Qohelet: Searching for a Life Worth Living by Debra Band, Menachem Fisch

Qohelet: Searching for a Life Worth Living by Debra Band, Menachem Fisch

How to live a life of wisdom and fulfillment in a far-from-perfect world? Philosopher Menachem Fisch and artist Debra Band together probe Qohelet’s inquiry into the value of life “under the sun” in this brilliant work―the first illuminated manuscript of the entire biblical text, the first philosophical analysis tracing the coherent path of this biblical thinker’s full argument. Whereas modern readers influenced by the famous declaration “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” from the 1611 King James Bible have commonly understood that Qohelet found only futility and hopelessness in human life, Fisch restores the literal meaning, “vapor,” to Qohelet’s key word, hevel, with implications that reveal Qohelet’s path to wisdom and even serenity. Through linguistic precision and careful unfolding of the book’s philosophical argument, Fisch uncovers Qohelet’s twin concerns: life is short, and situated as we are, far below the heavens, we can never be assured of comprehending our world, or understanding divine will and intent. He reveals Qohelet’s understanding that since we can never fully predict or understand our fortunes or the heritage we leave behind us, the best we can do is to live our lives fully, relating to others attentively, always aware of the limits of human life.

In her glowing, immersive, and discursive illuminated paintings of the entire text, Band imagines Qohelet’s teachings, employing the grandest of palaces, the Alhambra, as the central metaphor for the beauty and impermanence of human life and accomplishments. She fills its halls and gardens with often surprising imagery, symbolism, and related poetry, creating a visual midrash that reveals the relationship of Qohelet’s thought to other biblical texts and Jewish lore and its reverberations across the centuries and cultures of Western civilization, from ancient Israel to today’s America. Each illuminated page is complemented by lucid commentary explaining its full meaning. Renowned scholars Ellen F. Davis and Moshe Halbertal crown the work with a penetrating foreword and preface.

Year first published: 2023

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