Ecclesiastes – Chapter 10

Fixing a Hole

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

When flies, which are insignificant, fall into the precious oil used to make perfume, they completely ruin it. Similarly, when a little foolishness is discovered in a person, it can completely destroy a reputation for wisdom. A wise person’s heart directs him to the right, while a fool’s heart leads him to the left. (The right represents the intellect, while the left, where the heart is, stands for a person’s desires. A wise person can override his desires and follow his brain, while a fool simply gives in to all his urges.) When a fool travels, he reveals to all who encounter him just how foolish he is, though he mistakenly believes others to be equally foolish.

When G-d punishes you for your misdeeds, don’t spurn Him. The things He does to afflict you cleanse you of your transgressions.

Now Solomon describes another injustice he has witnessed, which he compares to an order given by a king in error. He prophetically discusses the destruction of the first Temple: a base people was elevated, while an esteemed people was degraded. The Kasdim (Chaldeans), a once-lowly people, ride horses while the Jews are driven before them as captives. However, those who plot evil are often undone by their own schemes, like a person who falls into his own trap. Those who violate G-d’s Law (compared to breaching a wall) will be punished by Heaven. A sinner will reap what he sows, like the act of carrying stones wears one out. Those who keep the Torah, however, will benefit (like a wood chopper who can warm himself by a fire, thanks to his efforts).

Even unsharpened swords are useful in battle, but wisdom is better than weapons. If a snake bites a person, it’s because it was not charmed. What good is the skill of snake charming if you don’t use it? Similarly, what good is knowledge if a person keeps it to himself? (People will not be able to follow the Torah if those who know it don’t teach it!) A wise person’s words endear him to others, while those of a fool lead to his own downfall. The start of a fool’s talk is nonsense and the end is madness. Fools just keep on talking. Not only do they not know what will be, they don’t know what was. Hey, fools don’t even know what IS unless somebody tells them! (Rashi applies these last few verses to the pagan prophet Balaam.)

A fool’s work tires him out because he doesn’t go about things in the proper way. It’s an unfortunate city whose king is immature and whose leaders are self-serving. A nation benefits when its leader inherits the mantle of responsibility and the leaders put the needs of the people first. It’s because a person is lazy that his roof leaks. A feast is made to celebrate joyous occasions, but to do so, one needs money. (In other words, if one is too lazy to work, one will not have the necessary resources.) Finally, don’t curse the king or other rich and powerful people, even in private. These things have a way of getting out and your words will come back to haunt you. (All the more so, one should not even think badly of THE King, Who knows our innermost thoughts!)

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