By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 8, 2009

This year there is no Shabbat Chol Hamo’ed during Succot, which would have been the traditional time for reading Kohelet, Ecclesiastes. Instead, we will read it on Shemini Atzeret, which falls on this Shabbat.

The book opens with the lines, “The words of Kohelet, son of David, King in Jerusalem.” Kohelet is not a first name but a title and comes from kahal, which means congregation or assembly. Therefore, Kohelet can mean the assembler of an audience who will listen to his sayings.

Other commentators, such as Rashi, say that Kohelet refers to one who has assembled much knowledge. King Solomon, to whom the book is attributed, was known as the wisest of men, making Kohelet a fitting name for him. Kohelet declares, “I, Kohelet, was King in Jerusalem ... I observed all the happenings beneath the sun, and I found that all is futile and pursuit of wind.”

Succot celebrates the conclusion of the harvest season. The rabbis thought Kohelet’s sombre view of life an antidote to any feelings of complacency that might arise at the end of a successful ingathering.

Last updated: 10:43am, October 8 2009