96. "And the man whose hair is fallen off his head" (Vayikra 13:40). Rabbi Chiya opened with, "Then I saw that wisdom excels folly..." (Kohelet 2:13). I have studied the words of King Solomon in different places, and observed his great wisdom, since he concealed the meaning of his words inside the holy sanctuary. This verse needs studying. Why did he say, "I saw?" Do not the rest of the people in the world know or see this? Even those who never knew wisdom or studied it know that "wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness." Yet he praises himself and says, "Then I saw."
97. We learned that none is wise as Solomon who is named after the seven grades of wisdom, in the likeness of above, NAMELY, TO CORRESPOND TO CHESED, GVURAH, TIFERET, NETZACH, HOD, YESOD AND MALCHUT OF MALCHUT, THE SECRET OF LOWER CHOCHMAH, THE GRADE OF SOLOMON. For there are six days above, CHESED, GVURAH, TIFERET, NETZACH, HOD AND YESOD OF ZEIR ANPIN and a seventh above them, WHICH IS BINAH. There are seven days below IN MALCHUT, CHESED, GVURAH, TIFERET, NETZACH, HOD AND YESOD, and a seventh above them, WHICH IS BINAH. There are six steps to the throne OF SOLOMON and he is upon the throne, as it is written, "Then Solomon sat on the throne of Hashem as king" (I Divrei Hayamim 29:23). There are seven crowns of the days, NAMELY THE SEVEN SFIROT, CHESED, GVURAH, TIFERET, NETZACH, HOD, YESOD AND MALCHUT above and seven corresponding names to Solomon to indicate holy wisdom. Hence he had seven names, WHICH ARE Solomon, Yedidyah, Agur, ben Yaka, Lemuel, Itiel and Kohelet.
98. He spoke of seven vanities, NAMELY, "VANITY OF VANITIES, SAYS KOHELET, VANITY OF VANITIES; ALL IS VANITY" (KOHELET 1:2). THERE ARE THREE TIMES 'VANITY' AND TWICE 'VANITIES,' WHICH ARE FOUR. TOGETHER THEY ARE SEVEN. He saw what no one else saw. And when he gathered wisdom and climbed the grade of wisdom he was called Kohelet. He spoke of seven vanities (also: 'breaths'), which correspond to the seven Sfirot above. And a sound is made of every breath, and the world is supported only by breath.
99. We learned in the name of Rabbi Shimon that breath produces a sound by the wind and water in it, and that sound exists only through breath. And we learned that by seven breaths the supernal and the lower beings exist. Rabbi Yitzchak taught, Come and see that the world is supported by breath, for were no breath to come from man's mouth, it would not have been able to exist even a moment.
100. Similarly, referring to, A MAN CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH, Solomon said his words upon which the world is supported. HE SAID that through breath the world endures. And the breath by which the world endures comes from the breaths above. This is the meaning of "Breath of breaths" (Kohelet 1:2), NAMELY a breath coming from the breaths above. All his words were in that strain. Of the supernal breaths it is written, "but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Hashem does man live" (Devarim 8:3). What is the "word that proceeds out of the mouth of Hashem?" It is the supernal breaths.
101. We learned, "Then I saw that wisdom excels folly," wisdom excels through actual folly, for were there no folly in the world, wisdom and its matters would not be made known. We learned that one who studied wisdom must study some folly and know it, for this way wisdom excels, just as light excels through darkness, for were there no darkness, light would not be made known and the world would benefit by it.
102. We learned that wisdom excels, NAMELY wisdom in general, INCLUDING BOTH SUPERNAL WISDOM AND WORLDLY WISDOM. For, Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Aba, Come and see the inner meaning of the matter. Supernal wisdom does not illuminate nor is it shone upon except for folly that was roused from a different place. Were it not for this FOLLY, there would be no expansion of light and greatness, and wisdom would not excel. For folly, WISDOM shone more and is shone more upon. This is the meaning of, "that wisdom excels," wisdom in general, BOTH ABOVE AND BELOW, more than folly in general, BOTH ABOVE AND BELOW. For this is the way below, were there no folly in the world, there would be no wisdom in the world.
103. When the friends studied secrets of wisdom from Rav Hamnuna Saba, he used to teach them verses of folly, so that wisdom would excel for their sakes. This is the meaning of, "a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor" (Kohelet 10:1), because FOLLY is good for wisdom and the preciousness of wisdom. Hence it is written, "yet guiding my heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly" (Kohelet 2:3).
104. Rabbi Yosi said, "A little folly outweighs (Heb. yakar) wisdom and honor," namely, the preciousness (Heb. yakar) of wisdom and its beauty. And what is the preciousness of supernal honor, WHICH IS MALCHUT? It is a little folly, because a little folly discloses and reveals the preciousness of wisdom and honor of above more than any way in the world.
105. "As far as light excels darkness" (Kohelet 2:13). For light excels only through darkness. What establishes white? Black, for were it not for black, white would not be comprehended. Since black exists, white is elevated and glorified. Rabbi Yitzchak said, This is like sweet and bitter. No one recognizes the sweet taste before he tastes bitter. What causes it to be sweet? Bitter. FOR OPPOSITES REVEAL EACH OTHER, LIKE WHITE AND BLACK, LIGHT AND DARKNESS, THE SICK AND THE HEALTHY. FOR WERE THERE NO SICK PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, THE ADJECTIVE HEALTHY WOULD BE MEANINGLESS. This is the meaning of, "Elohim has made the one as well as the other" (Kohelet 7:14), and, "It is good that you should take hold of this; but do not withdraw your hand from that either" (Ibid. 18).