Megillas Koheles (The Scroll of Ecclesiastes) was written around the Jewish year 2963 (797 BCE) by King Solomon and set by the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah (The Men of the Great Assembly) as one of the written works of the Torah. This is one of the most profound works in scripture. A superficial reading cannot grant understanding of this work. One must study it deeply, referencing concepts presented across the lexicon of classical Jewish writings to grasp the condensed wisdom in each verse. Little, if anything, about this work can be understood (correctly) if one reads it superficially: It’s designed to be studied.
King Solomon, a man granted a Divine gift of wisdom as a child, wrote Koheles as a retrospective at the end of his life. He ponders events and times pointing to an underlying purpose. Written with cryptic depth, Koheles, one of Solomon’s personal names, frequently talks to the reader as a personal cherished student, pointing out pitfalls in life and how to avoid them, like a caring father admonishing a child about to embark on their life-path.
Even commentaries to the Megillah of Koheles aren’t easily understood. This lack of unhindered access reveals just how profound the work is and how much prerequisite background knowledge is expected before one commences such study.
When approaching this sobering, thought provoking work, different commentators sometimes present ideas which seem mutually exclusive. They aren’t; they show different facets of approaching the same idea. Part of the challenge is to understand the background data as to how these seemingly disparate ideas actually interlink.
Some of the topics discussed are what is the ultimate wisdom? Why do the wicked seem to prosper? What is the concept of the soul and how does it interface with the body? Do both body and soul receive reward, and if so how? What restraints on life’s pleasures are incorrect and what are desirable? What is reincarnation and how does this affect one?
In this course, Rabbi Mordechai Goodman, of Jewish Education in Manchester (JEM), provides background and cultural placement of related ideas, chapter overviews and deep verse-by-verse analysis. This course also explores some of the essential themes running through Megillas Koheles.
We hope this will provide you deep insight into, and appreciation of, the messages of this most profound and deeply stimulating Megillah.