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The Jewish month of Elul began last week, a month of repentance before the High Holidays. This seems a fitting time to read an excerpt of the 11th century Jewish-Spanish poet Solomon Ibn Gavirol’s magnificent poem, “A Crown for the King,” translated by David R. Slavitt. The theme of this poem is human frailty and proclivity to sin, and it focuses on humanity’s place in the world, the operation of free will, and repentance.
Here is an excerpt:
You live, but not in time, for you are time itself.
You live, but not by breathing in and breathing out, for you are breath itself.
You live, but not with a soul, for you are the source of souls.
You live, but not with the life of man that is like vanity and ends
in the ravening of worms and moths.
You live, and he who finds you out as you gather him into
your eternal bliss “will eat and live forever.”
Sezufat Semes/Lesoni Bonanta – Shlomo ibn Gabirol “Avicebrón”
“Solomon Ibn Gabirol, A Crown for the King.” Translated by David R. Slavitt. Oxford University Press, 1998.