||Two independent works bound together. The first is the classic Wisdom of Ben Sira; the second Toledot Adam by R. Ezekiel Feivel ben Zeeb Wolf.
The Wisdom of Ben Sira Ben Sira, (also called Ecclesiasticus) is a work of the Apocrypha, which, though usually known by this name, may have been called by its author, "The Words of Simeon b. Jeshua," the title found on the Hebrew fragments. In Greek the book is called, "Wisdom of (Jesus son of) Sirach," and hence in Latin it was known as Siracides (i.e., Sira's son). Its common name in modern times, Ecclesiasticus (abbr. Ecclus.) dates from the 4th-century custom of naming certain homiletical books libri ecclesiastici (i.e., books for (reading in) the church). The book is divided into eight sections, each introduced by a poem in praise of wisdom or of the wise man. The last section (Hebrew version 44–50), called "The Praise of the Fathers," eulogizes the great figures of the Bible, with the exception of the final chapter which is devoted to praise of Simeon b. Johanan the priest, i.e., Simeon the Just. The greater part of the work consists of maxims, poetic in form, like those in the book of Proverbs. It also contains psalms of supplication and of thanksgiving (36:1–17 (33:1–13; 36:16–22); 42:21–35 (15–25), 43, et al.), these latter being characterized by a lofty poetic style and by elevated thought (cf. 42:21 (15); 43:33 (58). (References are given to two editions: the first to the Hebrew edition by M.H. Segal (19582), the second to the standard edition in the Greek text of the Apocrypha). The work also includes didactic poems on subjects of daily life and on historical events, after the manner of certain psalms (13; 15; 16; 18; 34:19–35; 40:41; et al.), and concludes with an epilogue comprising two poems of praise and thanksgiving, and an alphabetic poem on the importance of acquiring wisdom.
The Wisdom of Ben Sira directs man to the love of wisdom and ethical conduct, teaches him virtue and good deeds, and proper behavior in eating and drinking, speech and silence, work and commerce, studying and teaching, poverty and wealth, health and sickness. It also seeks to instruct man to perform all his actions with intelligence and understanding, moderation, care and wisdom, so that his deeds may bring to him and others the appropriate benefit. It teaches man how to behave within his family circle: toward his father and mother, his wife, his sons, and his daughters. It guides him in his conduct toward all men. It stresses, as does the book of Proverbs, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning and the end of all wisdom. The work, though written in the spirit of the Bible and in the language of the later biblical books, bears a contemporary impress of the second century B.C.E., and its faith, in general, is that of subsequent Pharisaic Judaism (everything is foreseen but man has freedom of choice: 15:15–17; cf. Avot 3:15). It also reveals some influence of Greek literature and idiom: men grow and fall like leaves on a tree (14:19; cf. Iliad 6:146–9); he becomes wise who is unfettered by affairs, corresponding to the Greek man of leisure. The work also contains a trace of the Greek gnosis and perhaps also of its philosophical thought (cf. 42:29–33 (20–23)). Unlike other books of proverbs, in which the authors address themselves to youth, the Wisdom of Ben Sira attaches prime importance to the well-ordered family, the effective basis of which is the father. It is primarily to him that the author addresses himself, advising and instructing him. A man should marry a suitable wife, beautiful and kindly-spoken, who, assisting him, will bring him supreme happiness. He should rear his sons in the Torah, marry off his daughters while they are young, and deal faithfully with his fellow man.
R. Ezekiel Feivel bem Zeeb Wolf (1755–1833) was a Lithuanian preacher, known as the "maggid of Deretschin." Ezekiel was born in Planaga, Lithuania. In his youth he was appointed preacher in his native town and, subsequently, in Deretschin. At the age of 19 he was an itinerant preacher in the JewishPage 649 communities of Galicia, Hungary, and Germany (where he remained for some time in Breslau). In Vilna he made the acquaintance of R. Elijah b. Solomon (the Gaon of Vilna) and through him, of Solomon Zalman of Volozhin, brother of R. Hayyim b. Isaac of Volozhin. Solomon made a deep impression upon Ezekiel, who wrote his biography (Toledot Adam, in 2 parts (Dyhernfurth, 1801–09); frequently reprinted). This contains details of Solomon's life and his teachings as well as stories current about him, and is a unique work for its period, reflecting the widening of the horizons of Hebrew literature in Lithuania at the end of the 18th century. R. Ezekiel sharply censures those rabbis who neglect study of the Scriptures as a result of their preoccupation with the Talmud and codes. In 1811 R. Ezekiel accepted an invitation to become the "maggid" (official preacher) of Vilna, a post in which he served until his death. Other works by R. Ezekiel are Musar Haskel (Dyhernfurth, 1790), an exposition of Hilkhot De'ot and Teshuvah of Maimonides, and a commentary Be'urei Maharif (i.e., Morenu ha-Rav Ezekiel Feivel) on the Midrash Rabbah to Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, which was published in Vilna together with the text in 1878. A third volume of Toledot Adam remains unpublished.