Ecclesiastes – Chapter 8

Deferred Payment Plan

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Who is comparable to a wise person? Others turn to wise people because they understand the meaning of things. (Rashi uses the example of Daniel, who was called upon to read the writing on the wall, as we will see in the Book that bears his name.) Wisdom sets people apart from the herd and removes anger from his face. Therefore, keep G-d’s commands, as we promised at Sinai we would do. Don’t rush away from Him or stay in an evil situation, because His will is what will endure. Since His word is very much law, who will question it? Whoever follows His directions will know no evil; a wise person will understand that there is a time in which G-d will render judgment on people. When people have finished accumulating their evil deeds, they will pay for them. Such people do not anticipate this fate. No human being can alter the trajectory of G-d’s plans. A person cannot hang on to his soul if G-d wants to reclaim it. You can’t send another person in your place. Nothing can postpone the fate of evil people.

Solomon also considered the following: sometimes one person rules over another, but it ends up being to his own detriment. (Rashi gives many examples: Amalek, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and Sennacherib.) Solomon says he saw the wicked buried and, in the end, their very names will be forgotten. (Rashi says that Solomon saw this prophetically, in a vision.) Like so much else, this is futility! Because the wicked do not pay quickly, others are not discouraged from doing evil. A person could act maliciously for a hundred years, getting reprieves from G-d before he is judged. But know that those who defer to G-d’s will are destined to have a better fate! The wicked will pass like a shadow.

There are many frustrating things in the world. There are righteous people who suffer (as the wicked deserve) and wicked who prosper (as the righteous deserve). But this is only temporary.

Solomon praised joy as meritorious; what could be better than enjoying one’s lot in life? That will help a person get through all his hard work. When Solomon dedicated himself to accumulating wisdom, he saw that a wicked person knows no peaceful sleep. When Solomon considered G-d’s ways, he saw that a person is unable to understand them all. Sure, many try, but even the wisest cannot grasp the totality of its depth. (Rashi cites the case of Moses, who asked in Exodus 33:13 to understand G-d’s ways, a request that was only partially fulfilled.)

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