Koheles: An Introduction (What's An "Ecclesiaste?")By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Koheles (Ecclesiastes) is, along with Mishlei (Proverbs) and Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), one of three books authored by Shlomo (King Solomon) and transcribed by the court of his descendant Chizkiyahu (King Hezekiah). Of all the Scriptures, Koheles was the Book whose inclusion was most debated. Due to a number of apparent contradictions in the text, there were those who were inclined to dismiss the Book’s Divine origins and attribute it to Solomon’s wisdom alone. However, those seeming contradictions were reconciled and the Book was included in the canon (see Talmud Megillah 7a).
In the introduction, Solomon is called “Koheles, son of David, king in Jerusalem.” We can easily determine that this is Solomon. After all, he was the only son of David that ruled. (Also, David had no son or descendant named Koheles, king or otherwise.) So why was Solomon called Koheles? The name comes from the word meaning “to gather.” He is called Koheles because he compiled many forms of wisdom, much of which is shared in this book. So, Koheles means that Solomon is “The Gatherer.”
Much of the Book involves Solomon saying that certain activities are “hevel,” normally translated as “vanity.” For the purpose of our synopses, let us shake things up a bit. When you see us say that things are “temporal,” “fleeting,” “pointless,” or words to that effect, you’ll know that we’re expressing the idea that Solomon referred to as “hevel,” vanity.