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זרע זה מלך המשיח מדרש רבה כג ה
that Moshiach, through his sufferings, will win our victory over Satan.)
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First let's get something clear about erroneous notions of Paul and his founding a new religion, which he didn't. True, the halakhah of his Judaism switched from the Pharisaic oral law to the Ruach Hakodesh, but his religion was still one of the Judaisms of the time, not a new non-Judaism Gentile religion.
Shakespeare said, "We owe G-d a death...but death is a fearful
There is an unconscious terror of death in Man, who knows that
the significance of his life shrivels at the words "unto dust
shalt thou return." In the gruesome shadow of death, the whole
life of Man is made to seem as so much empty and lonely loitering
at the gates of an infinite abyss. There is a word for this
emptiness in Hebrew, the word havel which means empty,
unsubstantial, a passing elusive vapor. This is what life is
without a personal knowledge of G-d.
The author, who calls himself Kohelet "leader of the Assembly,"
Ben Dovid Melech Byrooshalam "son of Dovid, king in Jerusalem,"
finds that death has thrown a shroud of gloom and meaninglessness
over every kind of work that man does "under the sun." G-d's
work endures (3:14; 7:13), but man's does not. Death sees to
that. And therein is the riddle of life. What can dying, man
gain from all his work (1:3)? What can mortal man achieve from
all his labor, in view of his rapidly approaching demise (2:22)?
There is a time to die (3:2), but death is life's biggest riddle.
What possible gain can workers have from all their life-long toil
(3:9) since death causes them in the end to toil "for the wind
(5:16)?" A generation comes and goes to death and is forgotten
(1:4; 2:16). Death makes all toil "wearisome" and predictably
futile and, since everything dies, everything is deja vu
(disagreeably the same). People of long ago and people yet to
come will both alike be forgotten and all their labors will be
forgotten because of that great leveller called Death. Death is
what makes life at heart such an unhappy business, and there is
nothing man can do about this crooked state of dying affairs
(1:15). So this life in itself is found wanting, and death is
the reason. Many who claim to be Jewish claim that life is
wonderful as it is, but these people are not Biblical Jews, any
more than that Jewish man Karl Marx was a Biblical Jew with all
his philosophizing about the worker's existence "under the sun.
The French philosopher Pascal noticed how we habitually block out
the thought of our own coming demise. We do this in order to
maintain a fragile sense of mental happiness. Death is an end
too incomprehensibly ominous to contemplate. Yet our thoughts
keep returning to glower at its reality. And though we try to
divert ourselves with continuous activity and company and
"unhappy business," we know that each of us must ultimately die
and see everything we have done unravelled into nothingness.
Where can we then find pleasure in anything we do? What in the
world, what under the sun, are dying men to do with their
The author makes a test of various activities and pursuits:
wisdom, madness, folly, pleasure, laughter, wine, women, song,
great building projects, great "life works," great acquisitions,
possessions, treasure-collecting, and he finds only emptiness and
meaninglessness in all these. Whatever pleasures these things
brought him were fleeting indeed. The more wisdom he acquired,
the more sorrow he became aware of. The more money he acquired,
the more vexation came with it. Death robs all men, because
everyone goes to the grave naked and penniless. So what use is
money, in the face of death? And since the sage and the fool
must both go to the same all-consuming grave, what use is wisdom,
in the face of death?
The author acquired much wisdom and his wisdom remained with him
(2:9), although wisdom can be ephemeral even in this life, in
view of senility and the effects of aging, so grimly portrayed in
ch. 12. But since man cannot extend his life or control what
happens after his death, all that his wisdom attains for him may
fall into the hands of some foolish oblivion as soon as he dies,
so what good is wisdom, anyway, in the final analysis? The same
fate (death) befalls everyone. No man has an heir he can really
trust, since even one's posterity is also subject to death and
chance, which can, and eventually will, given sufficient time,
play havoc with anyone's legacy. So death destroys life's
meaning. Death makes one hate life (2:17). Death makes one hate
one's work (2:18). Wise men, for all the work of their minds,
are no better than mad men or fools because all alike die.
Indeed, man is no better than the beasts who are also subject to
the same fate. And man is ignorant! Man doesn't know what G-d
has done or will do (3:11). Man doesn't know what will take
place after his death. Men doesn't know if his human spirit
awaits a fate different than animal extinction (3:20-22). Man
needs G-d to give him some answers, because if death completely
swallows and obliterates man, then Mankind that G-d created to
work and till the ground and have dominion over the animals is
himself no better than an animal.
This is the problem. Death. What is the answer? Is there
anything that death cannot obliterate? Yes, the author of
Ecclesiastes says. The work of G-d. It endures and death has no
dominion over it (3:14). But what is the work of G-d? What does
G-d do, in the final analysis? G-d judges everyone, and he has
appointed a time to judge the world (3:17). G-d judges the sinner
by bringing all things he does into judgment (11:9). The sinner's
life is dispensed with not as the sinner pleases but as G-d
pleases, and the wages of sin that G-d pleases to dispense is a
meaningless death (2:26). But death cannot obliterate this
judgment that G-d metes out. Therein is where lies the hope of
the resurrection from the death, which this book questions but
does not negate. The author does not merely say, "Eat, drink and
be merry, for tomorrow we die." In fact he says just the
opposite. He says, "I've tried that, and I don't recommend it."
G-d will bring everything into judgment (11:9); therefore, fear
G-d (5:7). Do not live for this world because this world in
itself is meaningless and empty and fallen and dying. Live for
G-d and enjoy everything that he gives you as a gift from him.
Otherwise, there is no pleasure in this life. Death is man's
lot. To be able to accept this as a fact of life is itself a
gift from G-d. G-d is a mystery and creation was created good
but it is now fallen (7:29). Man has limits to his wisdom. There
is no power in man that will save him from the day of death.
All he can say is that death cannot take away the good that the
G-d-fearer has. "It will be well with those who fear G-d,
because they stand in fear before him." The author seems to be
questioning and looking for something new under the sun (1:9-10),
which was what the Moshiach is when he comes walking out of the
tomb in his glorious resurrection body. Otherwise, "there is no
work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the abode of the
dead), to which you are going" (9:10). The righteous and the
wise and their deeds are "in the hand of G-d" who endures and
whose judgment not even death can thwart. This is the assurance
of wisdom that makes the resurrection of the dead the vibrant
hope and the only answer to the riddle that death poses to the
author of this book.
Philosphers like David Hume may say that they are not afraid to
die, but put a pistol to their breasts, then threaten to kill
them, and see (with Boswell and Yochananson) how the wisest
philosopher will behave. The illusions of genteel philosophy
will not help us face the rude indignities of death when they
brutally rap at the door.
The problem of evil as it churns bitterly around in our minds
often tempts us to doubt the existence of G-d, especially a G-d
who is safely removed from both suffering and death and waits
austerely in heaven to judge us. If we think of death's
inescapableness and even of Moshiach Yehoshua as "a nice, dead
prophet," where do we have to go with the guilt of our moral
failures as our years quickly arraign us into the courts of the
Facing the evil of the human condition and the absurd,
meaningless, sniper fire of death picking off everyone around us,
we begin to feel a deep inner unhappiness and anxiety. We ask
ourselves, what is lurking at the bottom of all our fears--is it
not the fear of death? Many psychological researchers are now
saying that the fear of death has a central place in human life,
so much so that some believe a culture's very concept of reality,
its model for "the good life," and its moral codes are all
intended to protect people psychologically from the ubiquitous
terror of death. Of course, Freud disagreed that every fear is
ultimately the fear of death. Yet he dais admit that "the dread
of death, which dominates us oftener than we know, is...usually
the outcome of the sense of guilt."
We suspect that a certain amount of our present sufferings come
from our own faithless treacheries haunting us from the past. And
the dread of something worse possibly coming back to torment us
after death prevents us from ever being fully at ease with our
dwindling and frail mortality. In light of death's unknown
hellish judgments, as Hamlet says, "the conscience does make
cowards of us all." Death is truly an awesome "undiscovered
country" from whose dreadful domain no traveller can return.
Yet the English philosopher Hobbes once wrote, "G-d, that could
give life to a piece of clay, hath the same power to give life
again to a dead man, and renew his inanimate and rotten carcass
into a glorious, spiritual and immortal body." This very point
is what separates the religion of the Bible from that of Homer,
for the Greek g-ds could not revive the dead. They were not truly
omnipotent. But omnipotence is precisely the claim of the G-d of
the Bible whose Hebrew prophets even predicted the coming of the
Moshiach. Their promise was that through this coming King and
Redeemer, G-d would personally destroy death and bring
immortality and bodily resurrection to light at last.
However, the Torah teaches that the penalty of unintentional evil
that must be paid to redeem G-d's people from ultimate divine
judgment is the death of a sacrificial victim called an Asham,
"ah-sham" guilt offering, which had to be brought to the kohen
for slaughter (Leviticus 5:14-19). The prophets said that the
coming Moshiach would be an eternal kohen and his death would be
a momentous "ah-sham" guilt offering for sin (see Psalm 110:4;
Isaiah 53:10). The merciful purpose of such a blood sacrifice is
to purify humanity from its unpunished sin so that all who turn
from evil and have faith can be justly forgiven. How significant
it is, then, that hundreds of years before their words were
fulfilled, the prophets of the Hebrew Bible predicted that "My
Servant" the Moshiach would be named Yehoshua (or Moshiach
Yehoshua--see Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 3:8; 6:11-12; Ezra 3:8).
Further, these Hebrew prophets predicted that the Moshiach would
offer himself as a blood sacrifice and then afterwards see the
light of resurrection life (see Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in the Dead
Sea Scrolls). As it says in Hebrews 2:14-15, this was to release
those who throughout their life have been subject to servitude
and bondage through their fear of death (thanatophobia).
Would you like to be freed from that great fear behind all your
other fears? Would you like to be delivered from the fear of
death and the dread of punishment? Would you like to have true
peace with G-d? Isaiah 53:5 says of the Moshiach, "the
punishment that brought us peace was upon him." His blood and
"his wounds can heal you" from the fear of death and the dread
of punishment (Isaiah 53:5). But faith comes from exposure to
the Word of G-d as it is obediently taught and studied and
faithfully proclaimed. Why rely only on your own thoughts when
you can seek to know G-d's? Reach out to Moshiach Yehoshua by
faith. Trust him to forgive your sins and receive Him and obey
Him as L-rd as you worship among a body of believers where the
Bible is believed and faithfully taught.
People don't get saved unless they feel lost. Ecclesiastes
(Hebrew, Qohelet) depicts the utter emptiness and futility of
life that only the resurrection of the Moshiach can alter. Do
you remember those instant writing pads you played with as a
child? You raise the sheet and all your work vanishes...That's
what life is like. The only thing that gets preserved is what
G-d calls to judgment (12:14). All else in this life is chasing
"There is nothing new under the sun," (1:9) yet what is old will
also be lost, and memory will not give it permanence, for it too
will be forgotten. Only the Word of the L-rd will stand forever
(I Shliach Kefa 1:25) and our labors for the L-rd (I Cor. 15:58).
All empty hedonism, worldly amusements, materialism, secular
education, secular art, workaholic personal kingdom-building
(with or without nepotism) will pass away. The world with all it
craves for is coming to an end (I Yochanan 2:17). G-d rewards
sage and fool alike--with death! (2:16). Therefore, worldly
wisdom is an empty mirage. G-d is the only one capable of
escaping or breaking the empty cycle of vanity described in
2:24-26. This G-d did in the new creation age that is already
dawning in the resurrection of His filial Word, our Savior and
L-rd, Moshiach Yehoshua the Moshiach.
Eccles. 3:21-22 shows that had the Moshiach not brought in the
dawn of the resurrection age, there would be nothing for us to do
but to be happy in the ministry of our vocational calling.
However, since the resurrection has occurred, we can be happy in
our "tent-making" means to effect the Great Commission ends of
the work the Moshiach has assigned us (II Thes. 3:7-12; I Thess.
4:11-12; Eph. 4:23). This means denuding ourselves of our own
cultural and "class consciousness" regarding educational and
vocational status, and to take the Bible and Shliach Sha'ul as
our model in using the gifts of vocation (and even possibly
celibacy) to the Lord's advantage in doing cross-cultural
outreach at home and abroad.
Society is wicked, oppressive, and evil and the life of this
world--in itself--is not worth living, arising as it does from
the futile envy and mutual jealousy and ambition of dying men
(4:4). A philosophical skepticism about yourself will also keep
you from bringing worldly ambition into the L-rd's work, and will
keep you from vain, restless, striving in the ministry. Cure:
take a walk in the out-of-doors and meditate on Ecclesiastes.
Dream dreams for G-d (without a vision you die), but strip off
the vainglory and pompous arrogance (5:6).
Ask G-d to give you the ability to enjoy life and to keep your
heart "occupied with joy" (5:19). If you are a congregational
leader you will have to marry and bury people. Use the Word! Use
Song of Songs to marry and Ecclesiastes 5:1a etc., to bury.
Worldly humor is as empty and sinister as the jestors in Nero's
Circus or at Hugh Heffner's Playboy Club (7:5), and every
philanderer knows that a woman's worldly laughter is a prelude to
the bedroom (Eph. 5:4-5). This kind of affair is far worse than
the deprivations of celibacy (Eccles. 7:26-27). 8:15 shows that
radical abstinence (health-breaking fasts, etc.) is unbiblical
because it impunes the goodness of G-d's creation. The preamble
to all kiruv outreach for Moshiach is 8:5-6: the hope of the
worldly dead is extinquished.
Learn to live in humble and careful fear of the L-rd, asking him
daily for a wise heart (10:1-2), since you can ruin your whole
life's good works and good name with a little folly.
"Slaves I see on horsebeck" (10:7) means that the celebrities and
stars and princes of this world are in reality mere garbege
supervisors since their world is actually a junk heap at the
mouth of hell and not Moshiach's Kingdom.
A warning for flakey students: "Fools find hard work irksome; he
who does not know the way cannot go to town" (10:15). Our school
is to show you the way to do cross-cultural ministry at home or
abroad--a task more complex than pursuing a diploma at a diploma
mill. You must do the ministry, plant a cross-cultural fellowship
among Jews or Muslims, etc., write and perform a performing arts
ministry vehicle before an audience. If you cannot do anything
for G-d here as an outgrowth of our school, how can you hope to
succeed overseas or anywhere else?
Be careful what you say: it will fly away and be heard afar
Become a good steward of your time (11:6). Also the time is now
to get your time-management act together.
Notice the Faulknerian As I Lay Dying poetic "death tableaux" in
the picture of old age in 12:3-5.
Eccles. 12:12 warns about too many books wearing you out. But
don't throw out books related to Hebrew, Tanakh (Old Testament),
Greek, Brit Chadasha Scriptures Survey, Messianic Yeshiva
studies, Messianic Prophecies and Rabbinic Literature,
Judaeo-Christian History and Philosophy, Historical Theology and
Doctrine, Cross-cultural communication and the Arts and ministry
formation. This is our curriculum at Artists For Israel Institute
and books related to these subjects you never have too many of in
the teaching and preaching minstry of the body of Moshiach.
G-d made Man upright, but they have devised many schemes.
Isn't it time to come back to your spiritual home?
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