Ibn Ezra

Before My Soul Existed (Ibn Ezra)

In this short poem (which some think may be a fragment of a longer poem), Abraham ibn Ezra reflects on faith, failure, and seeking the joy and light of the Divine.

You can listen to me reciting the poem in Hebrew here.

בְּטֶרֶם הֱיוֹת נַפְשִׁי חֲתוּמִים סְפָרֶיךָ
וְאֵיךְ אֶדְרְשָׁה בִּלְתָּךְ – וְהַכֹּל יְצוּרֶיךָ
רְצוֹנִי לְעָבְדָךְ, אַךְ זְמַנִּי מְנָעַנִי
וְעִם מַחֲשָׁךְ יִצְרִי אֲקַוֶּה לְאוֹרֶךָ
בְּךָ יַעֲלֹז לִבִּי בְּשִׁבְתִּי וְקוּמִי, גַּם
בְּהִתְהַלְּכִי, כִּי נֵר לְרַגְלִי דְּבָרֶךָ

Before I was born You sealed my fate,
How can I serve another when all Your creatures be?
I want to serve You, but my ill-fortune prevents me;
I look for Your light in the dark of my folly.
In You I rejoice wherever I may be;
In my vagabond life Your word is a candle in the road.

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.