Chapter 12

1So appreciate your vigor in the days of your youth, before those days of sorrow come and those years arrive of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

אוּזְכֹר אֶת־בּוֹרְאֶיךָ בִּימֵי בְּחוּרֹתֶיךָ עַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָבֹאוּ יְמֵי הָרָעָה וְהִגִּיעוּ שָׁנִים אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵין־לִי בָהֶם חֵפֶץ׃

2before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds come back again after the rain:

בעַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא־תֶחְשַׁךְ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְהָאוֹר וְהַיָּרֵחַ וְהַכּוֹכָבִים וְשָׁבוּ הֶעָבִים אַחַר הַגָּשֶׁם׃

3When the guards of the house become shaky, And the men of valor are bent, And the maids that grind, grown few, are idle, And the ladies that peer through the windows grow dim,

גבַּיּוֹם שֶׁיָּזֻעוּ שֹׁמְרֵי הַבַּיִת וְהִתְעַוְּתוּ אַנְשֵׁי הֶחָיִל וּבָטְלוּ הַטֹּחֲנוֹת כִּי מִעֵטוּ וְחָשְׁכוּ הָרֹאוֹת בָּאֲרֻבּוֹת׃

4And the doors to the street are shut— With the noise of the hand mill growing fainter, And the song of the bird growing feebler, And all the strains of music dying down;

דוְסֻגְּרוּ דְלָתַיִם בַּשּׁוּק בִּשְׁפַל קוֹל הַטַּחֲנָה וְיָקוּם לְקוֹל הַצִּפּוֹר וְיִשַּׁחוּ כָּל־בְּנוֹת הַשִּׁיר׃

5When one is afraid of heights And there is terror on the road.— For the almond tree may blossom, The grasshopper be burdened, And the caper bush may bud again; But man sets out for his eternal abode, With mourners all around in the street.—

הגַּם מִגָּבֹהַּ יִרָאוּ וְחַתְחַתִּים בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְיָנֵאץ הַשָּׁקֵד וְיִסְתַּבֵּל הֶחָגָב וְתָפֵר הָאֲבִיּוֹנָה כִּי־הֹלֵךְ הָאָדָם אֶל־בֵּית עוֹלָמוֹ וְסָבְבוּ בָשּׁוּק הַסֹּפְדִים׃

6Before the silver cord snaps And the golden bowl crashes, The jar is shattered at the spring, And the jug is smashed at the cistern.

ועַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא־ירחק [יֵרָתֵק] חֶבֶל הַכֶּסֶף וְתָרֻץ גֻּלַּת הַזָּהָב וְתִשָּׁבֶר כַּד עַל־הַמַּבּוּעַ וְנָרֹץ הַגַּלְגַּל אֶל־הַבּוֹר׃

7And the dust returns to the ground As it was, And the lifebreath returns to Hashem Who bestowed it.

זוְיָשֹׁב הֶעָפָר עַל־הָאָרֶץ כְּשֶׁהָיָה וְהָרוּחַ תָּשׁוּב אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר נְתָנָהּ׃

8Utter futility—said Kohelet— All is futile!

חהֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר הַקּוֹהֶלֶת הַכֹּל הָבֶל׃

9A further word: Because Kohelet was a sage, he continued to instruct the people. He listened to and tested the soundness of many maxims.

v'-yo-TAYR she-ha-YAH ko-HE-let kha-KHAM OD li-mad DA-at et ha-AM v'-i-ZAYN v'-khi-KAYR ti-KAYN m'-sha-LEEM har-BAY

טוְיֹתֵר שֶׁהָיָה קֹהֶלֶת חָכָם עוֹד לִמַּד־דַּעַת אֶת־הָעָם וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר תִּקֵּן מְשָׁלִים הַרְבֵּה׃

 12:9   He listened

The Hebrew word izayn (איזן), translated here as ‘listened,’ is related to the words ozen (אוזן), ‘ear,’ and moznayim (מאזנים), ‘scale.’ Commentators note that King Shlomo’s greatness was not that he heard and internalized much wisdom, but that he was also able to present it clearly, so that others could hear and understand it as well. Additionally, King Shlomo calculated and weighed the ideas presented to him in order to arrive at the ultimate truth. The deeper connection between the Hebrew words ozen and moznayim reflect the biological fact that the ear not only receives sound, but also aids a person’s balance and equilibrium.

10Kohelet sought to discover useful sayings and recorded genuinely truthful sayings.

יבִּקֵּשׁ קֹהֶלֶת לִמְצֹא דִּבְרֵי־חֵפֶץ וְכָתוּב יֹשֶׁר דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת׃

11The sayings of the wise are like goads, like nails fixed in prodding sticks. They were given by one Shepherd.

יאדִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת וּכְמַשְׂמְרוֹת נְטוּעִים בַּעֲלֵי אֲסֻפּוֹת נִתְּנוּ מֵרֹעֶה אֶחָד׃

12A further word: Against them, my son, be warned! The making of many books is without limit And much study is a wearying of the flesh.

יבוְיֹתֵר מֵהֵמָּה בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר׃

13The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere Hashem and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind:

יגסוֹף דָּבָר הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת־מִצְוׂתָיו שְׁמוֹר כִּי־זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם׃

14that Hashem will call every creature to account for everything unknown, be it good or bad. The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere Hashem and observe His commandments! For this applies to all mankind.

ידכִּי אֶת־כָּל־מַעֲשֶׂה הָאֱלֹהִים יָבִא בְמִשְׁפָּט עַל כָּל־נֶעְלָם אִם־טוֹב וְאִם־רָע׃ [סוף דבר הכל נשמע את־האלהים ירא ואת־מצותיו שמור כי־זה כל־האדם]