countenance, and His Torah is perfect in my heart.
' Comp. Daniel g. 24-27.
XIV. SOLOMON B. JUDAH IBN GEBIROL
[Deep thinker and lyric poet. One of the most original and
noblest minds of medieval Jewry. He was born at Malaga
about I02I, and died at Valencia about 1058. In his philosophic
works and in his poems which are still extant one discerns a
spirit that strives to soar high and to attain to the loftiest
state of mental development. In his soul mystic and rational
elements are wonderfully blended. He had great influence
upon subsequent writers.]
I. On Leaving Saragossa*
My throat became dried from crying, my tongue
cleaved unto my palate; my heart flutters because of
my great anguish and pain. Great is my sorrow, that
it no longer allows mine eyes to slumber.
To whom shall I speak and complain? to whom
shall I declare my grief? Would there were one to
comfort and to pity me, who would hold my right
hand ! I would pour out my heart to him, and would
relate some of my woes. Perchance by uttering my
grief the tempest of my heart may subside a little.
O thou who inquirest about my peace, draw nigh,
and hearken ! My roaming is as the sea's. If thy heart
were as adamant, it would melt from my affliction.
How canst thou think I am alive, while thou knowest
my languishment ? Alas! I dwell in the midst of a
people that thinks my right hand is my left. I am in-
terred, but not in a desert â€” my coffin is within my house.
I am motherless and fatherless, distressed and lonely,
^ Dukes' edition, No. i. The poet complains of his uncon-
genial surroundings. He is misunderstood by his neighbors,
because he strives to attain to knowledge.
SOLOMON B. JUDAH IBM GEBIROL 83
young- and poor. Alone, without a brother, I have no
other friend but my thoughts. I mix my flowing tears
with blood, and then my wine is mixed with tears. I
thirst for a friend, but I shall be consumed ere my thirst
is slaked. The heavens and their host prevent me from
attaining my desire. I am counted like a stranger or
sojourner, my dwelling is amongst ostriches ; among the
crooked and the fools, who think that they are very
wise : the one gives to drink the venom of asps, the
other, flattering, smooths the head ; but he lays an am-
bush in his heart, though he says to thee : ' I pray thee,
my lord.' They are a people whose fathers I would dis-
dain to set with the dogs of my flock. Their faces never
blush with shame, unless they are dyed with scarlet.
Like giants are they in their sight, in my sight they are
like locusts. When I take up my parable, they chide me,
as they would chide a Greek : ' Speak a tongue that
we understand, for this speech is of an Ashkelonite.'
I shall now crush them as mire, for my tongue is
like a sharp spear. If their ear is deaf to me, of what
avail can be my bell ? Unworthy are their necks to be
adorned with the gold of my crescents.
Oh that the fools would open their mouth to receive
the spring-rain of my clouds! My perfume would I
drop on them, my saffron and my cinnamon. Woe
unto knowledge, woe to me! In the midst of such a
people do I dwell! They count the knowledge of
God as witchcraft and as sorcery.
I therefore lament and wail, I lie all night in sack-
cloth. I am bowed down as a bulrush, and fast on the
second and fifth days of every week. What shall I
hope for, while I live? in what then shall I put my
faith? Mine eye roams about in this world, but it
beholds not what I desire. Oh death is precious in
84 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
my sight, because I disdain this earth. If my heart
turns to her ways, may my tongue cleave to my palate !
My soul rejects her glory, for her honor is disgrace
in mine eyes. I never shall rejoice in her, my pride
shall not exult in her, even if the constellations would
call to me : ' Turn in, and sit with us, O lord.' For this
earth has become to me as a yoke upon my neck. What
else is left me in this world, except to endure my blind-
My soul complains aloud, for it found not as yet
my abode. I am weary of my life, and loathe that
my flesh should lord over me. For its rejoicing is my
grief ; and v/hen it sorrows, I rejoice. I seek to
know, and I shall find true knowledge when my flesh
and vigor are gone. For after grief comes relief,
after leanness comes my nourishment.
All my life I shall search and seek the commands of
Solomon my ancestor. Perchance He who lays bare
deep things will reveal wisdom to mine eye ; for this
alone is my portion from all my labor and vv^ealth.
2. A Vow to Seek Wisdom ' ;
A soul whose raging tempests wildly rise, whither
shall she send her meditations ? She rages, and is like
a flame of fire, whose smoke constantly ascends. This
time her meditations are like a wheel that turns around
on the earth and the multitudes thereof, or like the
seas wherein the earth's foundations were fastened;
* How canst thou be so strong and filled with courage,
that thou disdainest a place upon the stars? From
^ Dukes' edition, No. 7. The poet declares that, in spite of all
obstacles and discouragement, he will seek wisdom and strive
to make himself as perfect as possible.
SOLOMON B. JUDAH IBM GEBIROL 85
the path of wisdom turn thou away thy heart; the
world shall then smooth thy path for thee.'
Oh comfort ye my soul for that, my friends, and
likewise for her sorrows comfort her ; she thirsts for a
man of prudence, but finds not a man to slake her thirst.
Seek ye amongst the men of fame, perchance there
may be one to grant her desires. If this world sins
against me, my heart will regard it disdainfully. If
it cannot see my light with its eye, let the world then
be contented with its blindness. But afterwards, if
it appeases me, I shall turn round, and forgive its
sins. The earthly sphere would then be good ; the
hand of Time would place no yoke upon the wise.
Oh too much wrong didst thou commit ; long have
the gourds been as cedars of the earth. Despise the
vile ones of the people, for stones are less burdensome
to me than they. Cut off the tail of them that say to
me : * Where is then wisdom and her votaries ? ' Oh
that the world would judge them aright! oh that it
would give food unto her sons ! They would then
rest, not toil, and would attain their goal, without
knowing worldly joys. Some took the sun's daughters,
and begot folly, but they were not its sons-in-law."
Why do ye chide me for my undei standing, O ye
thorns and briers of the earth? If wisdom is of light
esteem to you, vile and despised are ye in her sight.
Though she is closed, and reaches not your heart, lo,
I shall open her chests. How shall I now abandon
wisdom, since God's spirit made a covenant between
us? or how shall she forsake me, since she is like a
mother to me and I am the child of her old age? or
like an ornament which adorns the soul, or like a
' This seems to be an allusion to those who adopted false
86 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
necklace on her neck. How can ye say to me : ' Take
off thy ornaments, and remove the precious chain from
her neck '? In her my heart rejoices, and is glad, be-
cause her rivers of delights are pure. Throughout my
life I shall make my soul ascend until her abode is be-
yond the clouds. For she adjured me not to rest, until I
find the knowledge of her Master.
3. The Royal Crown *
This my prayer may avail a man to learn righteous-
ness and purity ; therein I declared wonders of the
living God, briefly, not at length. I placed this hymn
above all my hymns ; wherefore I named it 'Royal
Wonderful are Thy works, and that my soul knows
right well ! Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the
power, and the glory, and the eminence, and the
majesty. Thine, O Lord, is the kingdom, and Thou
art the One exalted as head above all; and Thine are
riches and glory. Unto Thee do the creatures from
above and beneath testify that they shall perish, but
Thou shalt endure. Thine is that power whose mystery
our minds fail to fathom, for Thou art too mighty for
us. Thine is the hiding-place of might, the mystery
and the foundation. Thine is the name which is con-
cealed from the men of wisdom, and the power which
sustains the universe on nothing, and the ability to
bring every hidden thing to light. Thine is the loving-
kindness which is great toward Thy creatures, and
the bliss which is stored up for them that fear Thee.
*This is the first part of that beautiful composition in
rhymed prose. It has been incorporated in the Sephardic
ritual for the eve of the Day of Atonement. The biblical
verses are introduced with wonderfully artistic skill.
SOLOMON B. JUDAH IBM GEBIROL 87
Thine are the mysteries which no intellect nor mind can
contain, and the life over which decay has no dominion,
and the throne which is exalted above all the highest,
and the habitation which is concealed in the height of
the hiding-place. Thine is the existence from the sha-
dow of whose light every being was created, of which
we say : * Under its shadow we live.' Thine are the two
worlds between which Thou didst set a boundary : the
first for deeds and the second for recompense.
Thine is the recompense which Thou didst store up
and hide for the righteous, for when Thou didst see
that it was ^ood. Thou didst conceal it.
Thou art one, the first of every number, and the
foundation of every structure. Thou art one, and at
the mystery of Thy oneness the wise are perplexed,
for they know not what it is. Thou art one, and Thy
oneness can neither increase nor decrease; it can
neither be diminished, nor can aught be added to it.
Thou art one, but not such a one as can be possessed
or numbered ; for neither increase nor change, neither
qualification nor attribute can be conceived of Thee.
Thou art one, but my imagination fails to set a limit
and a bound about Thee ; I have therefore said : ' I
will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my
tongue.' Thou art one, too high and too exalted to be
brought low and to fall, for how can the One fall?
Thou art existent, but the hearing of the ear and
the sight of the eye cannot perceive Thee ; nor can the
How? the Wherefore? or the Whence? be applied to
Thee. Thou art existent, but by Thyself, and there is
none other with Thee. Thou art existent, and hadst
been before time was, and didst abide without space.
Thou art existent, but Thy mystery is hidden, who
can reach it? exceeding deep, who can find it out?
88 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
Thou art living, but not from any fixed time, nor
from any known period. Thou art Hving, but not
through a soul and breath, for Thou art the soul of
the soul. Thou art living, but not as the life of man
who is like to vanity, and whose end is moth and ver-
min. Thou art living, and he who reaches Thy mystery
shall find everlasting delight: he shall eat, and live
Thou art great, and compared with Thy greatness
all greatness is humbled, and every excellence is faulty.
Thou art too great for any thought, and too sublime
for any composition. Thou art greater than all great-
ness, and exalted above all blessing and praise.
Thou art mighty, and among Thy creatures and
beings there is none that can do according to Thy
works and according to Thy mighty acts. Thou art
mighty, and Thine is the absolute power which changes
not and alters not. Thou art mighty, and because of
the abundance of Thy might Thou dost pcrdon even in
the time of Thy indignant wrath, and dost defer
Thine anger to sinners. Thou art mighty, yet Thy
tender mercies are over all Thy creatures : these are
Thy mighty deeds that were of old.
Thou art light, and the eyes of every pure soul shall
behold Thee ; but the clouds of iniquity shall hide Thee
from its eyes. Thou art the light which is hidden in
this world, but shall be revealed in the high and beauti-
ful world ; on the mount of the Lord shall it be seen.
Thou art most high, and the eye of the intellect
yearns and longs for Thee ; but it can only see the
utmost thereof, and cannot see the whole.
Thou art the God of gods, and all Thy creatures are
Thy witnesses, and for the glory of this name every
creature is obliged to worship Thee. Thou art God,
SOLOMON B. JUDAH IBN GEBIROL 89
and all the beings are Thy servants and Thy worship-
pers; yet Thy glory is not diminished because of them
that worship aught beside Thee ; for the intention of
them all is to attain unto Thee, but they are as the
blind : they set their faces toward the way of the King ;
but they wander out of the way: one sinks into the pit
of destruction, and another falls into the abyss ; they
all think that they have reached their goal, but they
labored in vain. But Thy servants are as the clear-
sighted who walk in the straight path : they turn not
from the way to the right hand or to the left until they
come to the court of the King's house. Thou art
God, supporting the beings with Thy divinity, and sus-
taining the creatures with Thy unity. Thou art God,
and there is no distinction between Thy divinity, and
Thy unity, and Thy eternity, and Thy existence ; for
it is all one mystery: although the names of each one
are dififerent, they all go unto one place.
Thou art wise, and wisdom, which is the fountain
of life, emanates from Thee ; compared with Thy wis-
dom, every man is brutish and without knowledge.
Thou art wise, prior to all first beings, and even wis-
dom was Thy nursling. Thou art wise, but Thou didst
not learn from another, nor didst Thou acquire wis-
dom from any one beside Thee. Thou art wise, and
from Thy wisdom didst Thou set apart the pre-
destined will, as a workman and an artist, to draw
forth the emanation of existence from non-existence
(as the light, issuing from the eye, emanates and
draws from the fountain of light without a bucket),
and it made all things without instruments. It hewed
and engraved, cleansed and purified ; it called unto
non-existence, and it was cleft in twain ; unto exis-
tence, and it was established ; unto the universe, and
90 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
it was stretched out. It meted out heaven with the
span; its hand joined the pavilion of the spheres,
and fastened the curtains over the creatures with
the loops of potentiality. Its power reaches as far
as the edge of the curtain, the outermost creation,
which is the extreme end of the coupling.
XV. BAHYA B. JOSEPH IBN PAKUDA
[Philosopher, talmudic scholar, and liturgic poet. Differ-
ence of opinion exists as to the time when he flourished. It
is usually accepted that he lived in the eleventh century. But
arguments, though by no means conclusive, have been brought
forth to prove that he lived a century later. To him is due
the credit of having been the author of the first Jewish system
of ethics. His ethical work Hobot ha-Lebabot (Duties of the
Heart), v/hich was written in Arabic, has always been a great
favorite in its Hebrew translation.]
Pious Reflections and Admonitions to the Soul'
Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within
me, bless His holy name.
O my soul, march on with strength, and bless thy
Creator. Prepare a supplication for Him, and pour
out thy meditation before Him. Awake from thy
sleep, and consider thy place, whence thou camest, and
whither thou goest.
O my soul, awake from thy slumber, and utter a
song to thy Creator ; sing praises unto His name, de-
clare his wonders, and fear Him wherever thou
O my soul, be not as the horse, or as the mule, which
have no understanding; nor shouldst thou be as a
drunkard that is fast asleep, or as a man that is
stupefied; for out of the fountain of understanding
wast thou formed, and from the spring of wisdom
wast thou taken ; from a holy place wast thou brought
forth, and from the city of the mighty, from heaven,
wast thou taken out by God.
^This beautiful prose poem has been frequently printed in
some Hebrew prayer-books.
92 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
O my soul, put on garments of prudence, and gird
on a girdle of understanding, and free thyself from
the vanities of thy body, in which thou dwellest. Let
not thy heart beguile thee with the sweetness of its
desires, and let it not allure thee with the visions of
its pleasures which melt away like water that runs
apace. Remember that the beginning of these plea-
sures is without help or profit, and their end is shame
and also reproach.
O my soul, run to and fro through the streets of
thy understanding, and go about in the chambers of
thy wisdom, and come unto the structure of the build-
ing of thy imagery, whose foundation is in dust ; is it
not a despised body and a carcass trodden under foot?
It is formed out of a troubled fountain and a cor-
rupted spring, built of a fetid drop; it is burned
with fire, it is cut down. It is an unformed substance
resembling a worm, it is nought but terror. It is
kept in a foul womb, closed up in an impure belly ; it
is born with pangs and sorrows to see trouble and
vanities. All day long it covets pleasures, and departs
from instruction and from commandments ; it comes
in the dark, and goes away in the dark ; it is a poor,
needy, and destitute wayfarer. It has no knowledge
without thee, and no understanding beside thee.
While alive, it is dust ; and when it dies, it is ashes.
As long as it lives, worms surround it, and when its
end comes, vermin and clods of dust cover it. It
cannot discern between its right hand and its left
hand ; its lot is hidden in the ground. Go thou, there-
fore, and reign over it, for sovereignty is meet unto
the children of wisdom, and the foolish is a servant
to the wise of heart. Walk not in the stubbornness
of thy wicked heart, be not ensnared by its counsels,
BAHYA B. JOSEPH IBN PAKUDA 93
and despise the gain of its frauds; trust not in op-
pression, and become not vain in robbery ; for oppres-
sion makes a wise man foolish, and a bribe destroys
O my soul, set thy heart toward the highway, even
the way by which thou didst go ; for all was made of
dust, and indeed unto dust shall all return. Every
thing that was created and fashioned has an end and
a goal to return unto the ground, whence it was taken.
Life and death are brothers that dwell together; they
are joined to one another ; they cling together, so
that they cannot be sundered. They are joined
together by the^two extremes of a frail bridge over
which all created beings travel : life is the en-
trance, and death is the exit thereof. Life builds,
and death demolishes ; life sows, and death reaps ;
life plants, and death uproots ; life joins together, and
death separates; life links together, and death scat-
ters. Know, I pray thee, and see that also unto thee
shall the cup pass over, and thou shalt soon go out
from the lodging-place which is on the way, when
time and chance befall thee, and thou returnest to
thine everlasting home. On that day shalt thou delight
in thy work, and take thy reward in return for thy
labor wherein thou hast toiled in this world, whether
it be good or bad. Therefore hearken, I pray thee,
and consider, and incline thine ear; forget thy people
and thy father's house. Arise, and sing unto thy
King all th) day and all thy night; lift up thy hands
toward Him, and bow down unto Him with thy face
to the ground; let thine eyelids gush out with waters,
and kneel thou upon thy knees ; the King may per-
chance desire thy beauty, and lift up His countenance
unto thee, and give thee peace. He will be gracious
94 POST-BIBLICAL HEBREW LITERATURE
unto thee in the days of thy affliction in this world, and
also after thou hast returned to thy rest. For as long
as thou didst live He dealt bountifully with thee,
O my soul, prepare provision in abundance, pre-
pare not little, while thou art yet alive, and while thy
hand has yet strength, because the journey is too great
for thee. And say not : ' I shall prepare provision
to-morrow ' ; for the day has declined, and thou knowest
not what the next day may bring forth. Know like-
wise that yesterday shall never come back, and that
whatever thou hast done therein is weighed, num-
bered, and counted. Nor shouldst thou say : ' I shall
do it to-morrow ' ; for the day of death is hidden from
all the living. Hasten to do thy task every day, for
death may at any time send forth its arrow and light-
ning. Delay not to do thy daily task, for as a bird
wanders, from its nest, so does a man wander from
his place. Think not with thyself that after thou
hast gone forth from the prison of thy body thou wilt
turn to correction from thy perpetual backsliding ; for
it will not be possible for thee then to do good or evil ;
it will not avail thee then to turn away from back-
sliding or to repent of wickedness, guilt, and trans-
gression. For that world has been established to
render accounts â€” the book of the hidden and con-
cealed deeds which every man commits is sealed â€”
and it has been prepared to grant a good reward to
them that fear the Lord and think upon His name,
and to execute the vengeance of the covenant upon
them that forget God, who say unto God : ' Depart
from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?
and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him ? ' ^
^ Comp. Job 21. 14, 15.
BAHYA B. JOSEPH IBM PAKUDA 95
O my soul, if thou art wise, thou art wise for thy-
self ; and if thou scoffest, thy error remains with
thee. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it
not. Lay continually to thy heart the words of
Koheleth the son of David : ' The end of the matter,
all having been heard : fear God, and keep His com-
mandments ; for this is the whole man. For God
will bring every work into judgment concerning every
hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be
evil.' ' Forget not that He seals up the hand of every
man, that all men whom He has made may know it.'
Remember likewise that there is no darkness and no
thick darkness wherein the workers of iniquity may
hide themselves.^ Seek the Lord thy Maker with all
thy might and strength. Seek righteousness, seek
meekness ; it may be that thou wilt be hidden in the
day of God's anger, and in the day of His fierce
wrath, and that thou wilt shine as the brightness of
the firmament and as the sun when it goes forth in
its might. The sun of righteousness with healing
in its wings shall shine upon thee. Now arise, go and
make supplication unto thy Lord, and take up a
melody unto thy God. Praise thou God, for it is
good to sing praises to our God ; for it is pleasant, and
praise is comely.
^ Ecclesiastes 12. 13, 14.
â– * Comp. Job 2,7- 7-
^ Comp. Job 34. 22.
XVI. AHIMAAZ B. PALTIEL
[Liturgic poet and author of a family chronicle. He was
born at Capua, Italy, 1017, and died at Oria about 1060. His
Chronicles (Sefer Yuhasin) is an important source for the
history of the early Jewish settlement in Italy.]
Shephatiah Before His Death on Rosh ha-Shanah
Declares that the Tyrant Basil Is Dead ^
And Rabbi Shephatiah was old and well stricken
with age ; and God blessed him with all pleasant quali-
ties. The Dweller of the high heavens gave him the
Torah as a possession, and made him great with riches
and immense wealth. He endowed him with a son
who was worthy and perfect ; the father and the son
were faultless. With them was Rabbi Hananel who
was great and perfect ; they were all steadfast in the
fear of God. They were brothers an(^ friends, and
were pleasant in their friendship. They continually
occupied themselves with the Torah and with the
commandments, and lovingly fulfilled God's statutes.
They exalted their King with strength and with
glory, and magnified their Maker with honor and
majesty, and made for their Creator a wreath, and a
crown, and a diadem of fine gold. They ascribed
strength and power to their Maker, and came in the
evening and in the morning to the assembly of prayers.
All the days that they were upon earth they bewailed
with grief the exile and the destruction, and lamented
with bitterness and desolation over the persecution.
* Neubauer, MedicBval Jewish Chronicles, vol. II., p. 123, seq.
AHIMAAZ B. P ALT I EL 97
They cried and made supplications to Him who"
turns wise men backward/ by whose knowledge the
depths were broken up, and who established and
founded the rivers and seas, that He should make
foolish the knowledge of the enemy, and that He
should lay his kingdom waste. They asked under-
standing from Him who is full of mercy, that the
decree of persecution should be brought to nought
and be abolished. Because of their cry which they