136. Rabbi Shimon opened the discussion, saying: Come and behold. It is written, "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity. There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness" (Kohelet 7:15). What did Solomon, who possessed more wisdom then any other person, speak of in this verse? HE RESPONDS, Solomon alluded to wisdom. We see that the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He, are not so, for it is written, "To give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Yirmeyah 17:10). But he is alluding to two themes here.
137. We have learned that the eyes of the Holy One, blessed be He, wish to watch over the world and observe it, as it is written, "For the eyes of Hashem run to and fro throughout the whole earth" (II Divrei Hayamim 16:9). If there are wicked people in the world, the righteous man in that generation is snared in their sins. The Holy One, blessed be He, is longsuffering with the wicked until they repent. If they do not REPENT, then there will be no one to plead mercy for them BECAUSE THE RIGHTEOUS HAVE ALREADY DIED. This is the meaning of, "There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness." It is because he is righteous that he has departed from the world, SO HE WOULD NOT PLEAD MERCY FOR THE GENERATION.
138. Therefore we learned that a person should only live in a place where men of action live. For what reason? Woe unto the person who dwells among the wicked, for he is caught in their sins. And if he dwells among the righteous, he is dealt well with due to their merit.
139. Rabbi Chasda lived at first among the people of Cappadocia, and it was difficult for him and he was plagued with sickness. He then moved his dwelling among the protectors of Tzipori, MEANING AMONG TORAH SCHOLARS WHO ARE CALLED 'PROTECTORS.' He became great and merited much good, many riches and much Torah, and he said, I merited all this because I came among these people, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, takes care of, to do good for them.
140. Another explanation of the verse, "All things have I seen in the days of my vanity." Solomon had all the highest levels of wisdom, more than all the people of the generation, as it is written, "For he was wiser than all men" (I Melachim 5:11), and, "Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Hashem as king" (I Divrei Hayamim 29:23). Could he say about his life, "In the days of my vanity?" And, "'Vanity of vanities,' said Kohelet" (Kohelet 1:2)?
141. We learned that Solomon was called by seven names, Solomon, Yedidyah, Agur, Bin Yake, Itiel, Lemuel, Kohelet - AND THE NAME Kohelet is equal to them all. Each of them is named in the likeness of above. Kohelet IS ALSO CALLED 'a sacred congregation of ten men.' Therefore, it is said 'Less than ten people is not considered a congregation (Heb. kahal).' A congregation could even be a hundred or more, BUT NOT LESS THAN TEN. Kohelet includes everyone, ALL OF YISRAEL, as it is written, "The congregation (Heb. kehilat) of Jacob" (Devarim 33:4).
142. We learned that his names were called after Wisdom, and therefore he composed three books, Shir Hashirim, Kohelet and Mishlei. The purpose of them all is to perfect wisdom. Shir Hashirim corresponds to Chesed, Kohelet corresponds to Judgment, and Mishlei corresponds to Mercy - NAMELY, THEY CORRESPOND TO THE THREE COLUMNS, CHESED, JUDGMENT, MERCY. This is in order to perfect Wisdom. Everything that he did was for the purpose of displaying wisdom and in correspondence to the highest level. He said ABOUT HIMSELF, "In the days of my vanity," and, "Vanity of vanities" (Kohelet 1:2).
143. HE ANSWERS, But vanity (Heb. hevel) is a precious secret. It is the breath (Heb. hevel) that comes out of the mouth, and by means of the breath that comes out from the mouth a sound is formed. We learned that the world exists only through the breath of the mouths of the schoolchildren who have not sinned, THAT IS, who are not deemed to have sin. IT IS NOT THAT THEY DID NOT SIN BUT IT IS NOT CONSIDERED A SIN BECAUSE OF THEIR MINOR AGE. Breath is made of air and water, and everything in the world is made of breath. The inner meaning of the breath of these children becomes a sound and spreads throughout the world. They are the guards of the world and the guards of the city. This is the meaning of, "Unless Hashem keeps the city..." (Tehilim 127:2).
144. Come and behold, it is both breath and a sound. What is the difference between them? Breath has the power to produce a sound BUT actual sound has the power to produce words. Abel, who inherited from his father, is called Abel, and whatever SOLOMON saw came through him, and even though he had much support from above, from other LEVELS, he said, "In the days of my vanity," to make known that this word comes from there.
145. And the secret meaning of the words, "All is vanity...," "...in the days of my vanity, I saw everything..." and, "there is a just person who perishes in his righteousness," is the secret of that which he revealed and made known, that everything depends on "the days of my vanity." This means that when Hevel nurtures from Judgment, in order to execute Judgment - BEFORE THE RECONCILIATION OF THE CENTRAL COLUMN - "There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness" BECAUSE OF THAT JUDGMENT. When Hevel nurtures from Mercy, MEANING AFTER THE RECONCILIATION OF THE CENTRAL COLUMN, then "there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness," AS BECAUSE OF MERCY HE IS LONGSUFFERING and both THE WICKED AND THE RIGHTEOUS are dependent upon this Hevel. Therefore, it is written, "In the days," and not, 'in the day,' for they all depend on this Hevel. Whoever HAPPENS TO BE at the time of Judgment is treated with Judgment, and whoever HAPPENS TO BE at the time of Mercy is treated with Mercy.