Value of skilled workers (Sir 38:31-38:34)

“All these workers rely

On their hands.

All are skilful

In their own work.

Without them,

No city can be inhabited.

Wherever they live,

They will not go hungry.

Yet they are not sought out

For the council of the people.

They do not attain eminence

In the public assembly.

They do not sit

In the judge’s seat.

They do understand

The decisions of the courts.

They cannot expound discipline.

They cannot expound judgment.

They are not found using proverbs.

They are not found among the rulers.

But they maintain

The fabric of the world.

Their concern is

For the exercise of their trade.

Their prayer is

In the practice of their trade.”

Sirach emphasizes the importance of skilled manual workers. No inhabitable city can exist without them, so that they will never go hungry. However, they do not serve in the city council or in public assemblies. They are not judges, since they do not understand the decisions of the courts, their discipline, or their judgments. They are never found among the rulers or using proverbs. Yet they maintain the fabric of society. Their concern and prayer is found in the exercise of their skilled manual trades.

Mourning for the dead (Sir 38:16-38:17)

“My child!

Let your tears fall

For the dead!

As one in great pain,

Begin the lament!

Lay out the body

With due ceremony.

Do not neglect the burial.

Let your weeping be bitter!

Let your wailing be fervent!

Make your mourning

Worthy of the departed.

Do this for one day,

Or two.

Avoid criticism!

Be comforted for your grief.”

Sirach points out the importance of the correct ceremonial actions for the dead, like many of the ancient Middle Eastern societies. You should not be ashamed to cry for the dead, because you are in great pain. You should lay out the body according to the proper rituals. Make sure to bury the dead, a common topic in the biblical writings, especially Tobit. You can have bitter wailing and crying that is worthy of the departed person. Do this for a day or two to avoid criticism. There is no need for a long mourning period. However, in chapter 22, he said that there should be a 7 day mourning period for the dead. You should be comforted in your mourning for the dead.

Humility (Sir 3:17-3:25)

“My child!

Perform your tasks with humility!

Then you will be loved

By those whom God accepts.

The greater you are,

The more you must humble yourself.

Thus you will find favor

In the sight of the Lord.

Great is the might of the Lord.

However he is glorified

By the humble.

Seek not what is too difficult for you.

Do not investigate what is beyond your power.

Reflect upon what has been commanded.

What is hidden is not your concern.

Do not meddle in matters that are beyond you.

More than you can understand has been shown you.

Their concern has led many astray.

Wrong opinion has impaired their judgment.

Without eyes,

There is no light.

Without knowledge,

There is no wisdom.”

Once again, assuming the role of the parent, Sirach teaches the importance of humility. Be humble in whatever you do. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself in order to find favor with the Lord. The Lord is glorified by the humble. Do not seek what is too difficult for you. Do not investigate things beyond your power. Reflect on what you have been asked to do. Do not worry about hidden things. Do not meddle in things that are beyond you. You already have many more things in your life that you cannot understand. Worrying about these things has led many astray. A wrong opinion has led many to make wrong judgments. Be content with your lot in life. Do what you are told to do. Perhaps this is an attempt to warn against the Hellenization of Judaism. We have the final admonition, that there is no sight without eyes, while there is no knowledge without wisdom.