Ibn Ezra

Admonition to the Soul (Ibn Ezra)

You can listen to the Hebrew here.

אִם לֹא תֵדְעִי, נַפְשִׁי, אַחֲרִיתֵךְ
קְחִי לָךְ מוֹפֵת וְאוֹת מֵרֵאשִׁיתֵךְ
הֶבֶל יְסוֹדֵךְ וְעַל תֹּהוּ בְּנוֹתֵךְ
בּוֹאֵךְ כְּצֵאתֵךְ וְחַיַּיִךְ כְּמוֹתֵךְ
וְלָמָּה תִרְגָּעִי / וְרוּחַ שָׁוְא תִּרְעִי
פְּנִי לָךְ, כִּי תִסְעִי / כְּמוֹ אֹהֶל רֹעִי
וּתֲבֻקְשִׁי וְאֵינֵךְ
וְאֵיךְ עַל זֶה לֹא פָקַחַתְּ עֵינֵךְ

בְּתַאֲוָה דָּבַקְתְּ אֲשֶׁר הִיא אוֹיַבְתְּךְ
וְלֹא הִתְבּוֹנַנְתְּ כִּי תִקְרַב עִתֵּךְ
יֵינָהּ יוֹנֵךְ וְגַם פִּתָּה תְּפַתֵּךְ
עַד יִיעָפוּ אַנְשֵׁי מִלְחַמְתֵּךְ
וְנוֹשְׂאֵי כֵלַיִךְ – / וְיָשׁוּב אֵלָיִךְ
גְּמוּל מַעֲלָלָיִךְ! / לְזֹאת מֵעָלָיִךְ
הָסִירִי יֵינֵךְ
וְאֵיךְ עַל זֶה לֹא פָקַחַתְּ עֵינֵךְ

רַב לָךְ לִדְרשׁ אֶת אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲזֹבִי
אֶל טוּב אֲדֹנָי תִּנְהֲרִי אִם תֹּאבִי
אֵיךְ תַּהְפּוּכוֹת בְּלִבֵּךְ תַּחְשֹׁבִי
פְּעָמִים תְּשׁוֹבֲבִי וּפַעַם תָּשׁוּבִי
אִם אַחַת לְקוֹנֵךְ / וְרַבּוֹת לִרְצוֹנֵךְ
וְאֵיךְ יִתֹּם עֲוֹנֵךְ – / וְהַיֵּצֶר לְשָׂטְנֵךְ
יַעֲמֹד עַל יְמִינֵךְ
וְאֵיךְ עַל זֶה לֹא פָקַחַתְּ עֵינֵךְ

הֵתֶל זְמַן בָּךְ; לְעָמָל נִדָּחַתְּ
לִבְנוֹת וְלִקְנוֹת, וְעוֹדָךְ לֹא נָחַתְּ
הַכֹּל יִכְלֶה – וְעַל מַה בָּטָחַתְּ
הֲלֹא בְתַעֲנוּגֵךְ שְׂכָרֵךְ לָקָחַתְּ
לְאֵל חַי אַתְּ אָמָה / לְעָבְדֵהוּ, וְלָמָה
עָבַדְתְּ הָאֲדָמָה? / שׁוּבִי וּדְעִי מַה
תֹּאמְרִי לַאדוֹנֵךְ
וְאֵיךְ עַל זֶה לֹא פָקַחַתְּ עֵינֵךְ

מַה לָּךְ, תֵּבֵל, תְּסִיתִינִי לְהָבֶל
תְּנִי אוֹ לִקְחִי – אֲנִי עוֹד לֹא אֲקַבֵּל
אֵיךְ אֶשְׂמַח עַל זְמָן, אוֹ אֶתְאַבֵּל
מְעַט אֶשְׁכְּנָה בָךְ; יְנַשֵּׂא אוֹ יְנַבֵּל
יַעֲלֶה אוֹ יוֹרִיד, / יַשְׁקִיט אוֹ יַחֲרִיד
וְאֶעֱבֹד אוֹ אָרֵיד – / הַמָּוֶת יַפְרִיד
בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵךְ
וְאֵיךְ עַל זֶה לֹא פָקַחַתְּ עֵינֵךְ

My soul, if you do not know what the future brings
Look for the signs of your origin in the past!
You are housed in vapor and built on emptiness.
Your entrance is like your exit, your living is like your dying.
How can you be content herding a worthless wind?
Mend your ways; soon you will vanish like a shepherd’s tent!
Efforts to find you will be in vain –
How can you remain indifferent?

Given to Passion and knowing her to be your enemy
You have not noticed that your end is near.
Her wine beguiles you, her bread entices you
Until your defences are down
And your [weakened] limbs will come back
To witness against you. Now put away
Your wine.
How can you remain indifferent?

Long enough have you pursued what you must leave behind.
Choose instead to be attracted to God’s delights.
How deceitful can you be:
Repenting once and sinning often?
Will you acknowledge your Maker but one time and indulge yourself at will?
How can your sin be forgiven when Temptation is at your right hand
Accusing you?
How can you remain indifferent?

Time has mocked you; it has drive you to mischief
You build and buy and are not satisfied.
When it all fades you will ask, “Have I trusted in vain?”
Your indulgence was your sole reward!
Since your mission is to serve the living God, why
Do you worship worldly goods? Repent and consider
What you will say to your Master
How can you remain indifferent?

O World, why have you enticed me with vapors?
I no longer care if you are gracious or cruel!
O Time, why should I rejoice at good fortune or mourn a tragedy?
I am but a transient here indifferent to your praise or blame,
Your success or failure, tranquility or terror.
Whether I be master or slave, death will ultimately
Separate us!
How can you remain indifferent?

Translated by Leon J. Weinberger

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.