THE divine religion does not urge us to lead an ascetic life, but guides us in the middle path, equidistant from the extremes of too much and too little; it allows free play to every God-given faculty of both body and soul, within the limits drawn by the Divine Hand itself. For certain it is that what we devote to one faculty in excessive measure we withdraw from another faculty, and thus lose the harmony which should pervade our whole life. In general, let me impress this principle upon thy mind: the essence of our whole law is contained in these three things—reverence, love, joy. They are the way to bring us near to God. Thy contrition on the day of fasting is in no wise more pleasing to Him than thy joy on the sabbath or the festival, if so be that thy delight comes from a devout and full heart. Just as prayer requires reflection and devotion, so does joy in God’s commandments and the study of His revelation. Thou must rejoice in the love of Him who gave the Law, being persuaded that the giving thereof was an act of His love towards thee.
YEHUDAH HALEVI, 1141.
THY praise, O Lord, will I proclaim
In hymns unto Thy glorious name.
O Thou Redeemer, Lord and King,
Redemption to Thy faithful bring!
Before Thine altar they rejoice
With branch of palm and myrtle-stem;
To Thee they raise the prayerful voice—
Have mercy, save and prosper them.
They overflow with prayer and praise
To Him who knows the future days.
Have mercy Thou, and hear the prayer
Of those who palms and myrtles bear.
Thee day and night they sanctify
And in perpetual song adore;
Like to the heavenly host, they cry,
‘Blessed art Thou for evermore’.
ELEAZAR KALIR, 8th cent.
(Trans. Alice Lucas.)