I. The Wisdom of Ben Sira

[This apocryphal book, usually called "Ecclesiasticus," was composed about 180 b. c. e. by Jesus, the son of Simon, the son of Eleazar, the son of Sira. The author was probably a scribe, and was well-versed in the wisdom literature of his day. The Hebrew original of this work was still known in the tenth century, but was subsequently lost sight of. In 1896 a fragment from the Cairo Genizah was given to Prof. S. Schechter, who immediately identified it as the Hebrew original of this book. Other discoveries were afterwards made, and now about two-thirds of the entire work have been recovered.]

1. Wisdom Is a Source of Happiness


Happy is the man that meditateth in wisdom,

And that hath respect unto understanding;

That setteth his heart upon her ways,

And considereth her paths;

Going out after her in search of her,

And spying all her entries;

That prieth through her window,

And hearkeneth at her doors;

That encampeth about her house,

And fixeth his pegs into her wall,

And he pitcheth his tent by her side,

And dwelleth in a goodly dwelling;

And he buildeth his nest on her bough,

And lodgeth among her branches;

And he sheltereth in her shade from the heat,

And dwelleth in her habitations.

For he that feareth the Lord doeth this,

And he that taketh hold of the Law attaineth unto her.

And she will meet him as a mother,

And receive him as a wife of youth.

And she will feed him with the bread of under

standing,

And give him water of knowledge to drink.

And he is stayed upon her, and shall not be moved;

And in her he trusteth, and shall not be confounded.

And she will exalt him above his neighbor,

And in the midst of the congregation will she open

his mouth.

He shall find joy and gladness,

And she will make him inherit an everlasting name.

Men of vanity shall not attain unto her,

And men of arrogance shall not see her.

Far from scorners is she,

And liars remember her not.


2. The Usefulness of the Physician


Honor a physician according to thy need of him—

Him also hath God apportioned.

From God a physician getteth wisdom,

And from a king he receiveth gifts.

The skill of a physician lifteth up his head,

And he may stand before nobles.

God bringeth out medicines from the earth,

And let a prudent man not despise them.

Was not water made sweet by wood,

To make every man know His power?

And He gave men understanding,

That they might glory in His mighty works.

By means of them doth a physician assuage pain,

And likewise the apothecary maketh a confection:

That His work may not cease,

Nor health from the sons of men.

My son, in sickness be not negligent;

Pray unto God, for He healeth.

Flee from iniquity, and from respect of persons,

And from all transgressions cleanse thy heart.

Offer a sweet savor as a memorial,

And prepare a fat offering according to thy substance,

And also to the physician give a place,

And he shall not be removed, for there is need of him

likewise.

For there is a time when in his power is good success,

For he, too, maketh supplication to God,

That He should prosper to him the treatment,

And the healing, for the sake of his living.

He that sinneth against his Maker

Behaveth himself proudly before a physician.


3. In Praise of the High Priest Simeon the Son of Johanan


Great among his brethren, and glory of his people,

Was Simeon the son of Johanan, the priest;

In whose generation the house was repaired,

And in whose days the temple was fortified;

In whose generation a cistern was digged,

A pit like the sea in its abundance;

In whose days a wall was built—

Turrets for protection in the temple of the King:

Who took thought for his people against the spoiler,

And fortified the city against the besieger.

How glorious was he when he looked forth from the

Tent,

And when he went out from the sanctuary!

As the morning-star from amid thick clouds,

And as the full moon in the days of the solemn feast;

As the sun dawning upon the temple of the King, And as a rainbow seen in the cloud.

As a bud in the branches in the days of the solemn

feast,

And as the lily by the watercourses;

As the flower of Lebanon in the days of summer,

And as the fire of incense upon the meal-offering:

As a gold vessel....

That is set with precious stones;

As a green olive full of berries,

And as a wild olive-tree with branches full of sap.

When he put on robes of honor,

And clothed himself with robes of glory;

When he ascended the altar of majesty,

And made glorious the court of the sanctuary;

When he received the portions from the hand of his

brethren,

While standing by the altar-fires:

Round him the garland of his sons,

Like cedar-plants in Lebanon.

And they compassed him about like willows of the

brook—

All the sons of Aaron in their glory;

With the fire-offerings of the Lord in their hand,

Before all the congregation of Israel;

Until he had finished serving the altar,

And arranging the fires of the Most High.

Then sounded the sons of Aaron, the priests,

With trumpets of beaten work;

And they sounded, and made their mighty voice heard,

To bring to remembrance before the Most High.

All flesh hastened together,

And fell down on their faces to the ground;

Worshipping before the Most High,

Before the Holy One of Israel.

And the choir uttered its voice,

And over the multitude they made sweet melody.

And all the people of the land chanted,

In prayer before the Merciful;

Until he had finished serving the altar,

And had brought his customary offerings unto it.

Then he came down, and lifted up his hands

Over all the congregation of Israel;

And the blessing of the Lord was on his lips,

And in the name of the Lord he gloried.

And they bowed down again a second time,

The people, all of them, before Him.


Now bless ye the Lord, the God of Israel,

Who doeth wondrously on earth;

Who bringeth up man from the womb,

And maketh him according to His will.

May He give you wisdom of heart,

And may He be with peace among you.

May He make His mercy stand fast with Simeon,

And may He confirm to him the covenant of Phinehas,

That shall not be cut off from him and from his seed,

As the days of heaven.