּר֙ בַּֽחָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַֽעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם ה֣וּא | עִנְיַ֣ן רָ֗ע נָתַ֧ן אֱלֹהִ֛ים לִבְנֵ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לַֽעֲנ֥וֹת בּֽוֹ:
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.  
14I saw all the deeds that were done under the sun, and behold, everything is vanity and frustration.   ידרָאִ֨יתִי֙ אֶת־כָּל־הַֽמַּֽעֲשִׂ֔ים שֶֽׁנַּֽעֲשׂ֖וּ תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְהִנֵּ֥ה הַכֹּ֛ל הֶ֖בֶל וּרְע֥וּת רֽוּחַ:
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.  
15What is crooked will not be able to be straightened, and what is missing will not be able to be counted.   טומְעֻוָּ֖ת לֹֽא־יוּכַ֣ל לִתְקֹ֑ן וְחֶסְר֖וֹן לֹֽא־יוּכַ֥ל לְהִמָּנֽוֹת:
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.  
16I 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.   טזדִּבַּ֨רְתִּי אֲנִ֤י עִם־לִבִּי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אֲנִ֗י הִנֵּ֨ה הִגְדַּ֤לְתִּי וְהוֹסַ֨פְתִּי֙ חָכְמָ֔ה עַ֛ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־הָיָ֥ה לְפָנַ֖י עַל־יְרֽוּשָׁלָ֑ ִם וְלִבִּ֛י רָאָ֥ה הַרְבֵּ֖ה חָכְמָ֥ה וָדָֽעַת:
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.:  
17And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I know that this too is a frustration.   יזוָֽאֶתְּנָ֤ה לִבִּי֙ לָדַ֣עַת חָכְמָ֔ה וְדַ֥עַת הֹֽלֵל֖וֹת וְשִׂכְל֑וּת יָדַ֕עְתִּי שֶׁגַּם־זֶ֥ה ה֖וּא רַעְי֥וֹן רֽוּחַ:
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.”  
18For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge, increases pain.   יחכִּ֛י בְּרֹ֥ב חָכְמָ֖ה רָב־כָּ֑עַס וְיוֹסִ֥יף דַּ֖עַת יוֹסִ֥יף מַכְאֽוֹב: