Saturday, October 6, 2012

Turn, Turn, Turn

On the Shabbat which falls in the holiday of Sukkot, we read the book of Ecclesiastes during the morning service.  The opening words of the book state that these are "The words of Koheleth, son of David, king in Jerusalem", and legend has it that it was written by King Solomon, the epitome of wisdom, at the end of his life, looking back on what he has learned.  It was an appropriate reading for our agricultural ancestors, as they reaped the harvest and awaited the coming winter.

It's also surprisingly appropriate for us.  Koheleth (as the book is called in Hebrew) is a reflection on the meaning of life.  He ruminates that "there is nothing new under the sun", and that God's phenomena of nature and of human behavior are limited, but that no one can predict what will happen to him or herself, except that death is inevitable.  He advises good living, the enjoyment of what one has, both in material goods, companionship and love of spouse and family, and takes to task those who pursue wealth or power over personal pleasure.

Perhaps the best-known words from the book of Koheleth come from chapter 3, verses 1-8, as set to music by Pete Seeger in 1959, and recorded by The Byrds in 1965.  Wikipedia describes it as, "Easily, the #1 hit with the oldest lyrics".

"A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep."

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