Commentary

Kohelet: Seeking to Uncover and Bury

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Shlomo Zuckier

Well-known is the (ultimately aborted) Rabbinic attempt to excise Kohelet from the Biblical canon (Shabbat 30b):

בקשו חכמים לגנוז ספר קהלת מפני שדבריו סותרין זה את זה, ומפני מה לא גנזוהו – מפני שתחילתו דברי תורה וסופו דברי תורה

Until recently I’d never paid close attention to the language of this statement, but it appears to be an allusion to and inversion of the following verse in Kohelet (12:10):

 בִּקֵּשׁ קֹהֶלֶת לִמְצֹא דִּבְרֵי חֵפֶץ וְכָתוּב יֹשֶׁר דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת

While Kohelet sought (בקש) to find (למצא) items of great value, treasures, the Rabbis weren’t so keen on retaining what he had dug up, and sought to (בקשו) bury (לגנוז) the book once again.

 

* Note that  in multiple places in the Bavli (see Git 45b, San 97b) one finds (מצא) and then buries (גנז) an item, or vice versa.

 

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Shlomo Zuckier
Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier is a PhD candidate in Ancient Judaism at Yale University and a member of Yeshiva University's Kollel Elyon. Previously he served as Director of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Yale University. Shlomo is an alumnus of Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), as well as of the Wexner, Tikvah, and Kupietzky Kodshim Fellowships. He has lectured and taught widely across North America, and is excited to share Torah and Jewish scholarship on a broad range of issues. Shlomo serves on the Editorial Committee of Tradition, is co-editor of Torah and Western Thought: Intellectual Portraits of Orthodoxy and Modernity, and is editing the forthcoming Contemporary Forms and Uses of Hasidut.