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Annotated & Explained

Translation and Annotation by Rabbi Rami Shapiro
Foreword by Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

5.5 x 8.5, 160 pp, Quality Paperback, 978-1-59473-287-4

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Koheleth’s powerful guidebook for living without certainty and security in a world of constant change can become a companion for your own spiritual journey.

Twenty-three hundred years ago, an unnamed Hebrew sage known only as Koheleth, the Assembler of Wisdom, rocked the ancient Jewish world with a critique of society that shattered conventional notions of God, piety, politics, and power. Koheleth lived in a world of change and challenge not unlike our own. His teachings, known as the Book of Ecclesiastes, sought to empower people not unlike ourselves, which is why this book of the Hebrew Bible still speaks to us—people of all faiths—today.

In this contemporary and accurate translation, Rami Shapiro presents the Book of Ecclesiastes as neither revelation nor prophecy but as a rational and inspirational guide to living well in the midst of uncertainty. Beginning with its opening broadside, “Havel havalim!”—not “futility” or “vanity” as most translations would have it, but “breath,” “vapor,” and “impermanence”—Shapiro opens up Koheleth’s approach to living in a world where nothing lasts and justice is illusory; a world devoted to accumulating power, wealth, pleasure, and even knowledge that leaves you drowning in anxiety and needless suffering. He shows how Koheleth’s God demands neither sacrifice nor adherence to commandments, offering instead a practical lifestyle rooted in moderation, meaningful work, and friendship.

Now you can experience the Book of Ecclesiastes and understand Koheleth’s teachings with no previous knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. This SkyLight Illuminations edition presents insightful commentary that restores this ancient text to its timeless place as a guide to living sanely in an often insane world.

“Rami Shapiro’s spirited translation and commentary rescue this great spiritual realist from official neglect and distortion. With zest and good humor … shows us a courageous biblical personality who confronted the problem of life with wisdom from life.”

Ray Waddle, editor, Reflections journal; author, Against the Grain: Unconventional Wisdom from Ecclesiastes

“Rami Shapiro’s contemporary and pungently poetic recreations of ancient biblical classics have inspired and instructed me for years. His Ecclesiastes is his most revelatory work yet.”

Andrew Harvey, author, The Hope: A Guide to Spiritual Activism and A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides

“Koheleth’s wisdom of 2,500 years ago is amazingly contemporary.  Rabbi Rami savors the wisdom as he enlarges our appreciation of [these] teachings. You won’t be the same after reading this translation and commentary.”

Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW, Wisdom House Retreat Center, Litchfield, Connecticut

“Wisdom from beyond traditional theology…. Offers roadside assistance to the people on the ever-changing path.”

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, co-author, Jewish with Feeling and A Heart Afire; author, First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit

Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is an Episcopal priest and the author of many books. She heads The Geranium Farm, an online institute for the encouragement of spiritual growth, at


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