I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 1:14
One of the most well-known verses penned by Solomon in Ecclesiastes is: "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." As a king, Solomon had done and seen it all. After all his experiences, Solomon declared that everything was meaningless and purposeless. It was like chasing the wind. You can strive harder, run faster, but the wind cannot be caught. It will blow right through your hands even if you try to touch it.
The Jewish sages put Solomon's words into perspective. He was referring to material pursuits which take up the majority of our time here on earth. Materially, we can never have enough. There is always an appetite for more. So like chasing the wind, having as much material wealth as we desire is an unachievable goal.
On the other hand, spiritual pursuits like repentance, Bible study, and good deeds are meaningful and valuable. It's the mindless pursuit of physical pleasure and material gain that Solomon was speaking out against. It's a waste of time and waste of a life.
The sages compare Solomon to an old man sitting at a crossroads. One road starts out smooth and straight, but is filled with thorns and reeds toward the end. The other begins with thorns and reeds but ends smooth and even. Having traveled them both, the old man is able to warn travelers to avoid the nice-looking path and to take the path that appears more difficult but is truly the better road. In this verse, Solomon cautioned us from following the better-looking life that favors material gain in favor of a more spiritual life that may begin with difficulty but leads to eternal joy and peace.
I once heard someone utter some of the saddest words I have ever heard: "I have wasted my entire life." This was said by a successful businessman in his early 50s. By that age he had realized that the last time he had passion, dreams, and energy was when he was 20. But since that time, he had slowly evolved into what he called a "money-making machine," devoid of passion, meaningful relationships, and contribution. What had begun as a plan for financial security took over and became a mad quest for wealth, while robbing him of all the true riches in life.
Today, let's take a reality check and look at where we stand in life. What are we doing daily, weekly, yearly? Are we following our dreams, passions, and calling in life? Or have we gotten lost trying to chase the wind? Let's pursue what really matters, and in doing so, make our lives matter, too.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President