Kenneth Cohen

Above Nature

This Shabbat we read the Book of Kohelet, also known as Ecclesiastes. It was written by King Solomon, where his wisdom of the ways of the world, was on display.
An important theme of Kohelet is that the Jewish people defy the general rules of nations. There is טבע, or nature, and there is למעלה מן הטבע, that which is above nature.

This can be demonstrated from the Talmud in Masechet Shabbat. It describes a conversation between Avraham Avinu and G-d. Avraham explains that he has studied closely with his astrologists, and his knowledge of natural law, and he sees that he is incapable of fathering a son. G-d answers that he should leave his astrology. Israel has no dependence on constellations.

If the Jewish people based everything on logic and the natural order of things, we would not be here as a nation. Our faith and ability to dream, allowed us to overcome every possible obstacle. We prayed thrice daily for a “return to Zion in mercy.” And this prayer was recited during our exile of pogrom, crusades, expulsion and annihilation.

We were never prepared to accept how things should have turned. Our love and dependence on Hashem, allowed us to remain determined that good things would come. Kohelet is read on Succot specifically because this was, traditionally, the most prosperous time of year. It was easy to get carried away with ourselves, when we felt we had everything. It is a kind of wake up call to realize what is fleeting and what is permanent.

The quote of Rav Yakov Emden from a few hundred years ago, rings true. “A greater miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea is that the Jewish people continued to exist, despite our bitter exile.” This is because, we are not limited by nature, but we are above nature.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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