Shlomo Hamelech says in Koheles Chapter 7 pasuk 16 "Do not be overly righteous...why be left desolate?" -(artscroll translation) Does anyone know the meaning of this? Are we not supposed to be as much of a Tzadik as we can? When is there a need for limitation on this?

2 Answers 2


The commentaries there give various explanations. Rashi explains (there) that it refers to an excess of a normally positive trait, as by Shaul who displayed excessive compassion on those for whom compassion was inappropriate.

Lekah Tov explains that this refers to recklessly giving away all one's money to charity.

Based on Sotah (21b), Sefer Hassidim (ed. Margolis chance. 126) and Rabbenu Yonah in Sefer HaYirah (s.v. pagata nokhrim) suggest (somewhat similarly to Rashi) that it refers to a sinful excess of an otherwise positive behaviour, such as a man who "piously" refrains from saving a drowning woman, so that he does not see her indecently.

Similarly he applies this to misplaced compassion (ch. 465), such as feeding a shapeshifting malignant demon lady. More generally he explains that any time that an otherwise positive act would negatively impact others, one must avoid it, per the verse.

Ibn Ezra (there) explains that it refers to someone who engages in excessive asceticism.

This is also stated by Rambam in Hilkhot De'ot (3:1) and Orehot Tsaddikim (Shaar Hagaavah).

This is also stated by the Malmad HaTalmiddim (Parashat Kedoshim s.v. v'all derekh).

This is also stated by the Mesilat Yesharim (chap.. 13).

The Hovot HaLevavot (Shaar Heshbon HaNefesh 3) similarly explains that it refers to someone overly ascetic who does not care for his bodily needs.

In a similar vein, Metsudat David (there) suggests it refers to avoiding permissible things, even for the purpose of creating boundaries to help you avoid that which is actually forbidden.

Rabbenu Yehoshua Ibn Shuib (Ki Tetse) says it included excessive asceticism, as in the explanation of the Hovot HaLevavot, or reckless charity, as in Lekah Tov's explanation, and further equates it to hassid shoteh the term used in the passage in Sotah referenced by Rabbenu Yonah and the Sefer Hassidim.

Rabbenu Bahya, however, gives a very different explanation in Kad Hakemah (Evel 2); that one should be humble and not perceive himself as too great.

Alternatively, Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla explains in Sefer HaMashlim (20) that this means that a person should not insinuate that he is a tsaddik, but rather should act humbly, as though he is just a normal guy.

  • 1
    what is a shapeshifting malignant demon lady?? Aug 7, 2017 at 17:27
  • You are very welcome!! Good question. Sefer hassidim gets pretty weird. I will q hopefully post the textat a later date, when I can.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 7, 2017 at 18:00
  • @ForwardStrides אשה אחת היתה חשודה שהיתה שטריאה והתה מזקת ונדמה ליהודי כחתול והכה אותה היהודי ולמחר בקשה מאתו שיתן לה מפתו וממלח שלו ורצה לתת לה א"ל זקן אחד אל תהי צדיק הרבה (קהלת ז' ט"ז) במקום שחב לאחרים אין אדם יכול להראות חסידות שאם תחיה תזיק לבני אדם וכיון שהקב"ה המציאה לך זה דוגמת עמלק לשאול והענישו על מה שהחייהו.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 8, 2017 at 16:43

One possible answer is, if someone thinks davening a long shmoneh esray while keeping his family waitng for supper.. or learning when really spending time with them is what the time calls for is inconsiderate & has harmful repercussions ...in other words, don't be overly righteous at the expense of someone else. If anyone has any other suggestions or mareh mekomos please share..

  • I agree with your general statement, mainly because I have personally seen some of the arguments and family fighting that has occurred because of fathers escaping to shiurim while the kids need help with homework and similar items. However, as you stated, "If anyone has any other suggestions or mareh mekomos please share". In this forum, the person that posts an answer has the responsibility of providing the source to support his comments. So, when possible, please back up your statements.
    – DanF
    Aug 7, 2017 at 17:30
  • I think Rav Soloveichik was against the concept of people davening Ma'ariv at the chattan's tisch. Although, there were several reasons for his ruling, mainly because it delays the chuppa unnecessarily and cause financial stress to the host (if they pay hourly), I think he cited this verse, as well.
    – DanF
    Aug 7, 2017 at 17:33

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