Pardes 360: Birthday Lessons from King Solomon

Posted by David Levin-Kruss on March 15, 2016
Topics: Pardes 360, Kohelet, Shir HaShirim

Many happy returns of the day. Happy birthday. Ad meah-ve’esrim (till 120). All lovely birthday greetings. But how about something a little bit more creative?

Let’s learn from King Solomon. There is a tradition that Shlomo wrote three books of the bible: Kohelet 1 (Ecclesiastes) Mishlei (Proverbs), and Shir Hashirim 1 (Song of Songs). In a midrashic work, Shir Hashirim Raba 1:10, R. Yonatan “argues from the ways of the world. When a man is young he composes songs; when he grows older he expresses strong opinions about what people should and should not do [mashalot in the original]; when he becomes an old man he speaks of the vanity of things.” I find this charming and can clearly see the young Solomon desperately in love, feverishly writing the love letters that become Shir Hashirim. I see the middle-aged Solomon taking himself perhaps a touch too seriously telling parables, and finally the old man looking back and realizing what was important and what was not.

Charming – yes. True – of that I am not so sure. I know lots of cynical youngsters, lots of older people who have never lost their zest and enthusiasm and middle aged people who fit into all three categories. Could it be that at each stage in our life we need all three?

Regardless of our age, we need zest and enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and the ability to look to the future with joy. Without these our lives are sad, without hope and lacking creativity. At all stages, we need to be serious. This enables us to understand that there are right ways to behave and that we are not the first people in history. There is wisdom of the ages that we can learn from. This prevents us from being rudderless and compass-less. And we need a dash of cynicism, too, in order to make sure we are grounded in reality and understand issues in context.

And so, my birthday wish to people of any age is for a year of zest and enthusiasm, wisdom and understanding, and reflection and insight. Yom huledet sameach. Have a great year.

Pardes360 is a series of responses to world current events by Pardes faculty in 360 words (or sometimes a few more). The views expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not reflect an institutional stance. To read other Pardes360 articles, click here.

About David Levin-Kruss

David is an adjunct faculty member at Pardes. He is the Director of Education, Europe for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. David holds a B.A. and Teachers' Certification in English Literature and Jewish Thought from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He himself attended Pardes as a student. Following that he spent a number of years in yeshiva and received rabbinic ordination from the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary. Previous to working at Pardes, David served as the director of the overseas department at the Melitz Centers for Jewish Zionist Education. He also taught on a number of year long programs including Young Judea and Otzma. David spent four years in the United Kingdom where he served as the community director and family educator of Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue, in northwest London, the largest orthodox synagogue in Europe. David hails from South Africa, loves cooking in his spare time and sees himself as a bridge between Jewish heritage and those seeking to connect or reconnect to that tradition. David founded and directs "My Open Book Life Coaching" which uses general and Jewish texts as well as life coaching techniques to achieve personal breakthroughs. He is married and the proud father of three boys. Contact:

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