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    The woman you love – Ask the Rabbi

    ArtScroll KoheletQ. What is the meaning of the verse (Kohelet 9:9), “Enjoy life with the woman you love”?

    A. There are two main questions:

    1. What is meant by “enjoy”? The Hebrew is r’eh, which is literally “see”. It is characteristic of Kohelet to use “to see” in the sense of “to enjoy”. Thus in chapter 2, verse 1, he says r’eh tov, which is translated “enjoy pleasure” but literally means “look at what is good”.

    In his book, “A Gentle Cynic”, Jastrow understands this as an idiom equivalent to the modern phrase, “Have a good time”. In our verse the author may be saying, “Look with pleasure at life with the woman you love”.

    2. Why does the Hebrew say ishah, “a woman”, when we would expect ha’ishah, “the woman”? Does Kohelet mean the woman, i.e. the wedded wife, or a woman, any woman, whether she is married to you or not?

    If the second view is correct, the rest of the verse implies, “Find your happiness wherever you can, for life is fleeting”. If the author is speaking of married love, is his style telegraphic, so that not too much should be read into his omission of “the”?

    The question is whether Kohelet believed in free love more than in marriage, and whilst he is certainly unconventional in many of his views, it is unlikely that he would have deliberately rejected the institution of marriage.

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