Salomon ibn Gabirol, aka Solomon ben Judah or Avicebron

Salomon
ibn Gabirol, aka Solomon ben Judah or Avicebron
1022
1070

Spanish Jewish Talmudic Scholar, Andalusian Hebrew Poet and Philosopher

Author Quotes

All men have one entrance into life, and the like going out

Master: The purpose for which all that exists is the knowledge of the world of the divine. . . Student: And what is the fruit that we will achieve with this study? Master: Release from death and adherence to the fountain and source of life.

You are wise, and your wisdom gave rise to an endless desire in the world as within an artist or worker—to bring out the stream of existence from Nothing…He called to Nothing—which split; to existence—pitched like a tent…With desire's span he established the heavens.

And when I was born, I drew in the common air, and fell upon the earth, which is of like nature; and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do.

Matter has no reality apart from its form, for the real derives from form, and therefore matter moves toward the reception of form, in other words, to be released from the sorrow of absence to the pleasure of existence.

Your secret is your prisoner once you reveal it, you become its slave.

As long as a word remains unspoken, you are its master; once you utter it, you are its slave.

One can compare creation to a word, which man utters with his mouth. In man’s expression of the word, its form and meaning are registered upon the hearing of the listener and in his mind. Along the same lines it is said that the exalted and holy creator expresses his word, and its meaning is registered in the substantiality of matter, and matter preserves that meaning, in other words, that created form is imprinted in matter and registered upon it.

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters

One is punished by the very things by which he sins

I before Thy greatness
Stand, and am afraid:—
All my secret thoughts Thine eye beholdeth
Deep within my bosom laid.

Will night already spread her wings and weave
her dusky robe about the day’s bright form,
Boldly the sun’s fair countenance displacing,
And swathe it with her shadow in broad day?
So a green wreath of mist enrings the moon
Till envious clouds do quite encompass her.
No wind! and yet the slender stem is stirred,
With faint slight motion as from inward tremor.
Mine eyes are full of grief—who sees me asks,
“Oh wherefore dost thou cling unto the ground?”
My friends discourse with sweet and soothing words;
They all are vain, they glide above my head.
I fain would check my tears; would fain enlarge
Unto infinity, my heart—in vain!
Grief presses hard my breast, therefore my tears
Have scarcely dried ere they again spring forth.
For these are streams no furnace heat may quench,
Nebuchadnezzar’s flames may dry them not.
What is the pleasure of the day for me,
If, in its crucible, I must renew
incessantly the pangs of purifying?
Up, challenge, wrestle and o’ercome! Be strong!
The late grapes cover all the vine with fruit.
I am not glad, though even the lion’s pride
Content itself upon the field’s poor grass.
My spirit sinks beneath the tide, soars not
With fluttering seamews on the moist, soft strand.
I follow Fortune not, where’er she lead.
Lord o’er myself, I banish her, compel
And though her clouds should rain no blessed dew,
Though she withhold the crown, the heart’s desire,
Though all deceive, though honey change to gall,
Still am I lord and will in freedom strive.

Unto thy Rock, my soul, uplift thy gaze,
His loving-kindness day and night implore.
Remember thy Creator in the days
Of youth, in song His glorious name adore.
He is thy portion through earth’s troubled maze,
Thy shelter, when life’s pilgrimage is o’er.
Thou knowest that there waits for thee always
A peaceful resting-place His throne before.
Therefore the Lord my God I bless and praise,
Even as all creatures bless Him evermore.

Open the gate my beloved—
arise, and open the gate:
my spirit is shaken and I’m afraid.
My mother’s maid has been mocking me
and her heart is raised against me,
so the Lord would hear her child’s cry.
From the middle of midnight’s blackness,
a wild ass pursues me,
as the forest boar has crushed me;
and the end which has long been sealed
only deepens my wound,
and no one guides me—and I am blind.

At the dawn I seek Thee,
Refuge and rock sublime,—
Set my prayer before Thee in the morning,
And my prayer at eventime.
I before Thy greatness
Stand, and am afraid:—
All my secret thoughts Thine eye beholdeth
Deep within my bosom laid.
And withal what is it
Heart and tongue can do?
What is this my strength, and what is even
This the spirit in me too?
But verily man’s singing
May seem good to Thee;
So will I thank Thee, praising, while there dwelleth
Yet the breath of God in me.

I look for you early,
my rock and my refuge,
offering you worship
morning and night;
before your vastness
I come confused
and afraid for you see
the thoughts of my heart

What could the heart
and tongue compose,
or spirit’s strength
within me to suit you?
But song soothes you
and so I’ll give praise
to your being as long
as your breath-in-me moves.

Morning and evening I seek You, spreading out my hands, lifting up my face in prayer. I sigh for You with a thirsting heart; I am like the pauper begging at my doorstep. The heights of heaven cannot contain Your presence, yet You have a dwelling in my mind. I try to conceal Your glorious name in my heart, but my desire for You grows till it bursts out of my mouth. Therefore I shall praise the name of the Lord as long as the breath of the living God is in my nostrils.

Three things remind me of You,
the heavens
who are a witness to Your name
the earth
which expands my thought
and is the thing on which I stand
and the musing of my heart
when I look within.

O my God, I know that those who implore
favour from Thee
Have for ambassadors their antecedent virtues,
And the righteousness which they have heaped up,
But in me are no good deeds,
For I am shaken and emptied like a stripped vine,
And I have no righteousness, no rectitude,
No piety, no uprightness,
No prayer, no plea,
No innocence, no faith,
No justice, no quality of goodness,
Neither service of God nor turning from sin.
May it be Thy will, O Lord our God and God of our Fathers,
Master of the Worlds,
To have mercy upon me,
And be Thou near me,
To favour me with the visitation of Thy goodwill,
And to lift up to me the light of Thy face,
And to show me Thy graciousness!
Requite me not according to my deeds
And make me not a byword to the base.
Take me not away in the midst of my days
Nor hide Thy face from me.
Purify me from my sins,
And cast me not out from Thy presence,
But quicken me with glory
And with glory receive me afterwards.
And when Thou shalt bring me out of this world,
Bring me in peace to the life of the world to come,
And place me in glory among the saints,
And number me with those whose portion is appointed in the world of life
And purify me to shine in the light of Thy countenance,
And restore and revive me
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
Then will I say:
I thank Thee, O Lord, that though wroth with me,
Thine anger is turned away and Thou hast comforted me.
Thine, O Lord, is loving-kindness
In all the goodness Thou hast bestowed on me,
And which Thou wilt bestow till the day of my death.
And for all this it behooves me to give thanks,
To laud, to glorify, to extol Thee.
By the mouth of Thy creatures O yield Thyself praise,
By those hallowing Thee be Thou self-sanctified,
Through those owning Thy Unity cry Thou Thy oneness,
With the lips of Thy glorifiers chant Thee Thy glory,
And exalt Thee in rhapsody through Thine exalters,
Supremely upborne on Thy worshippers’ breath,
For ’mid the gods and their works, O Lord,
there is none like to Thee and Thine.

May this word of my mouth and my heart’s true thought
Find, O Rock and Redeemer, the favour sought.

May it please Thee, O Lord my God,
To return to me in mercy,
And to bring me back to Thee in perfect repentance.
O dispose my heart and turn Thine ear to supplication,
And open my heart to Thy law,
And plant in my thoughts the fear of Thee,
And decree for me good decrees,
And annul the evil decrees against me,
And lead me not into the power of temptation,
Nor into the power of contempt,
And from all evil chances deliver me,
And hide me in Thy shadow until the havoc pass by,
And be with my mouth in my meditation,
And keep my ways from sin through my tongue,
And remember me when Thou rememberest and favourest Thy people,
And when Thou rebuildest Thy Temple,
That I may behold the bliss of Thy chosen ones,
And purify me to seek diligently Thy Sanctuary devastated and ruined,
And to cherish its stones and its dust,
And the clods of its desolation,
And rebuild Thou its wastes!

O my God,
If my iniquity is too great to be borne,
What wilt Thou do for Thy great name’s sake?
And if I do not wait on Thy mercies,
Who will have pity on me but Thee?
Therefore though Thou shouldst slay me, yet will I trust in Thee.
For if Thou shouldst pursue my iniquity,
I will flee from Thee to Thyself,
And I will shelter myself from Thy wrath in Thy shadow,
And to the skirts of Thy mercies I will lay hold until Thou hast had mercy on me,
And I will not let Thee go till Thou hast blessed me.
Remember, I pray Thee, that of slime Thou hast made me,
And by all these hardships tried me,
Therefore visit me not according to my wanton dealings,
Nor feed me on the fruit of my deeds,
But prolong Thy patience, nor bring near my day,
Until I shall have prepared provision for returning to my eternal home,
Nor rage against me to send me hastily from the earth,
With my sins bound up in the kneading-trough on my shoulder.
And when Thou placest my sins in the balance
Place Thou in the other scale my sorrows,
And while recalling my depravity and frowardness,
Remember my affliction and my harrying,
And place these against the others.
And remember, I pray Thee, O my God,
That Thou hast driven me rolling and wandering like Cain,
And in the furnace of exile hast tried me,
And from the mass of my wickedness refined me,
And I know ’tis for my good Thou hast proved me,
And in faithfulness afflicted me,
And that it is to profit me at my latter end
That Thou hast brought me through this testing by troubles.
Therefore, O God, let Thy mercies be moved toward me,
And do not exhaust Thy wrath upon me,
Nor reward me according to my works,
But cry to the Destroying Angel:
Enough!
For what height or advantage have I attained
That Thou shouldst pursue me for my iniquity,
And shouldst post a watch over me,
And trap me like an antelope in a snare?
Is not the bulk of my days past and vanished?
Shall the rest consume in their iniquity?
And if I am here to-day before Thee,
"To-morrow Thine eyes are upon me and I am not."
"And now wherefore should I die
And this Thy great fire devour me?"
O my God, turn Thine eyes favourably upon me
For the remainder of my brief days,
Pursue not their escaping survivors,
Nor let the remnant of the crops that the hail hath spared
Be finished off by the locust for my sins.
For am I not the creation of Thy hands,
And what shall it avail Thee
That the worm shall take me for its meal
And feed on the product of Thy hands?

May it please Thee, O Lord my God,
To subdue my fierce desire.
O hide Thy face from my sins and trespasses,
Do not carry me off in the midst of my days,
Until I shall have prepared what is needful for my way
And provender for the day of my journeying,
For if I go out of my world as I came,
And return to my place, naked as I came forth,
Wherefore was I created
And called to see sorrow?
Better were it I had remained where I was
Than to have come hither to increase and multiply sin.
I beseech Thee, O God, judge me by Thine attribute of mercy,
And not by Thine anger lest Thou wither me.
For what is man that Thou shouldst judge him?
And how shalt Thou weigh a drifting vapour?
When Thou placest it in the balance,
It shall be neither heavy nor light,
And what shall it profit Thee to weigh the air?
From the day of his birth man is hard-pressed and harrowed,
"Stricken, smitten of God and afflicted."
His youth is chaff driven in the wind,
And his latter end is flying straw,
And his life withereth like a herb,
And God joineth in hunting him.
From the day he cometh forth from his mother’s womb
His night is sorrow and his day is sighing.
If to-day he is exalted,
To-morrow he shall crawl with worms.
A grain of chaff putteth him to flight,
And a thorn woundeth him.
If he is sated, he waxeth wicked,
And if he is hungry, he sinneth for a loaf of bread.
His steps are swift to pursue riches,
But he forgetteth Death, who is after him.
At the time he is straitened, he multiplieth his promises,
And scattereth his words,
And is profuse in vows,
But when he is enlarged,
He keepeth back his word and forgetteth his vows,
And strengtheneth the bars of his gates,
While Death is in his chambers,
And he increaseth guards in every quarter
While the foe lieth ambushed in his very apartment.
As for the wolf, the fence shall not restrain it
From coming to the flock.
Man entereth the world,
And knoweth not why,
And rejoiceth,
And knoweth not wherefore,
And liveth,
And knoweth not how long.
In his childhood he walketh in his own stubbornness,
And when the spirit of lust beginneth in its season
To stir him up to gather power and wealth,
Then he journeyeth from his place
To ride in ships
And to tread the deserts,
And to carry his life to dens of lions,
Adventuring it among wild beasts;
And when he imagineth that great is his glory
And that mighty is the spoil of his hand,
Quietly stealeth the spoiler upon him,
And his eyes are opened and there is naught.
At every moment he is destined to troubles,
That pass and return,
And at every hour evils,
And at every moment chances,
And on every day terrors.
If for an instant he stand in security,
Suddenly disaster will come upon him,
Either war shall come and the sword will smite him,
Or the bow of brass transpierce him;
Or sorrows will overpower him,
Or the presumptuous billows flow over him,
Or sickness and steadfast evils shall find him,
Till he becometh a burden on his own soul,
And shall find the gall of serpents in his honey.
And when his pain increaseth
His glory decreaseth,
And youths make mock of him,
And infants rule him,
And he becometh a burden to the issue of his loins,
And all who know him become estranged from him.
And when his hour hath come, he passeth from
the courts of his house to the court of Death,
And from the shadow of his chambers to the shadow of Death.
And he shall strip off his broidery and his scarlet
And shall put on corruption and the worm,
And lie down in the dust
And return to the foundation from which he came.
And man, whom these things befall,
When shall he find a time for repentance
To scour away the rust of his perversion?
For the day is short and the work manifold,
And the task-masters irate,
Hurrying and scurrying,
And Time laughs at him
And the Master of the House presses.
Therefore I beseech Thee, O my God,
Remember the distresses that come upon man,
And if I have done evil
Do Thou me good at my latter end,
Nor requite measure for measure
To man whose sins are measureless,
And whose death is a joyless departure.

Unworthy am I of all the mercies and all the truth
Which Thou hast wrought for Thy servant.
Verily, O Lord my God, will I thank Thee
For that Thou hast given me a holy soul,
Though by my deeds I have defiled it,
Polluted and profaned it with my evil inclination.
But I know that if I wrought wickedly,
I harmed but myself, never Thee.
In sooth, at my right hand my fierce inclination
As an adversary standeth,
Allowing me no breathing-space to establish my tranquillity.
Oft have I purposed with double bridle to lead him,
From the sea of his lusts to dry land to restore him,
But I could not prevail.
My devices he baulked, made profanities flow from my lips.
I think thoughts of simplicity, he fabricates guile and iniquity,
I am for peace, and he is for war,
To the point that he made me his footstool,
And even in peace-time shed the blood of war.
How oft have I sallied forth to combat against him,
And set in battle-array
My camp of service and repentance,
And placed the host of Thy mercies beside me for auxiliary,
For I said, if my evil inclination
Shall come to one camp and shall smite it,
Then the camp that is left shall escape.
As I thought, so it was.
For temptation has routed me and scattered my forces,
So that there is nothing left me but the camp of Thy mercies.
But yet I know that by these I shall overcome it,
And they shall be unto me better than a city of refuge.
Peradventure I shall prevail and smite it and drive it away.

O God, my countenance falleth,
When I remember all wherein I have provoked Thee.
For all the good which Thou hast bestowed on me
I have requited Thee with evil.
For Thou hast created me not from necessity, but from grace,
And not by compulsion of circumstance
But by favour and love.
And before I was,
With Thy mercies didst Thou precede me,
And breathe into me a spirit and call me into being,
And after I came forth into the light of the world
Thou didst not forsake me,
But like a tender father didst Thou watch over my growing up,
And as a nurse fostereth a suckling didst Thou foster me.
Upon the breasts of my mother Thou madest me rest trustfully,
And with Thy delight didst satisfy me.
And when I essayed my feet, Thou didst strengthen my standing
And didst take me in Thine arms and teach me to walk.
And wisdom and discipline didst Thou impart to me,
And from all trouble and distress didst Thou relieve me,
And at the time of the passing away of Thy wrath
In the shadow of Thy hand didst Thou hide me,
And from how many sorrows concealed from mine eyes didst Thou deliver me!
For before the hardship came
Thou didst prepare the remedy for my distress all unbeknown to me,
And when from some injury I was unguarded,
Thou didst guard me,
And when I came within the fangs of lions
Thou didst break the teeth of the whelps and deliver me thence,
And when evil and constant distress anguished me,
Thou hast freely healed me,
And when Thy dreadful judgment came upon the world,
Thou didst deliver me from the sword
And didst save me from the pestilence,
And in famine didst feed me,
And with plenty sustain me.
And when I provoked Thee,
Thou didst chastise me as a father chastiseth his son,
And when I called out from the depths of my sorrow,
My soul was precious in Thy sight,
Nor didst Thou send me empty away.
But all this didst Thou yet exceed and add to
When Thou gavest me a perfect faith
To believe that Thou art the God of Truth
And that Thy Law is true and Thy prophets are true.
For Thou hast not set my portion with the
rebels and those who rise up against Thee
And the foolish multitude that blaspheme Thy name;
Who make mock of Thy law,
And contend with Thy servants,
And give the lie to Thy prophets,
Making a show of innocence
But with cunning below,
Exhibiting a pure and stainless soul,
While underneath lurketh the bright leprous spot:
Like to a vessel full of shameful things,
Washed on the outside with the waters of deceit,
And defiling all that is within.

O my God, I know that my sins are too great to tell,
And my trespasses too many to remember,
Yet as a drop from the sea will I make mention of some,
And make confession of them;
Perhaps I shall silence the roar of their waves and their crashing,
"And Thou wilt hear from heaven and forgive."
I have trespassed against Thy law,
I have despised Thy commandments,
I have abhorred them in my heart,
And with my mouth spoken slander.
I have committed iniquity,
And I have wrought evil,
I have been presumptuous,
I have done violence,
I have plastered over falsehood,
I have counselled evil, p. 110
I have lied, I have scoffed,
I have revolted, I have blasphemed,
I have been rebellious and perverse and sinful,
I have stiffened my neck,
I have loathed Thy rebukes and done wickedly,
I have corrupted my ways,
I have strayed from my paths,
I have transgressed and turned away from Thy commandments.
"But Thou art just in all that is come upon me
For Thou hast dealt truly and I have dealt wickedly."

Author Picture
First Name
Salomon
Last Name
ibn Gabirol, aka Solomon ben Judah or Avicebron
Birth Date
1022
Death Date
1070
Bio

Spanish Jewish Talmudic Scholar, Andalusian Hebrew Poet and Philosopher