Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes

with commentary by Batya Markowitz

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Introduction

The scroll of Kohelet, referred to in English as Ecclesiastes, gets its name from its author King Solomon, who gives himself the name Kohelet. Kohelet is related to the word Hebrew word hakhel, gathering, since Solomon often gave public speeches at gatherings. Ecclesiastes is a book of observations on life, made by the wisest man to ever live. According to the Sages, it was written towards the end of Solomon’s life after he had gathered much wisdom and life experience. Kohelet also means a collection, since it is a collection of the various things in life that may mislead a person. Fitting for a book of insight, this book was written in Jerusalem, a city known for its wisdom.

 

King Solomon comments on the futility of life in this world. He warns not to be drawn to excessive celebration and pleasure, and instructs that it is better to pursue knowledge. He observes that God created a perfect world in which “to every thing there is a season” (3:1). He ponders the age old question of why righteous people suffer while the wicked prosper. He illustrates how the pursuit of wealth and luxuries is meaningless. He points out the things that really matter in life, such as a good reputation, charity and good deeds. He decries bad personality traits including jealousy, stinginess, and anger.

 

At first glance, certain verses in Ecclesiastes seem inherently contradictory or antithetical to Judaism, and for this reason the Sages considered not including it in the Bible. They arrived at the conclusion that it should be included, since its overall message is that life is infused with meaning when following the word of God and His Torah. Koheleth begins by saying that the physical world on its own is meaningless, and ends by stating: “The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man” (12:13).

 

Kohelet was originally read at the Biblical hakhel ceremony. Once every seven years, at the conclusion of the Sabbatical year, the king would address the people who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Traditionally, the king would read portions of the Torah. King Solomon added the words of caution that are included in his book, Ecclesiastes, and later kings read from this scroll as well.

 

To this day, Ecclesiastes is read on the Feast of Tabernacles each year. In the Land of Israel, the Feast of Tabernacles falls right before the rainy season. The crops that have been harvested and dried in the fields throughout the summer are stored before the first rains come. This time of year provides a great sense of accomplishment for the Israeli farmer who has toiled all year to finally “reap the fruits of his labor.” To avoid getting caught up in all the materialism, Ecclesiastes is read specifically at this time to warn a person that physicality is not the goal of life, but rather the means to achieve a higher purpose.

Batya Markowitz

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About Batya Markowitz

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Batya Markowitz has been in love with the Bible for years. She is a two time National Bible Contest winner, which awarded her the opportunity to come to Israel to participate in the international Bible competition and tour the land. Growing up in Toronto, her dream was to make aliyah to Israel and become a Bible teacher. Today, Batya lives with her husband in the heart of Jerusalem, fulfilling both of those goals. Since receiving a degree in Jewish Education at Michlalah Jerusalem College, she has been teaching Jewish studies at the elementary, junior high and post high school levels.

Email: batya@theisraelbible.com

Courses:
Song of Songs/Shir Hashirim
Ecclesiastes/Kohelet
Esther/Esther
Daniel/Daniel
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Comment ( 1 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bibleā„¢.

  • This flower I had seen my dreams the where two naboers new people and old people in the village the lady said to me I never been where the new comers are when she left I saw the Ecclesiastes simple in a garden where standing alone then I flight back to Somalia where I have small land I find it same flowers of this with a goats called by Somali riyo it means to dream I couldn't find this land by own the women which my mothers casen wife show me the land she said to me that's your land there are riyo

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