translation and annotation by Rabbi Rami Shapiro
Twenty-three hundred years ago, an unnamed Hebrew sage known only as Koheleth, the Assembler of Wisdom, rocked the ancient Jewish world with a critique of society that shattered conventional notions of God, piety, politics, and power. Koheleth lived in a world of change and challenge not unlike our own. His teachings, known as the Book of Ecclesiastes, sought to empower people not unlike ourselves, which is why this book of the Hebrew Bible still speaks to us—people of all faiths—today.
In this contemporary and accurate translation, Rami Shapiro presents the Book of Ecclesiastes as neither revelation nor prophecy but as a rational and inspirational guide to living well in the midst of uncertainty. Beginning with its opening broadside, “Havel havalim!”—not “futility” or “vanity” as most translations would have it, but “breath,” “vapor,” and “impermanence”—Shapiro opens up Koheleth’s approach to living in a world where nothing lasts and justice is illusory; a world devoted to accumulating power, wealth, pleasure, and even knowledge that leaves you drowning in anxiety and needless suffering. He shows how Koheleth’s God demands neither sacrifice nor adherence to commandments, offering instead a practical lifestyle rooted in moderation, meaningful work, and friendship.
Now you can experience the Book of Ecclesiastes and understand Koheleth’s teachings with no previous knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. This SkyLight Illuminations edition presents insightful commentary that restores this ancient text to its timeless place as a guide to living sanely in an often insane world.