The Shadow KnowsBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Here’s something else Solomon says he has seen and has determined is just no good: often, a person has wealth and power, but G-d has not given him the ability to enjoy it (because, as in the previous chapter, the person has an insatiable desire for wealth). The result is that someone else ends up taking it all away. How futile!
If a person lived a long life and had 100 children, but he wasn’t satisfied with his portion and did not receive a proper burial, it would have been better not to be born. After all, what was the point of his life? A stillborn child never even saw the sun shine, but he still had more satisfaction than the person in this example. What good is living even two thousand years if one can’t be satisfied? In the end, everyone goes back into the ground. We work our whole lives to feed ourselves in this world and in the Next World, so if one was never satisfied and accumulated no merits, his time was a waste. What was the advantage of being wise if he gained nothing? What would have been the disadvantage of being poor if he wasn’t satisfied anyway? This person only looked at money and not at the big picture – how meaningless!
A person cannot overpower a force greater than he – neither G-d, Who decrees a person’s lot in life, nor the “angel of death,” who comes to escort a person out. There are so many pursuits that waste a person’s time in life, but that leave no lasting impact. Who knows the proper deeds a person should spend his life pursuing, in order to secure a place in the Next World? Life is fleeting, like a shadow, so who will tell a person what awaits him in order that he will live appropriately?