Ibn Ezra

Show Me, O Angels (Ibn Ezra)

אִמְרוּ, בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים, בַּמָּה / אֶתֵּן לְפוֹעֲלִי
חֶסֶד? וְאִם אֲנִי מִכֶּם – מַה / לִּבְנֵי שְׁאוֹל וְלִי

בִּינִי, נְוַת אֱמוּנוֹת, כִּי שָׁוְא / חֶלֶד וְיוֹשְׁבָיו
וּבְהוֹן וֹמַחֲמַדִּים מוֹקְשָׁיו / יַצִּיב לְאוֹהֲבָיו
אִם תִּדְבְּקִי בְּאֵל וּקְדוֹשָׁיו / לִמְאֹס בְּעוֹזְבָיו
הֵאָחְזִי בְסֻלַּם חָכְמָה, / תֵּרְדִי וְתַעֲלִי
מִמֵּךְ וּבָךְ בְּאֵר לִמְזִמָּה, / תִּדְלִי בְּלִי דְלִי

רֵאשִׁית הֱיוֹת יְסוֹדֵךְ צוּרֵךְ, / וַתִּכְסְפִי אֱלֵי
פֹּעַל, וְלַעֲשׂוֹת כָּל צֹרֶךְ / לָךְ נִתְכְּנוּ כְּלֵי
גֵוֵךְ; וְהֵן קְחִי לָךְ דֶּרֶךְ, / בָּהּ תַּעֲלִי אֱלַי
צוּרוֹת אֱמֶת, בְּלִי גֵו הֵמָּה, / עוֹשׂוֹת בְּאֵין כְּלִי
אוּלָם יְחַשְּׁבוּ כִּי שָׁמָּה / כָּל יֵשׁ בְּלִי כְלִי

הִתְאַזְּרִי, כְּלוּלָה, כֻּלָּךְ / לִשְׁמֹר וְלַעֲבֹד
גַּן תַּעֲנוּג אֲשֶׁר נִתָּן לָךְ; / בּוֹ תֶחֱזִי כְּבוֹד
הָאֵל; וּמַאֲסִי גֵו יֻשְׁלַךְ / בַּבּוֹר, וּבַאֲבֹד
עַצְמוֹ וְשָׁב בְּשָׂרוֹ רִמָּה – / הֶבֶל תְּכַלְכְּלִי
אִם אֵין בְּיַד סְעִיפֵךְ אַשְׁמָה – / רֹנִי וְצַהֲלִי

מָעוֹן, אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדוֹ רוּחִי – / אֵלָיו אֲשַׂבְּרָה
הוּא יַחֲקֹר וְיֵדַע שִׂיחִי / אִם לֹא אֲדַבְּרָה
אֶתְאַזְּרָה כְּפִי כָל כֹּחִי, / יוֹם יוֹם אֲעוֹרְרָה
כִּי אֶעֱבֹר נְתִיבֵי עָרְמָה – / שָׁלוֹם בְּאָהֳלִי
יִהְיֶה, וְלִי יְצַוֶּה עָצְמָה / צוּרִי וְגוֹאֲלִי

[The soul:]
Show me, O angels, how to be grateful to
My Maker? And if I am your kindred what is there for me among mortals?

[The angels:]
O soul, think and discover that the world and its content is illusion;
Its charm and wealth are the snares that lure the gullible.
If you choose to adhere to God and His angels and renounce the faithless,
Then take hold of Wisdom’s ladder, lower yourself and ascend;
You will find a fountain of invention welling within you; with your own effort draw from it.

Although your roots are in the heavens, desire has driven you
To become involved [with your body]; now let it be your agent for the needed
Task; take the road that will lead you up
To the angels who are without form and serve unaided;
But sages know that in that place all have immortal lives.

Now that you have been perfected, prepare yourself to till and keep
The Garden of Delight that is given to you; in it you will see the Presence
Of God. Reject the body destined for the grave, its bones
Broken, its flesh turned to worms, it had fed on foolishness.
If your mind is without blemish, rejoice and be glad.

[The poet:]
The God who holds my life in His hand, in Him I hope;
He probes and knows my thoughts before I speak them.
I will prepare myself with every effort and renew each day my resolve.
When I walk in Wisdom’s road it will be well
With me and God my redeemer will be my armor.

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.