When I first encountered Abraham ibn Ezra’s poem Emet, El Emet Atah (It is true! You are a true God), I fell in love with its beauty and brevity. Here was a poem that while written by someone from nearly a thousand years ago could still invigorate my sense of spirituality and awe and love.
According to the scholar Leon J. Weinberger, this poem is a baqasha, a “request” poem typical in Sephardi communities in the month of Elul, leading into the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
אֱמֶת, אֵל אֱמֶת אַתָּה – וְאִם לֹא רְאִיתִיךָ
וְאוּלָם בְּרֹב טוּבְךָ בְּכָל עֵת חֲזִיתִיךָ
בְּטֶרֶם יְדַעְתִּיךָ חֲסָדִים גְּמַלְתַּנִי
וְעַד כֹּה זְכַרְתַּנִי – וְכַמָּה נְשִׁיתִיךָ
רְצוֹנְךָ לְהֵיטִיב לִי בְּלִי קַחְתְּךָ שָׂכָר
וְנִשְׂגָּב מְאֹד שִׁמְךָ – וְקָרוֹב מְצָאתִיךָ
מְשׂוֹשִׂי בְדָתֶיךָ כְּחָתָן עֲלֵי כַלָּה
וְאֶקְרָא לְאֵל חַיַּי בְּעִתּוֹת קְרָאתִיךָ
It is true! You are a true God – even if I can’t see you
But through your abundant goodness in every moment I envision you
Before I knew you, you bestowed kind acts on me
And even until now you remember me – and how often I’ve forgotten you!
Your desire is to bring me good, without taking a reward
Your name is much exalted – yet near it is I find you
I delight in your teaching (dat) like a groom with a bride
And I call to the God of my life when I call out to you