Ecclesiastes – Chapter 5

Easy Come, Easy Go

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Solomon advises the reader to be cautious in speech, especially in addressing G-d. (The Targum says we should even be careful to choose our words deliberately in prayer.) After all, G-d is far above us, so we should minimize our speech. Just as we dream about things that occupy our thoughts, we can rely on a fool to speak too much.

When a person makes a vow to G-d, such as to give charity or to bring a sacrifice, he should be diligent to fulfill it quickly. G-d doesn’t like it when people make commitments and don’t fulfill them. It’s better not to vow at all than to vow and not follow through. Why risk making G-d angry? He’s the One to Whom we should defer! (The Talmud in Nedarim 9a discusses whether or not vowing and fulfilling is better than not vowing at all. Our practice is not to vow, in order to avoid the possibility of not fulfilling our commitments. Many people say “bli neder” when they say they’re going to do something. That’s a verbal declaration that intention does not constitute a vow.)

If you see oppression and injustice, don’t let it create theological conflict within you. G-d is watching and He will ultimately act. G-d will repay the arrogant according their deeds. Why should anyone be haughty? Even the king relies upon the ground to produce food in order to survive. A person who loves money will never have enough of it to make him happy. (Similarly, one who loves Torah can never get enough of it.) But it’s pointless to hoard. The more one gets, the more people divide it, which provides no benefit to the one who stockpiled it. The workers enjoy a peaceful sleep, whether they have much or little, but rich people have more to worry about.

Solomon considers something he has seen that’s just wrong: people keep wealth to their detriment. They lose their wealth to others’ evil schemes, leaving nothing for their own children. He leaves this world as empty-handed as he entered it, with nothing to show for all his efforts. (Rashi says the person in our example leaves with no merits because he didn’t give charity when he had the chance.) Easy come, easy go, so what was the point of working so hard to end up with nothing? He wasted his life by filling it with nothing but aggravation and worry.

On the other hand, Solomon says, he has seen that it is good to enjoy the fruits of one’s honest labor, be they as they may. Whatever G-d gives a person is his portion, with which he should be happy. (Some people do have riches from G-d, along with the ability to enjoy them.) One must be aware that a person’s days are limited – so don’t waste them chasing wealth! We should spend our brief lives acquiring merits, which we can take with us. These will serve as a testimony of what was important in life.

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