Chapter 4

1I further observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors—with none to comfort them.

v'-shav-TEE a-NEE va-er-EH et kol HA-a-shu-KEEM a-SHER na-a-SEEM TA-khat ha-SHA-mesh v'-hi-NAY dim-AT ha-a-shu-KEEM v'-AYN la-HEM m'-na-KHAYM u-mi-YAD o-sh'-kay-HEM KO-akh v'-AYN la-HEM m'-na-KHAYM

אוְשַׁבְתִּי אֲנִי וָאֶרְאֶה אֶת־כָּל־הָעֲשֻׁקִים אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשִׂים תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְהִנֵּה דִּמְעַת הָעֲשֻׁקִים וְאֵין לָהֶם מְנַחֵם וּמִיַּד עֹשְׁקֵיהֶם כֹּחַ וְאֵין לָהֶם מְנַחֵם׃

 4:1   With none to comfort them

When the verse mentions “all the oppression that goes on,” it refers to the suffering of the Jewish people in exile. Kohelet observes, however, that not only do the people suffer in exile, but that they lack the leadership to comfort them. Sforno notes that the phrase “with none to comfort them” is repeated twice in this verse, hinting that they were lacking the leadership to teach them the two keys for redemption: repentance and prayer. First, the People of Israel need a leader who will guide them towards repentance, for sincere repentance leads to redemption. Second, they need a leader who will show them how to pray effectively so that their prayers will be answered, and they will be returned to the Land of Israel.

2Then I accounted those who died long since more fortunate than those who are still living;

בוְשַׁבֵּחַ אֲנִי אֶת־הַמֵּתִים שֶׁכְּבָר מֵתוּ מִן־הַחַיִּים אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה חַיִּים עֲדֶנָה׃

3and happier than either are those who have not yet come into being and have never witnessed the miseries that go on under the sun.

גוְטוֹב מִשְּׁנֵיהֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר־עֲדֶן לֹא הָיָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא־רָאָה אֶת־הַמַּעֲשֶׂה הָרָע אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃

4I have also noted that all labor and skillful enterprise come from men's envy of each other—another futility and pursuit of wind!

דוְרָאִיתִי אֲנִי אֶת־כָּל־עָמָל וְאֵת כָּל־כִּשְׁרוֹן הַמַּעֲשֶׂה כִּי הִיא קִנְאַת־אִישׁ מֵרֵעֵהוּ גַּם־זֶה הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ׃

5[True,] The fool folds his hands together And has to eat his own flesh.

ההַכְּסִיל חֹבֵק אֶת־יָדָיו וְאֹכֵל אֶת־בְּשָׂרוֹ׃

6[But no less truly,] Better is a handful of gratification Than two fistfuls of labor which is pursuit of wind.

וטוֹב מְלֹא כַף נָחַת מִמְּלֹא חָפְנַיִם עָמָל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ׃

7And I have noted this further futility under the sun:

זוְשַׁבְתִּי אֲנִי וָאֶרְאֶה הֶבֶל תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ׃

8the case of the man who is alone, with no companion, who has neither son nor brother; yet he amasses wealth without limit, and his eye is never sated with riches. For whom, now, is he amassing it while denying himself enjoyment? That too is a futility and an unhappy business.

חיֵשׁ אֶחָד וְאֵין שֵׁנִי גַּם בֵּן וָאָח אֵין־לוֹ וְאֵין קֵץ לְכָל־עֲמָלוֹ גַּם־עיניו [עֵינוֹ] לֹא־תִשְׂבַּע עֹשֶׁר וּלְמִי אֲנִי עָמֵל וּמְחַסֵּר אֶת־נַפְשִׁי מִטּוֹבָה גַּם־זֶה הֶבֶל וְעִנְיַן רָע הוּא׃

9Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings.

טטוֹבִים הַשְּׁנַיִם מִן־הָאֶחָד אֲשֶׁר יֵשׁ־לָהֶם שָׂכָר טוֹב בַּעֲמָלָם׃

10For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe betide him who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him!

יכִּי אִם־יִפֹּלוּ הָאֶחָד יָקִים אֶת־חֲבֵרוֹ וְאִילוֹ הָאֶחָד שֶׁיִּפּוֹל וְאֵין שֵׁנִי לַהֲקִימוֹ׃

11Further, when two lie together they are warm; but how can he who is alone get warm?

יאגַּם אִם־יִשְׁכְּבוּ שְׁנַיִם וְחַם לָהֶם וּלְאֶחָד אֵיךְ יֵחָם׃

12Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!

יבוְאִם־יִתְקְפוֹ הָאֶחָד הַשְּׁנַיִם יַעַמְדוּ נֶגְדּוֹ וְהַחוּט הַמְשֻׁלָּשׁ לֹא בִמְהֵרָה יִנָּתֵק׃

13Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer has the sense to heed warnings.

יגטוֹב יֶלֶד מִסְכֵּן וְחָכָם מִמֶּלֶךְ זָקֵן וּכְסִיל אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָדַע לְהִזָּהֵר עוֹד׃

14For the former can emerge from a dungeon to become king; while the latter, even if born to kingship, can become a pauper.

ידכִּי־מִבֵּית הָסוּרִים יָצָא לִמְלֹךְ כִּי גַּם בְּמַלְכוּתוֹ נוֹלַד רָשׁ׃

15[However,] I reflected about all the living who walk under the sun with that youthful successor who steps into his place.

טורָאִיתִי אֶת־כָּל־הַחַיִּים הַמְהַלְּכִים תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ עִם הַיֶּלֶד הַשֵּׁנִי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲמֹד תַּחְתָּיו׃

16Unnumbered are the multitudes of all those who preceded them; and later generations will not acclaim him either. For that too is futile and pursuit of wind.

טזאֵין־קֵץ לְכָל־הָעָם לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־הָיָה לִפְנֵיהֶם גַּם הָאַחֲרוֹנִים לֹא יִשְׂמְחוּ־בוֹ כִּי־גַם־זֶה הֶבֶל וְרַעְיוֹן רוּחַ׃

17Be not overeager to go to the House of Hashem: more acceptable is obedience than the offering of fools, for they know nothing [but] to do wrong.

יזשְׁמֹר רגליך [רַגְלְךָ] כַּאֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ אֶל־בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים וְקָרוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ מִתֵּת הַכְּסִילִים זָבַח כִּי־אֵינָם יוֹדְעִים לַעֲשׂוֹת רָע׃