Out of the twenty-four books of the TaNaCh, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) which we read on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot is one of the least well known. An excerpt of the book (3:1-8) did become popular as part of the song “Turn Turn Turn” written by Pete Seeger in the 1950s which reached #1 on the Billboard top 100 when sung by the Byrds in 1965.
Aside from the words “turn, turn, turn” the song almost follows the Biblical text exactly:
To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
This list of opposites gives us the ups and downs in life.
Sukkot is called “Zman Simchateinu”, our happy time, as this was the time of year that if all went well, the produce would be gathered into the house and we would not have to worry about what we would be eating in the upcoming months.
Sukkot pushes us to be happy even if we have gone through a difficult period. We now have to appreciate what God has given us and leave our homes to show that everything that we have is not due to our own strength but is rather due to God’s involvement.
There will always be highs and lows and it is important for us to appreciate the good times and remember that the difficult times will pass.
An extra line was added to the Biblical verses at the end of the song as a plea for world peace: “I swear it’s not too late.” This song became popular during the peace movement in the 1960s but it still rings true today. May we see peace in the State of Israel and throughout the world.
Now that you had preview from the Byrds, you can check out the rest of the book!