Ariel Ben Avraham – Ecclesiastes: The illusion of vanity and the reality of love (XXI & XXII)
“The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, whereas the heart of the fools is in a house of joy. It is better to hear the rebuke of a wise man than for a man to hear the song of the fools. For as the sound of the thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of the fool, and this too is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:4:6)
The more we learn from life by acquiring knowledge and wisdom, the more we become aware of the harm we can cause by following ego’s agenda and the negative traits derived from lower thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts. Goodness rebukes our seduction by the “song” of fantasies and illusions that lead us to the vanity of negative choices.
“For sarcasm makes the wise foolish, and it destroys the understanding which is a gift. The end of a thing is better than its beginning; better the patient in spirit than the haughty in spirit.” (7:7-8)
We must guard against nihilism as the residue in the aftermath of wrath, frustration, depression and vexation left by our vanities, which makes us as foolish as the most ignorant of men.
The message here is to learn from our disappointments, mistakes and bad choices, for from this learning we understand, and our understanding becomes our most valuable asset.
As King Solomon mentions repeatedly, the end of our afflictions is better than our beginning in them. Thus we realize that patience is the means and also the process through which we fully learn all the lessons from the idols we alone have created for ourselves.
“Be not hasty with your spirit to become wroth, for wrath lies in the bosom of fools. Do not say, ‘How was it that the former days were better than these?’ For not out of wisdom have you asked concerning this.”
We must ask from where or what we get angry. Here hastiness is suggested as one reason, usually pushed by the anxiety created by what we covet, envy or desire.
This is the predicament of the fool as well as those unaware of what really matters in life. If we miss the days when we had more than what we have now, this means that we are not toiling for the goodness we miss, if goodness was what we had more. In this regard, we always have to ask what truly fulfills every aspect and facet of life every moment.
“Wisdom is goodness with a heritage, and it is a profit to those who see the sun. For whoever is in the shade of wisdom is in the shade of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to its possessor.” (Ecclesiastes 7:11-12)
We really become wise when we embrace goodness as the reason and purpose of life, and also knowing that the ethical principle in goodness is its heritage and profit. In the ways and attributes of goodness is our richness in this world, for goodness is the light as we see it in the sun that sustains life.
Thus we understand that the “shade of money” is what protects our material sustenance, as a reflection of the goodness that provides for all our needs. Also, that our wisdom is shaped and defined by goodness, for there is no wisdom without goodness.
“See God’s work, for who can straighten out what He made crooked? On a day of good, be among the good, and on a day of adversity, ponder. God has made one corresponding to the other, to the end that man will find nothing after Him.” (7:13-14)
The wise king refers us to goodness as God’s work with which He rules His creation and points out to evil for us to choose goodness. In this sense, evil can’t be straightened because it was created for us to boldly contrast goodness against it.
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both evils and goods go forth?” (Lamentations 3:38)
In goodness we must choose to be goodness, and in evil we must choose to what we belong. Thus we understand that they oppose (“corresponding”) each other for us to realize that our consciousness is limited to this in order to exercise our free will.
“I have seen everything in the days of my vanity. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in his wickedness. Be not overly righteous, and be not overly wise. Why should you bring desolation upon yourself? Be not overly wicked, and be not a fool. Why should you die before your time?”
Vanity is still the playground of living according to convenience regardless the duties of righteousness and justice. This is the predicament of living in ego’s fantasies and illusions.
The first verse may invite to nihilism and shamelessness by suggesting that we are prone to die by living in and for goodness, or prone to embrace wickedness in order to secure a long life.
This does not mean to choose wickedness as the easy way to live but to find balance in order not fall into the “gray” areas between good and evil. Although this may be hinted, clear distinctions remain when we compare black and white.
The veiled message in these verses is to be aware of the differences, the qualities and traits of good and evil with their ways and means. In this awareness we acquire the necessary wisdom to properly and successfully approach life as a learning process aimed to make goodness prevail.
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.