Judaism


If I forget thee O Jerusalem—but how much do you, O Jerusalem, forget? Here
Is what you forget: all the lives lived and buried under your warm old stones, and
Stones that lie buried under newer stones, that give way to older cold stones,
Fenced and labeled, dead stones, an inner bark exposed to the air, the sap dried.
You forget too much, and not enough, O Jerusalem. If I forget thee—but how
Could I? You are lodged in me like the new old name of God lodged in the tongue
Of the mystic from Buffalo roaming your streets,
Like the crosses and the names sunk in the threshold of the holy Tomb.
Will you forget me after the dust of my feet has risen up into your air
And fallen east over the ridgetop settlements, over the bright waters of En Prat,
Over the high concrete walls, over dead forgotten cities in the desert,
Over Nabi Musa’s stark domes, over sad black tarps in the nomad camps?
What is the skill of your right hand, O Jerusalem? Gathering stones,
And in another time or in the same time, scattering them. Yet, in your left hand
Is remembering, rising up like scents in Suq al-‘Attarin, all your names
And the names within names in the many tongues
Pooling in your left palm, ephemeral, eternal,
But the right hand, it does not know what the left hand has.

 

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‘Similarly, we know from our own experience that one who is wise does burden himself with late hours and hard work, reading books, taxing his mental powers and discernment, to understand. But this is no injustice and not wrong in the least on his part. As the prophet said, “Out of the toil of his soul shall he see and be sated.'”

Saadiah, The Book of Theodicy

‘I know that very often I understand many things in the sacred writings when I am with my brethren, which, when alone, I could not understand… Clearly, as this understanding is given me in their presence, it must be given to me for their sakes. Hence God grants that understand increases and pride decreases, while I learn, on your behalf, that which I teach you. For, really, very often I hear what I am saying for the first time, just as you do.’

St. Gregory the Great, Homily on Ezechiel

Who is like unto You, for whom the depths are luminous,
You who is surrounded by whispered praises, source of miracles!

Suddenly He transformed nothing into something;
He drew near to hearts, and His image escaped the eyes;
Therefore do no ask, how and where!
The whole world is full of His presence.

If you keep evil desire at a distance,
You will find God in your bosom;
You only need to stroll peacefully-
He raises and lowers the wave of life.

And see the puzzle: the paths of the soul!
Serenely bask in this wisdom-
Therein you will find the grace of freedom:
You are a prisoner, your cell is the world.

Send thought to unite with Him!
Wipe out your own will and do His!
Where would His eye not reach?
His doings know no limits or threshold.

At the very first He lives prior to the specks of the world dust.
And He created. And He keeps. Like a flower
Which wilts, human fame passes:
As a wilted leaf, so it fades quickly.

Judah Ha-Levi (1075-1141)