Question from Facebook: What does the expression “vanity of vanities,” from Ecclesiastes by King Solomon, mean?
Answer: “Vanity of vanities” is a mistranslation from the Hebrew expression “Hevel Hevelim,” proving once again that it is impossible to read the Torah in translation.
In fact, Hevel a-peh is actually a breath, an exhalation of air, which passing through the five parts of the mouth—namely, the vocal cords, palate, lips, cheeks, and tongue—is processed and expressed as five kinds of sounds: dental, palatal, guttural, lingual, and labial. That is why it is said: “the word of God created everything.”
In the wisdom of Kabbalah, Hevel means Ohr Hozer (Returning Light). This is great rule of the emission of Light when a person does not want to receive Light within his egoism, but wants only to resemble the Creator, he rejects it and sends it away. Only this measure still exists in the world and is manifested. Therefore, it is said that everything that happens in the world comes from what is called Hevel, the Ohr Hozer.
This is not vanity but very serious inner work, quite the opposite of what we mean in our world when reading the Torah in translation.
Question: If a person says about worldly pleasures, “all of this is vanity,” does it not have in mind some semblance of Reflected Light (Ohr Hozer)?
Answer: No, this is enormous work a person performs on himself when he must make a Tzimtzum (Restriction) and then a Masach (Screen) to achieve a state of discovering the upper world, rejecting it, and sending it away from himself. Then, he sees that everything is perceived only in the Ohr Hozer.
Thus, it is possible to receive pleasure only through the Ohr Hozer. This is the Hevel. Therefore, “There is none else besides Him.” Everything else is only talking about our world that is not considered to exist at all.
From KabTV’s “News with Michael Laitman” 1/25/16