Essay Book Ecclesiastes

Essay Book Ecclesiastes-5
We moderns are thus in a unique position to identify with Kohelet’s quest.To all appearances, however, it would seem that this search is doomed from the start. Kohelet is disillusioned with life because he believes it is all in vain; he abhors the idea of leaving his life’s work behind for someone else to enjoy or to squander.Yet one need only look at the elaborate Tibetan Book of the Dead to see that the nature of the afterlife is, once again, considered concrete knowledge, and is described—and illustrated, in numerous mandalas—in lush detail.

We moderns are thus in a unique position to identify with Kohelet’s quest.To all appearances, however, it would seem that this search is doomed from the start. Kohelet is disillusioned with life because he believes it is all in vain; he abhors the idea of leaving his life’s work behind for someone else to enjoy or to squander.Yet one need only look at the elaborate Tibetan Book of the Dead to see that the nature of the afterlife is, once again, considered concrete knowledge, and is described—and illustrated, in numerous mandalas—in lush detail.

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Twelve chapters long, it is one of literature’s earliest encounters between faith and reason: the author struggles to believe that life is meaningful despite his experience of the world.

The book’s inclusion in the Hebrew Bible is therefore remarkable, testifying to Judaism’s interest not only in divine revelation, but also in man’s exploration of the meaning of life and mortality.

In all these cases, the afterlife is portrayed as a concrete reality, thus ingrained in its adherents from childhood.

The religions of India and the Far East offer, instead, the idea of reincarnation.

As opposed to the quest of Job, Solomon’s search for wisdom did not arise from a desire to make sense of either personal misfortune or national catastrophe.

Indeed, his was a life of unrepentant indulgence: he tempted himself with wine, entertained himself with male and female performers, and amassed untold treasures and hundreds of wives and concubines.

Rather, Kohelet sets out on his inquiry from the perspective of a life replete with fortune and opportunity.

He takes as his starting point not revelation, but man’s personal need for meaning.

Yet he will rule over all my work which I worked at, and contrived, under the sun. They affirm, for example, the positive value of a joyful life.

These bold affirmations of life echo almost word for word the maxim of Solomon’s days, that brief flowering of Jewish renaissance: “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude; eating and drinking and rejoicing.” In taking the frustration expressed by Kohelet to its existential extreme, most commentators conclude that he rejects completely the finite nature of life, either by means of a skeptical nihilism or fatalistic moralism. James Sawyer writes, according to Ecclesiastes “Man is compelled to seek for an answer to the meaning of life.

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