October 23, 2018

Kohelet and Political Struggle

“What should a government official—a remnant of the prior regime—do if a wicked ruler rises to power? Does he resign in protest, refusing to assist an evil and invalid leader? “If a ruler’s spirit rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest” (10:4). You can accomplish a lot of good if you remain in your position. You should advise against specific policies and prevent at least some evil from occurring. Some critics would call that collaboration, but Shlomo considers it the best course for the good of the populace.

Is collaboration a moral option? Everything in life requires balance. “Do not be overly righteous… why should you die?” (7:16). Still… be righteous, just not overly so. Find a healthy medium in which you can survive without compromising your values.

But throughout it all, “Cast your bread on the waters, for you will find it after many days” (11:1). Build alliances; prepare for the future. When times are good, prepare for the reversal that might come. When bad times arrive, prepare for the good times’ return.

So much in life lies beyond our control. We can try acting wisely and growing strong but we cannot guarantee our success. Instead we should control what we can and accept what we cannot. Ultimately, it all lies in God’s hands. In Shlomo’s case, he eventually regained his kingship and his riches but only after humbly accepting his limitations. Not everyone will meet such a positive end, but the real future lies with fearing God and keeping His commandments.”

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