Ariel Ben Avraham – Ecclesiastes: The illusion of vanity and the reality of love (VII & VIII)
“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to cast away stones and a time to heap up stones. A time to embrace and a time to be far from embracing. A time to seek and a time to destroy. A time to keep and a time to cast away.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4-6)
Weeping and mourning can be preconditions to laughing and dancing as the culmination of the lessons learned with our suffering. This does not mean that we have to cry and lament in order to find joy and delight, but to understand negative situations and experiences as processes that direct us to appreciate their opposite qualities.
“To appoint to mourners in Zion, to give to them beauty instead of ashes; the oil of joy instead of mourning, a mantle of praise for a spirit of weakness; and He is calling to them, ‘Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord to be beautified’.” (Isaiah 61:3)
We repeat often that life in the material world is a learning process designed to assimilate the transcendence of goodness as the reason and purpose our existence. Thus we understand that there are stones that obstruct our progression, and also there are stones on which we build the leading traits and qualities of our essence and true identity.
As we see obstacles before us we also strive for gathering the lessons we learn as the building stones that help us pursue what truly matters in life.
In this journey of progression we embrace what nurtures us and encourages us to live in goodness for the sake of goodness, and we reject the negative traits and trends that obstruct our purpose in this world.
In this journey of our soul we all are compelled to seek as part of the empirical process of learning from positive and negative experiences. As we seek and experience, we also compel consciousness to discard or destroy what we recognize as the opposites of the goodness we enjoy in love’s ways and attributes.
This is the culmination of keeping what nurtures, dignifies, honors and elevates life while casting away the destructive, despising, dishonoring and degrading traits and trends in human consciousness.
“A time to rend and a time to sew. A time to be silent and a time to speak.”
We can understand the first phase of this verse as necessary actions we must take before situations that we can’t afford to allow in our midst.
We must urge ourselves to respond in outrage against negative ideologies and beliefs that seek to destroy the dignity of life, and pursue their destruction by all means necessary. We memorialize the genocides and atrocities perpetrated throughout history not just to remember the horrors committed against humanity but to bring awareness in regards to the ideologies and beliefs that led to such depravity.
As our sages remind us, we must fight to eliminate sin and not the transgressors. Thus we sew the garments we rend once we end the time to be silent in order to speak out and act accordingly. As we strive to live in goodness’ loving kindness, it will always show us God’s ways and paths.
“Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning for I trust in You. Cause me to know the way in which I should walk for I lift up my soul to You.”, “All the paths of the Lord are loving kindness and truth for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.”
(Psalms 143:8, 25:10)
Silence is the space we need to meditate and reflect on the things that matter, and make the right decisions when we choose between the vanity, futility and vexation of ego’s fantasies and illusions and the honor, truth and transcendence of love’s ways and attributes.
“A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:8)
This verse seals the messages king Solomon gives us in the previous ones, for indeed there is a time that comes either sooner or later to appreciate, respect, honor and love what celebrates our essence and true identity; and an time to hate, reject, repudiate and condemn all that threatens and harms who we really are.
In this awareness we wage war against that by all means, for this war is the necessary means to pursue and achieve peace as the wholeness, completion and totality of the full knowledge that God dwells in our midst.
“What profit does man have from all his labor? I have seen the burden (lit. interest) that the Lord has given to people (lit. sons of man) to be afflicted by it.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-10)
King Solomon again reiterates the foolishness of toiling for ego’s fantasies and illusions as the burden that divert the true purpose of life. This recurrent warning calls our attention to focus on where we must invest vitality during our brief passage in the material world.
It also invites us to evaluate the source and causes of our afflictions by being mindful enough to differentiate between the transcendence of goodness and the futility of a useless and unproductive approach to life. Thus we recognize that goodness is God’s purpose in His creation, and that evil is the fate of the wicked.
“The Lord has made everything for His own purpose, also the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4)
“Evil puts to death the wicked, and those hating the righteous are condemned.”
In this context we assimilate that knowledge enables our free will to make the right choices, for without wisdom we are condemned to suffer by our ignorance. Thus we equate ignorance to affliction, and by knowing the ways of goodness within their ethical frame we live in the freedom inherent in it. We also realize that our addictions are our prisons, and their evil our suffering, for evil is their reason and also their end.
“The world He has made beautiful in its season. Also that knowledge He has put in their heart so man doesn’t fathom (lit. find out) the work that the Lord has done from the beginning to the end. Also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labor, [for] is the gift of the Lord.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12)
Once more we are warned that God’s creation is beyond our grasp in order for us to fulfill His will, which is to live by, in and for goodness, because it is God’s gift for us. Theses verses certainly tell us that goodness is good enough, and there is no need to transgress against this divine gift by following anything opposite to its ways and attributes.
“And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7)
We must understand that goodness encompasses the purpose of God’s commandments, and our enjoyment is the purpose of goodness. Thus we constantly realize that God’s blessings are the ways, attributes, means and end of goodness.
“I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it or anything taken from it; and God has done it, that they revere Him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)
The transcendence of goodness makes it eternal and thus we understand its perfection, for there is no lack or deficiency in goodness. In this awareness we also realize the magnificence of God’s creation, for which we always revere Him.
Ariel Ben Avraham’s book on the Jewish conception of God’s love according to the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish theology. How we relate to God’s love as our common bond with Him. You can order the book directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. From the book: “Let’s be aware that we are emanated from God’ love. Whatever we are and have come from Him and it is His, including the love that we are and give. Love is our essence and identity.”
Kochav Yaakov, Shomron (Samaria), IsraelAriel Ben Avraham (f. Zapata) was born in Cartagena, Colombia in 1958. After studying Cultural Anthropology in Bogotá moved to Chicago in 1984 where he worked as a television writer, reporter and producer for 20 years. In the 1990’s he produced video documentaries related to art, music, history and culture such as “Latin American Trails: Guatemala” distributed by Facets.org. Most of his life he studied ancient spiritual traditions and mysticism of major religions, understanding the mystic experience as the individual means to connect with the Creator of all. Since 2004 he studies and writes about Jewish mysticism and spirituality mainly derived from the Chassidic tradition, and the practical philosophy of the teachings of Jewish mystic sages. The book “God’s Love” is the compilation of many years studying and learning Jewish mysticism. The messages of his book are part of the content, exercises and processes of a series of seminars, lectures and retreats that he facilitates in Israel.