THE prophet Amos stuttered.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
King Solomon was like the clever statesman adopted in the king's house, who when asked by his august master what token of his favour he wished, asked for the king's daughter. Solomon, when asked by the King of Kings for his wish, asked for wisdom.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
At the resurrection men will be revived and will have the same infirmities and defects that they may have had during their former life; so that there may be no mistake as to whether those that are resuscitated are the same as those who were known to be dead.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
If those who are in authority at present should be inferior men to those who were in authority before them, one is not permitted to slight them on that account, but is bound to pay them the tribute of respect due to their position.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
There is no hard and fast rule as to any part with which books in Holy Writ should open.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
Man as a rule does not allude to his low estate, except when he comes out of it and gets into an improved position.--Mid. Eccles i.
The Sanhedrin sat at a table in the form of a half moon, or horseshoe, so that they should be able to see each other.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
No man dies possessing half of what he wishes to possess.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
In one sense there is an advantage in failing memory; if man's memory did not fail, there would be no study of the Torah.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
What Solomon meant to convey by the words, 'What
profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?' (Eccl. 1. 2) is that whatever a man may possess on earth--under the sun--he must inevitably part with, but it is different if he provides for himself above the sun, i.e. in heaven.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
One does not go to the trouble of examining a pig or camel to see whether it is fit to sacrifice on the altar, but one generally examines a clean animal to see whether it is free from those defects which disqualify it as a sacrifice on God's altar. So one does not criticise the actions or scrutinise the life of 'the man in the street,' but if one possesses piety and learning and poses as a religious teacher he must expect to have his life and actions tested and examined, so that it may be known whether they are in harmony with his professions.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
If the wind had unbridled sway no human being could stand against it, but God limits its power so that it may not become injurious to mankind. The wind that destroyed Job's property and that which caused shipwreck to Jonah were specially sent and confined to the places where they had to do their work of destruction.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
All the waters run into the sea and the sea is not filled so a man may be possessed of much knowledge and learning and not be overcharged.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
Rabbi Janai and Rabbi Ishmael both agree that there is no such thing as Gehinom, but that the Lord will employ the. sun to bestow punishment on the unrighteous and reward on the righteous.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
The sun rises and the sun goeth down. Ere Sarah died there arose the sun of Rebecca; the sun of Athniel shone before that of Joshua set. So on the day when Rabbi Akiba died Rabbi Judah Hanasi was born, on the death of Rab Adda Rab Hamomonah saw the light) at Hamomonah's death Rabbi Abbin came into the world; and on the day of R. Abbin's death Abbé Hoshiah the man of Taria was born.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
Rabbi Judah Hanasai made a feast in honour of his son, to which he invited all his fellow-Rabbis, but forgot Bar Kapara, who, in vindication of the slight, wrote on the door, 'After the feast, death.' Rabbi Judah then made a special feast to which he now invited his accidentally omitted friend, who however tasted nought of the viands brought on the table; but, as each dish made its appearance, opened a dissertation, taking for his theme the contents of the dish, and so the other guests, their attention being directed to the ready wit and wisdom of Bar Kapara, eat nothing, and every dish was removed untouched. To Rabbi Judah's remonstrance his friend replied that his anger, for not being invited to the former banquet, was not because he was deprived of the food and drink at that feast, but because he could not bold forth on God's goodness in providing good things for man.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
Solomon used the word 'vanity' seven times, to correspond with the seven stages which man goes through. In his infancy he is like a king, fondled, kissed, and made much of. At the age of two or three years he is more like a pig rolling in the mud, etc. When about ten years of age he is somewhat like a little kid, jumping about and skipping. About the age of twenty he resembles the wild horse in his lusts and desires. When married he is not unlike the ass in his dulness and cheerlessness and sleepiness. Becoming a parent, he becomes bold like the dog in his anxiety to obtain sustenance for his family. And in his old age, with his furrows and wrinkles, he is not unlike an ape.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
When Solomon says 'the wise man's eyes are in his head,' he does not imply that the fool's eyes are in his feet, but that the wise man can, at the start, foresee the consequence of every one of his actions. Rabbi Meier was in the habit of calling the finishing of a thing its beginning.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
Rabbi Meier, who was an excellent penman, earned three 'seloim' a week by writing, a third of which he gave away in support of learned men who were poor.--Mid. Eccles. 1.
How wonderful is the human heart! It speaks and sees (Eccles. 1.), it hears (1 Kings 3.), it walks (2 Kings 5.), it falls (1 Saml. 17.), it stands (Ezekl. 22.), and it rejoices (Ps. 16.), it cries (Lament. 2.), it is comforted (Isa. 40.), and it grieves (Deut. 15.), it hardens (Exod. 19.), and it softens (Deut. 20.), it saddens (Gen. 6.), it is terrified (Deut. 28.), it breaks (Ps. 51.), it is haughty (Deut. 8.), it rebels (Jer. 8.), it devises (1 Kings 12.), and it has imaginations (Deut. 29.), it indites (Ps. 45.), it thinks (Prov. 19.), it desires (Ps. 21.), and it declines (Prov. 7.), it goes astray (Numb. 15.), it supports (Gen. 18.), it is stolen (Gen. 34, it becomes humiliated (Levit. 26.), it is persuaded (Gen. 24.), it errs (Isa. 21.), it trembles (1 Saml. 4.), it is awake (Songs 5.), it loves (Deut. 6.), and it hates (Levit. 19.), it is envious (Prov. 23.), and it is searched (Jer. 17.), it is rent (Joel 2.), it meditates (Ps. 49.), it is like fire (Jer. 20.), and it is stony (Ezkl. 36.), it repents (2 Kings 23.), it is hot (Deut. 19.), it dies (1 Saml. 25.), it melts (Joshua 7.), it receives fear (Jer. 23.), it gives thanks (Ps. iii.), it covets (Prov. 6.), it hardens (Prov. 28.), and it is pleased (judges 16.), it deceives (Prov. 12.), it speaks inwardly (1 Saml. 1.), it loves bribery (Jer. 22.), it is written upon (Prov. 33.), it is mischievous (Prov. 6.), it receives injunctions (Prov. 10.), it is presumptuous (Obad. 1.), and it arranges (Prov. 16.).Mid. Eccles. 1.
Wherever 'eating and drinking' is mentioned in Ecclesiastes it means righteousness and good work, and not material food.--Mid. Eccles. 2.
All the peace and happiness here are mere vanity as compared with the abiding peace in the world to come.--Mid. Eccles. 2.
Hadrian said to Rabbi Joshua b. Hananiah, 'I call
on you to verify the words of your Torah regarding Palestine being a land that lacks nothing (Deut. 8.), by supplying me with pepper, quails, and silk.' Rabbi Joshua complied and brought him the articles demanded from three different towns in Palestine.--Mid. Eccles. 2.
Solomon's saying that there was a 'time to cast away' was illustrated in the case of a merchant and his son who, travelling over the sea, and having a large sum of money with them, overheard some of the sailors plan to kill both of them and share the spoil. The father and the son decided to pretend to quarrel on deck, and in the rage of the quarrel the older man took the money and threw it overboard and so escaped death. On arriving at their destination the would-be assassins were put in prison, and the merchant brought an action against the owners of the vessel for the recovery of the money. The plea of the defendants that the money was thrown into the sea by its owner himself was of no avail; the judge holding that it was the 'time for casting away,' the merchant being justified in throwing the money into the sea to save the lives of himself and his son, which were threatened by the servants of the ship-owner.--Mid. Eccles. 3.
If a man does good acts at the close of his life, it shows he is anxious to add these to the many he has done in the course of his life; and vice versâ, if at the end of his career a man does a reprehensible act, it tends to show that he is full of such misdeeds, and only required this additional one to complete the sinister list.--Mid. Eccles. 3.
Adam was destined to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel; but, seeing that of the two sons he had one killed the other, the privilege was withdrawn. The Torah also would have been given through Adam, had he not proved himself unable to observe even one of God's behests.--Mid. Eccles. 3.
That there is a time to be born and a time to die we can have verified in Ezkl. 16. 4 and Num. 14. 36. Equally is there a time to plant (Amos 9. 15) and to root out plants (Deut. 29. 27). There is a time to weep (Lament. 1. 2), and one to laugh (Ps. 126. 2); a time to lament (Isa. 22. 12), and a time to dance (Zech. 8. 5); a time to cast stones (Lament. 4. 1), and a time to gather stones (Isa. 28. 16); a time for embracing (Song of Songs 2. 6), and a time to keel) away from embracing (Isa. 6. 12); a time to seek (Deut. 4. 29), and a time to lose (Deut. ii. 17); a time to rend (1 Saml. 15. 28), and a time to join together (Ezek. 37, 1); a time to be silent (Isa. 42. 14), and a time to speak (Isa. 40. 2) a time to love (Mal. 1. 2), and a time to hate (Jer. 12. 8) a time for war (Isa. 63. 10), and a time for peace (Isa. 66. 12); a time to slay (Lament. 2. 4), and a time to heal (Jer. 33. 6). All these refer to Israel's history; there were proper times for the respective events, enumerated above, to overtake them.--Mid. Eccles. 3.
That King Solomon held the fear of God in high estimation we glean from the fact that his two great books, those of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, conclude by saying that the fear of God is above everything.--Mid. Eccles. 3.
All souls go upwards; but for those of the righteous there is a resting-place, whilst those of the wicked are fugitive.--Mid. Eccles. 3.
The recital of the שמע is better than a thousand burnt offerings.--Mid. Eccles. 4.
An ignorant man who puts forth pretentions to knowledge is best styled a flatterer of the Torah.--Mid. Eccles. 5.
There is stir and noise when man is born, and the same when he dies; he comes to this world weeping, and there is weeping for him when he goes hence. He arrives without knowledge, and departs without knowledge. When born his fists are closed, as if to say, 'I have
everything,' and when he dies his hands are open, showing that he has nothing.--Mid. Eccles. 5.
There is no death brought about without sin, and no pain without iniquity.--Mid. Eccles. 5.
Are you troubled by evil forebodings, visions, or dreams? Have recourse to prayer, repentance, and charity; for if there is in reality any evil decree against you, the exercise of these great virtues will avert it.--Mid. Eccles. 5-
God says to the prophets, 'Think not that if you do not carry my messages, my will cannot be made known in the world. I have many messengers-even such as a scorpion, a snake, a frog, or an insect.'--Mid. Eccles. 5.
The Israelites were bent on sacrificing, they sacrificed on the high places in the wilderness; hence the Mishkan was erected as soon as was practicable, so that they should bring their sacrifices in that sanctuary.--Mid. Eccles. 5.
If you see cruelty and injustice perpetrated by Romulus in Rome, be not dismayed; remember there is One above the dukes and princes of Rome who executes judgement even by the mere word 'Behold.'--Mid. Eccles. 5.
The well of Miriam can be seen from the top of the mountain Jeshimon (Numb. 21. 20), and its waters have healing properties.--Mid. Eccles. 5.
The soul is not attracted by any earthly goods that may be offered to her. She is like a king's daughter, who finds no value in things which to others may seem precious.--Mid. Eccles. 6.
There are additional reasons, besides the one Solomon gives, why it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. In the former case you show respect to the living as well as to the memory of the dead; you can offer consolation and soften the sharp edge of sorrow; you can do all this to the rich as well as to the
poor; and you can rely on it that the Lord does not leave acts of charity and kindliness unrewarded. Moses, who took such great care to bury Joseph's remains where the latter expressed his desire they should be re-interred, was buried by God Himself.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
'A good name is better than good oil.' Two men (Nadab and Abihu) were anointed with good oil; they went into the place of life (the Tabernacle), but were burnt and did not come out alive. There were three men with good names, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were put into a place of death (the fiery furnace) and came out alive.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
Heart sickness is bad, that of the intestines is worse, but that of the pocket is worse still.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
There are certain things which seek ascendancy over one another. Thus the mighty deep is overshadowed by the high ground, and the mountains are still higher, but they can be levelled by iron. And the iron itself must give way to fire, which can melt it. Fire is extinguished by water, and water is absorbed by the clouds. The wind disperses the clouds, and yet a strong wall defies the wind. Man can pull the wall down, but sorrow pulls man down. Strong drink drowns sorrow, and strong drink is robbed of its effect by sleep. Sleep itself is frustrated by sickness, and sickness is ended by death. A bad woman, however, is worst of all; she is bitterer than death.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
The admonition of a good and sincere preacher is preferable to the expounding of Holy Writ by a quack; however great his enthusiasm, he can only be called a firebrand.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
There are three crowns: that of the priesthood, which fell to Aaron's lot; that of kingdom, which is the portion of the house of David; and the crown of the Torah, which anybody can own; and yet he who acquires it not has acquired nothing.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
Patience is an ornament to a religious teacher, and has
mostly a good effect. A Persian called on Rabbi Judah Hanasi to instruct him in the Jewish faith. At the very outset he was shown the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the Persian went into debate and asked how we know that the letter is called Aleph, etc. The Rabbi sent him away in disgust. Then he went to Rabbi Samuel and tried the same tiresome trick. When the sage pinched his ear, he cried, 'O my ear.' 'How do you know?' asked the Rabbi, 'that this is an ear?' With this witty act the Persian was pleased; he acquired knowledge, and was turned away from heathenism.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
A man had the misfortune to have a bad neighbour and a bad wife. His neighbour went out at night to rob, and spent the proceeds in providing a good table for himself and family. Said his wife to him, 'See how our neighbours live, and contrast it with our humble state.' 'Shall I then go out at night to rob people?' replied her husband. 'And what then if you did?' retorted the woman; 'it would certainly put us beyond the necessity of pinching, as we have to do.' She persisted, and kept on nagging at the man so long that at last he resolved to embark one evening on his neighbour's avocation. It so happened that a band of robbers, in whose sphere of operations the man's neighbour carried on his depredations, resolved to put their competitor out of the way, but the man got wind of this and determined to stay at home. The poor man who, at the instigation of his wife, went out to try his neighbour's profession, fell a victim to the plot arranged against his neighbour. Here we have one example of the bitterness of a bad wife.--Mid. Eccles. 7.
Rabbi Judah b. Eleah, having a robust appearance, was told that a certain non-Jew of his acquaintance had expressed the opinion that it was due to good living or to being a usurer. The sage explained to him that his was a very frugal mode of living; as to
drink, he had the headache from the Passover night--when he tasted of the four cups of wine--till the Tabernacles; and with usury he would not stain his life. He ascribed his robust health to the study of the Torah.--Mid. Eccles. 8.
He who rebels against the king has it in him to rebel against God.--Mid. Eccles. 9.
Some of the Rabbis, whilst very assiduous in study and prayer, would not neglect their daily avocations, but had set apart a third of the day for the pursuit of labour, and they were, on that account, known as 'the holy body.'--Mid. Eccles. 9.
Abbé, called 'the Saintly,' returning home with his bundle of goods from his hawking expedition, one Friday afternoon, saw on the road a sick man unable to walk, who beseeched him to carry him to the town. The poor saintly Abbé was at first perplexed how to act. 'If I leave my bundle with my all in all here, I am undone,' he said to himself, 'as far as a living is concerned; if, on the other hand, I do not carry this poor helpless man into town, he may perish in the open field.' Humanity, however, was the victor, and the good man, casting his burden on God, took the burden of the invalid on his shoulders, walked with him to town, and housed him where he would be taken care of. As there was yet a little sun in the sky, he ventured out again on the high road in the hope of finding the bundle of wares he had left behind, in which hope he was not disappointed, as he found his scanty stock where he had left it. He now set out in great haste on his return journey, being most anxious to arrive home before sundown and before the Sabbath set in. To his great dismay the shadows of the evening were rapidly setting: when he entered the town and his neighbours saw him coming in with his pack on his back together with the Sabbath, they exclaimed, There comes Abbé, 'the saintly,' who will now be known as Abbé the Sabbath breaker. When, lo, and behold, the
sun came out in all his brightness so that to this good man could truly be applied the words of the Prophet Malachi (3. 20), 'Unto you that fear my, name shall the sun of righteousness arise.'--Mid. Eccles. 9.
Fools, as a rule, look upon all mankind as fools.--Mid. Eccles. 10.