Written while the Second Temple was standing, and the Yom Kippur sacrificial service still performed, Ben Sira’s poem traces the history of the world through Simon son of Johanan, the High Priest in his time, thus expressing the cosmic importance of the Temple and its priesthood. The poem appears to be the antecedent or literary inspiration of the Yom Kippur Seder Avodah’s framing liturgy.
Despite its pious content, especially when seen against Kohelet, the book of Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus) was not canonized and today has been marginalized. This was not always the case. Ben Sira held a prominent place in earlier Jewish, and even rabbinic, communities.
Michael L. Satlow