Megillas Koheles

I am pleased to announce that I have, with Hashem’s help, just completed the first draft of the book Voice of Nobles – Commentary of the Dubner Maggid on the Book of Ecclesiastes (Koheles). An excerpt from the book can be accessed from the Voice of Nobles page of this site. Another excerpt is presented below.
In the opening passage of Megillas Koheles, Shlomo HaMelech challenges: “What gain does a man achieve from all his labor that he will labor beneath the sun?” The Maggid brings out one facet of this challenge with a sharp parable.
A lad from a distant province came to a certain town and hired himself out as a servant to one of the residents. This lad was in a hapless state, for he was slow-witted and no connection with anyone in the town. One day, he went wandering in the marketplace, and then sat by one of the surrounding houses for an hour or two. The master of the house recognized him and exclaimed: “You are my own flesh and blood!” The lad was very happy, as is natural for a stranger who finds a relative in town who can look out for him. He took upon himself, as a volunteer effort, to spend one hour each day doing various jobs for this fellow. He happily did whatever he could to help. This fellow’s neighbors saw how diligently and faithfully the lad worked, and they all decided to take advantage of him. Each of them deceitfully befriended him and claimed to be his relative. He was quickly swamped with a large cadre of bogus relatives. And he would do favors for them all, taking care of odd jobs for them almost every day.
Eventually the lad’s employer found out what was going on. Naturally, he was very upset that his hired hand was wandering around and spending most of his time working for these other people, while putting aside the work he was supposed to be doing for him. He asked the lad: “I realize you are helping your relatives, but what are they doing for you?” The lad replied: “Far be it from me to accept any favors from my dear relatives for helping them. I wish only that I could spend all my time helping them.” The employer countered: “Seeing that they don’t do anything for you, how do you know that they are really your relatives? Maybe they are lying, and are treating you as family only for their own benefit.” 
The parallel is as follows. The creations of the world deceitfully beckon to man, leading him to labor for their benefit, doing all he can for them. He ends up spending all his time ministering to them. Shlomo therefore says: “True, your labor brings benefit to the world, but what benefit does it bring you? And if it brings you no benefit, perhaps it is a false pursuit.” Tellingly, when Shlomo speaks of the futility of such labor, he describes it as “labor beneath the sun.” This phrase alludes to work man does merely to serve the needs of the physical world, with no benefit to him.
Thus, it does not pay to get wrapped up in worldly pursuits and pleasures. It is better to limit one’s connection with the worldly realm to the minimum necessary. As our Sages teach (Avos 6:4): “This is the way of Torah: eat bread with salt, drink water by measure, and sleep on the ground; live a life of deprivation, and toil in the Torah. If you do so, then ‘you are fortunate, and it is well with you’ (Tehillim 128:2)—you will be fortunate in this world, and it will be well with you in the World to Come.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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