Chapter 8

1Who is like the wise man, and who knows the meaning of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the boldness of his face is changed.   אמִי־כְּהֶ֣חָכָ֔ם וּמִ֥י יוֹדֵ֖עַ פֵּ֣שֶׁר דָּבָ֑ר חָכְמַ֤ת אָדָם֙ תָּאִ֣יר פָּנָ֔י ו וְעֹ֥ז פָּנָ֖יו יְשֻׁנֶּֽא:
Who is like the wise man: Who in the world is as esteemed as a wise man?  
and who knows the meaning of a thing: Heb. פֵשֶּׁר, the interpretation, as we find regarding Daniel; because of his wisdom-for [because] he was wise in the fear of Heaven, the secrets of interpretations were revealed to him. Who is like Moses, who made compromises (פְּשָּׁרִים) between Israel and their Father in Heaven?  
and the boldness of his face is changed: from that of other people, to the extent that (Exod. 34:30) they feared to approach him because the skin of his face was radiant.  
2I [am prepared to] observe the commandment of the King, and concerning the oath of God.   באֲנִי֙ פִּי־מֶ֣לֶךְ שְׁמֹ֔ר וְעַ֕ל דִּבְרַ֖ת שְׁבוּעַ֥ת אֱלֹהִֽים:
I… observe the commandment: Therefore, I need to and I am prepared to observe the commandment of the King of the Universe, which is the best of them all [i.e., better than all intrigues.]  
and concerning the oath of God: which we swore to Him on Horeb, to keep His commandments. [See Ecc. Rabbah.] Another explanation: I am prepared to observe the command of the kings of the nations who rule us with head taxes and property taxes.  
and alongside the oath of God: provided that they do not cause us to transgress the oath that we swore to the Omnipresent.  
And alongside: the oath of God, I will keep the command of the kings. And so we find with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who said to Nehuchadnezzar, (Dan. 9:16): “to you they say: O King Nebuchadnezzar (sic), we do not care to answer you about this matter.” If he was king, why did they call him Nehuchadnezzar, and if Nebuchadnezzar, why did they call him king? However, this is what they said to him: To you we say that you are king over us regarding work and regarding the head tax, but concerning your ordering us to worship idols, you are [merely] Nebuchadnezzar, and not a king.  
3Hasten not to go away from before Him; stay not in an evil thing; for all that He wishes, He will do.   גאַל־תִּבָּהֵ֤ל מִפָּנָיו֙ תֵּלֵ֔ךְ אַֽל־תַּֽעֲמֹ֖ד בְּדָבָ֣ר רָ֑ע כִּ֛י כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַחְפֹּ֖ץ יַֽעֲשֶֽׂה:
Hasten not to go away from before Him: Do not hasten, saying that you will go and flee from before Him to a place where He does not rule, for He rules everywhere.  
stay not in an evil thing: Do not persist in engaging in evil things.  
for all that He wishes: to mete retribution upon you, He has the authority and ability to do so.  
4Inasmuch as the King's word is the rule, and who will say to Him, "What are You doing?"   דבַּֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר דְּבַר־מֶ֖לֶךְ שִׁלְט֑וֹן וּמִ֥י יֹֽאמַר־ל֖וֹ מַֽה־תַּֽעֲשֶֽׂה:
Inasmuch as the King’s word is the rule: The word of the Holy One, blessed be He, rules, and who will say to Him, “What are You doing?” But if you keep the commandment, you will not know any evil matter, and it will not befall you.  
5Whoever keeps the commandment shall know no evil thing, and the heart of a wise man knows time and justice.   השׁוֹמֵ֣ר מִצְוָ֔ה לֹ֥א יֵדַ֖ע דָּבָ֣ר רָ֑ע וְעֵ֣ת וּמִשְׁפָּ֔ט יֵדַ֖ע לֵ֥ב חָכָֽם:
and the heart of a wise man knows time and justice: The wise man knows that there is a set time for the punishment of the wicked, and there are judgments before the Holy One, blessed be He, with which He will ultimately recompense them. מִשְׁפָּט is justize in Old French, and that refers to the punishment.  
6For every desire has a time and judgment, when the evil of man is great upon him.   וכִּ֣י לְכָל־חֵ֔פֶץ יֵ֖שׁ עֵ֣ת וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט כִּֽי־רָעַ֥ת הָֽאָדָ֖ם רַבָּ֥ה עָלָֽיו:
For every desire has: When a person executes his desire and transgresses the Law, there is a time to exact retribution upon him, and justice and punishment are ready.  
when the evil of man is great upon him: When the evil of man is great and his measure is heaped up, then his punishment arrives; כִּי is used as an expression of “when,” like (Exod. 18:16): “Whenever (כִּי) they have a concern, it comes to me.”  
7For he knows not what will be, for how it will be, who will tell him?   זכִּֽי־אֵינֶ֥נּוּ יֹדֵ֖עַ מַה־שֶּׁיִּֽהְיֶ֑ה כִּ֚י כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר יִֽהְיֶ֔ה מִ֖י יַגִּ֥יד לֽוֹ:
For he knows not what will be: When the wicked man commits a transgression, he does not put his heart to [the prospect] that the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to bring him to judgment, and woe is to him because of that.  
for how it will be: the punishment. Who will tell him to confer with him and to take counsel with him and to ask permission, for it will suddenly befall him.  
8No man controls the will [of God's messenger] to retain the spirit, and there is no ruling on the day of death; neither is there discharge in war, nor will wickedness save the one who practices it.   חאֵ֣ין אָדָ֞ם שַׁלִּ֤יט בָּר֨וּחַ֙ לִכְל֣וֹא אֶת־הָר֔וּחַ וְאֵ֤ין שִׁלְטוֹן֙ בְּי֣וֹם הַמָּ֔וֶת וְאֵ֥ין מִשְׁלַ֖חַת בַּמִּלְחָמָ֑ה וְלֹֽא־יְמַלֵּ֥ט רֶ֖שַׁע אֶת־בְּעָלָֽיו:
No man controls the will: the spirit and the inclination of the agent of the Omnipresent, to retain and to withhold from him the spirit in his body, that the angel of death should not take it.  
and there is no ruling: of any king discernible on the day of his death. Everywhere [in Scripture] we find mentioned, “King David,” but on the day of his death it is written, (I Kings 2:1): “And the days of David drew near that he should die.” No kingship is mentioned here.  
neither is there discharge in war: [In] this [war], saying, “I will send my son or my servant in my stead.”  
9I saw all this, and I applied my heart to all the work that is done under the sun, a time that a man ruled over [another] man for his [own] harm.   טאֶת־כָּל־זֶ֤ה רָאִ֨יתִי֙ וְנָת֣וֹן אֶת־לִבִּ֔י לְכָֽל־מַֽעֲשֶׂ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַֽעֲשָׂ֖ה תַּ֣חַת הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ עֵ֗ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר שָׁלַ֧ט הָֽאָדָ֛ם בְּאָדָ֖ם לְרַ֥ע לֽוֹ:
I saw all this: mentioned above.  
and I applied my heart to all the work: And also to all the work of the children of men I applied my heart, and I saw the time that a man ruled over his companion and overpowered him, and it ultimately turned to his own harm. Amalek overpowered Israel, (Num. 24:20): “and his end will be that he will be lost forever.” So it was with Pharaoh, so with Nebuchadnezzar, and so with Sennacherib.  
10And so I saw the wicked buried, and they came, and from the place of the Holy One they go away, and they will be forgotten in the city that they did so; this too is vanity.   יוּבְכֵ֡ן רָאִ֩יתִי֩ רְשָׁעִ֨ים קְבֻרִ֜ים וָבָ֗אוּ וּמִמְּק֤וֹם קָדוֹשׁ֙ יְהַלֵּ֔כוּ וְיִֽשְׁתַּכְּח֥וּ בָעִ֖יר אֲשֶׁ֣ר כֵּֽן־עָשׂ֑וּ גַּם־זֶ֖ה הָֽבֶל:
And so: and then.  
I saw the wicked buried: In this prophecy, I saw wicked men buried, who were fit to he hidden in the dust, for they were despised among the nations, about whom it is said (Isa. 23:13): “this people has never been,” and they ruled over the Temple of the Holy One, blessed be He, which is a holy place, and when they went from there to their land, they boasted that they did such and such a thing in the Temple of the Omnipresent. Do not read וְיִשְׁתַּכְּחוּ, and they will be forgotten, but וְיִשְׁתַּבְּחוּ, and they will boast. So did our Rabbis of blessed memory expound it (Gittin 56b). Concerning the forgetting, [i.e., the legitimate wording of the verse], it is expounded as follows in the Aggadah (unknown): and ultimately, their name and their remembrance will be forgotten from that very city, that they did so therein, as it is said (Joel 4:2): “I will gather all the nations and I will take them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” In the place where they angered Him, He will mete out retribution upon them, and so Scripture states (Ps. 73:20): “O Lord, in the city You will despise their form.”  
this too: is one of the vanities that were given to the world to weary mankind, for the Holy One, blessed be He, does not hasten to mete out retribution upon evildoers, and mankind thinks that there is neither judgment nor Judge.  
11Because the sentence of the deed of evil is not executed swiftly; therefore, the heart of the children of men is encouraged to do evil.   יאאֲשֶׁר֙ אֵֽין־נַֽעֲשָׂ֣ה פִתְגָ֔ם מַֽעֲשֵׂ֥ה הָֽרָעָ֖ה מְהֵרָ֑ה עַל־כֵּ֡ן מָלֵ֞א לֵ֧ב בְּֽנֵי־הָֽאָדָ֛ם בָּהֶ֖ם לַֽעֲשׂ֥וֹת רָֽע:
Because the sentence of the deed of evil is not executed swiftly: The Holy One, blessed be He, does not hasten to mete out retribution upon the evildoers, and therefore, they think that there is no judgment, and their heart is encouraged to do evil.  
12For a sinner does evil a hundred [years], and He grants him an extension; but I know too that it will be good for those who fear God because they fear Him.   יבאֲשֶׁ֣ר חֹטֶ֗א עֹשֶׂ֥ה רָ֛ע מְאַ֖ת וּמַֽאֲרִ֣יךְ ל֑וֹ כִּ֚י גַּם־יוֹדֵ֣עַ אָ֔נִי אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִֽהְיֶה־טּוֹב֙ לְיִרְאֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִֽירְא֖וּ מִלְּפָנָֽיו:
For a sinner, etc.: because they see that the sinner does evil a hundred thousand and myriads [of times], and the Holy One, blessed be He, grants him an extension.  
a hundred: This is an ellipsis, and it is connected to the words preceding it, saying: a hundred days, a hundred years, a hundred thousand. And so, (Isa. 51:21): “and drunk”, וּשְׁכֻרַת, is an ellipsis, and it is missing [the word כַּעַס]: drunk from wrath and not from wine, like other drunkenness.  
but I know too: For despite all this, that He does not hasten to mete retribution upon the wicked to make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, I know that each one will ultimately receive his recompense, and that those who fear Him will fare well.  
13But it will not be well with the wicked, and he will not prolong [his] days, like a shadow, because he does not fear God.   יגוְטוֹב֙ לֹא־יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָֽרָשָׁ֔ע וְלֹא־יַֽאֲרִ֥יךְ יָמִ֖ים כַּצֵּ֑ל אֲשֶׁ֛ר אֵינֶ֥נּוּ יָרֵ֖א מִלִּפְנֵ֥י אֱלֹהִֽים:
But it will not be well with the wicked: because he does not fear God.  
14There is vanity that is done on the earth, that there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deed of the wicked, and there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the deed of the righteous; I said that this too is vanity.   ידיֶשׁ־הֶ֘בֶל֘ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נַֽעֲשָׂ֣ה עַל־הָאָ֒רֶץ֒ אֲשֶׁ֣ר | יֵ֣שׁ צַדִּיקִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר מַגִּ֤יעַ אֲלֵהֶם֙ כְּמַֽעֲשֵׂ֣ה הָֽרְשָׁעִ֔ים וְיֵ֣שׁ רְשָׁעִ֔ים שֶׁמַּגִּ֥יעַ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם כְּמַֽעֲשֵׂ֣ה הַצַּדִּיקִ֑ים אָמַ֕רְתִּי שֶׁגַּם־זֶ֖ה הָֽבֶל:
There is vanity: which causes people to think foolishly.  
that there are righteous men: to whom evil happens [fitting as retribution for] the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked to whom good happens [fitting as reward for] the deeds of the righteous. I said that this too is one of the vanities that prevail in the world. However, our Rabbis expounded it in a different manner in Tractate Horayoth (10b), but to me, it is not explained satisfactorily, according to the line of thought here where the wise man (Koheleth) concludes by saying, “This too is vanity.”  
15And I praised joy, for there is nothing better for man under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be merry, and that will accompany him in his toil the days of his life that God gave him under the sun.   טווְשִׁבַּ֤חְתִּֽי אֲנִי֙ אֶת־הַשִּׂמְחָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אֵֽין־ט֤וֹב לָֽאָדָם֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשֶּׁמֶ֔שׁ כִּ֛י אִם־לֶֽאֱכֹ֥ל וְלִשְׁתּ֖וֹת וְלִשְׂמ֑וֹחַ וְה֞וּא יִלְוֶ֣נּוּ בַֽעֲמָל֗וֹ יְמֵ֥י חַיָּ֛יו אֲשֶׁר־נָֽתַן־ל֥וֹ הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ:
joy: for he should rejoice in his lot and engage in the “upright commands,” (See Ps. 19:9) which cause the heart to rejoice, and he should not be absorbed in increasing his wealth with usury and interest and robbery. Whoever does not rejoice in his lot and is absorbed in amassing money, eventually commits the sins of robbery, fraud, and taking interest. One who does not rejoice in his lot concerning the love of his wife, has a passionate lust for women, and harbors erotic thoughts about married women.  
to eat and to drink: from what the Holy One, blessed be He, graciously granted him, and to rejoice with his lot. And [according to] the Midrash Aggadah (Ecc. Rabbah 2:26): All mention of eating and drinking in Ecclesiastes, refers only to the study of Torah, as it is stated (Isa. 55:1): “go, buy and eat, etc.”  
and that will accompany him: will join him, as it is stated (ibid. 58:8): “and your righteousness shall go before you.”  
the days of his life that God gave him: he shall do so, and the end of the verse is connected to its beginning, and it is a transposed verse, [to be interpreted thus:] there is nothing better for man in the days of his life that God gave him than to eat, drink and rejoice, and that will accompany him in his toil.  
16When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the conduct that is done upon the earth, for neither by day nor by night does he see sleep with his eyes.   טזכַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֤תִּי אֶת־לִבִּי֙ לָדַ֣עַת חָכְמָ֔ה וְלִרְאוֹת֙ אֶת־הָ֣עִנְיָ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר נַֽעֲשָׂ֖ה עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ כִּ֣י גַ֤ם בַּיּוֹם֙ וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה שֵׁנָ֕ה בְּעֵינָ֖יו אֵינֶ֥נּוּ רֹאֶֽה:
When I applied my heart: Heb. כַּאֲשֶּׁר. This כַּאֲשֶּׁר is not used as an expression of an example, like (Lev. 24:19): “as (כַּאֲשֶּׁר) he did, so shall it be done,” but as an expression of time, like (Gen. 37:23): “When (כַּאֲשֶּׁר) Joseph came” ; (ibid 43: 2): “when (כַּאֲשֶּׁר) they finished eating, etc.” This is similar: When I applied my heart to know… and to search, etc., then I saw all that God had wrought.  
does he see sleep with his eyes: [i.e.,] the wicked man who has a passionate lust for money and for forbidden women.  
17And I saw all the deed of God, for a person will not be able to fathom the deed that is done under the sun, because though a man toils to seek, he will not fathom [it], and even if the wise man claims to know [it], he will be unable to fathom [it].   יזוְרָאִ֘יתִ֘י אֶת־כָּל־מַֽעֲשֵׂ֣ה הָֽאֱלֹהִים֒ כִּי֩ לֹ֨א יוּכַ֜ל הָֽאָדָ֗ם לִמְצוֹא֙ אֶת־הַֽמַּֽעֲשֶׂה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נַֽעֲשָׂ֣ה תַֽחַת־הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ בְּ֠שֶׁ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַֽעֲמֹ֧ל הָֽאָדָ֛ם לְבַקֵּ֖שׁ וְלֹ֣א יִמְצָ֑א וְגַ֨ם אִם־יֹאמַ֤ר הֶֽחָכָם֙ לָדַ֔עַת לֹ֥א יוּכַ֖ל לִמְצֹֽא:
And I saw all the deed of God: that He gave over to mankind.  
for a person will not be able to fathom, etc.: Mankind cannot fathom the way of the Holy One, blessed be He, what the reward is for all the deed that is done under the sun, for they see wicked men prospering and righteous men declining.  
because though a man toils to seek: because I saw many people toiling to seek and to fathom this phenomena, but they are unable [to understand it].  
and even if the wise man claims: that he understands it, he will not be able to, for [even] Moses our teacher could not fathom the matter, when he said, (Exod. 33:13): “please let me know Your ways.”