Ecclesiastes: Annotated & Explained

This contemporary translation presents Ecclesiastes as neither revelation nor prophecy but as a rational and inspirational guide to living well in the midst of a world of uncertainty. Insightful commentary opens up this timeless text for today's world.

Translation and Annotation by Rabbi Rami Shapiro
Foreword by Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

5½ x 8½, 160 pp | 978-1-59473-287-4

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Koheleth's powerful guidebook for living without certainty and security in a world of constant change can become a companion for your own spiritual journey.

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.

“Clear and easy to understand.... Serious, well thought out, and well written.... Deserves to be included in all collections devoted to Biblical Studies and Jewish thought, and is appropriate for all adult students of the Bible whether in academia or in the general community.”

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

“Rami Shapiro’s spirited translation and commentary rescue this great spiritual realist from official neglect and distortion. With zest and good humor … shows us a courageous biblical personality who confronted the problem of life with wisdom from life.”

Ray Waddle, editor, Reflections journal; author, Against the Grain: Unconventional Wisdom from Ecclesiastes

“A major contribution to our understanding of one of the most important books in the Bible.”

Jewish Media Review

“Rami Shapiro’s contemporary and pungently poetic recreations of ancient biblical classics have inspired and instructed me for years. His Ecclesiastes is his most revelatory work yet.”

Andrew Harvey, author, The Hope: A Guide to Spiritual Activism and A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides

“Koheleth’s wisdom of 2,500 years ago is amazingly contemporary.  Rabbi Rami savors the wisdom as he enlarges our appreciation of [these] teachings. You won’t be the same after reading this translation and commentary.”

Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW, Wisdom House Retreat Center, Litchfield, Connecticut


Jewish Eye

“Wisdom from beyond traditional theology…. Offers roadside assistance to the people on the ever-changing path.”

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, co-author, Jewish with Feeling and A Heart Afire; author, First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit

“Illuminating [and] salutary.”

Spirituality & Practice

Foreword vii
Preface ix
Introduction xv
About the Translation xxvii
Chapter One 3
Chapter Two 13
Chapter Three 27
Chapter Four 39
Chapter Five 47
Chapter Six 55
Chapter Seven 61
Chapter Eight 73
Chapter Nine 81
Chapter Ten 91
Chapter Eleven 99
Chapter Twelve 105
Epilogue (Chapter Twelve, Continued) 109
Bibliography 113