This poem was written by Solomon ibn Gabirol, who was born into a Jewish family in the Al-Andalus region (Iberian Peninsula; Southern Spain) during the First Taifa period, early 1000 A.D. He studied extensively in philosophy, ethics, and biblical studies. He wrote well over a hundred poems, and one of his greatest works titled “Fountains of Life” or “Vons Vitae”, which expresses his philosophical doctrine. A book that stands a testament to his legacy.
Before I was , Thy mercy came to me,
Inverting void and being Thou madest me to be.
Who wrought my image, poured my essence
into the crucible and gave me shape?
Who breathed a soul in me
opened the belly of Sheol and took me out?
Who led me from childhood until here?
Who taught me to understand, caused me to marvel?
Indeed I am clay in Thy hand.
Thou didst make me, in truth, not I myself.
I shall confess my sins, and not say to Thee
“The Serpent deceived me and led me astray.”
How can I hide my guilt from Thee? For indeed
before I was, Thy mercy came to me.
-Solomon ibn Gabriol
Source: Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish, & Hebrew Poems by Bernard Lewis (pg. 182)
One thought on “Before I Was: A Hebrew Poem”
It is a beautiful poem that you selected. I love the essence here.