Yom Kippur Meditations - A Book Of Jewish Thoughts

Yom Kippur Meditations - A Book Of Jewish Thoughts



MY soul, be not senseless, like a beast, deeply sunk;—be not drowsy, with passion drunk.—Hewn from reason’s mind thou art;—from wisdom’s well thy waters start,—from the Lord’s heavenly realm!

My soul, let not the body’s wanton pleasures capture thee,—its showy treasures not enrapture thee;—they melt away—like the dew before the day,—they avail naught when they begin,—and their end is shame and sin.

My soul, look carefully back—on thy pilgrim’s track;—all cometh from the dust,—and thither return it must.—Whatever has been moulded and built,—when its time is fulfilled,—must go back to the ground—where its material was found.—Death is life’s brother.—They keep fast to one another,—each taking hold of one end of their plunder,—and none can tear them asunder.—Soon thou wilt come—to thine eternal home,—where thou must show thy work and receive thy wages—on rightful scales and gauges,—or good or bad, according to the worth—of thy deeds on earth.

Therefore get thee up, and to thy Master pray—by night and day;—bow down before Him, be meek,—and let thy tears bedew thy cheek.—Seek the Lord, thy Light,—with all thy might;—walk in meekness, pursue the right;—so that with His mercy-screen the Master—hide thee in the day of disaster.—Then thou shalt shine like the heavens bright,—and like the sun when going forth in might;—and o’er thy head—shall be spread—the rays—of the sun of grace—that brings—healing and joy in his wings.


(Trans. M. Jastrow.)


FORGET thine anguish,

Vexed heart, again.

Why shouldst thou languish,

With earthly pain?

The husk shall slumber,

Bedded in clay,

Silent and sombre,

Oblivion’s prey.

But, Spirit immortal,

Thou at Death’s portal

Tremblest with fear.

If he caress thee,

Curse thee, or bless thee,

Thou must draw near,

From him the worth of thy works to hear.

Why, full of terror,

Compassed with error,

Trouble thy heart

For thy mortal part?

The soul flies home—

The corpse is dumb.

Of all thou didst have

Follows naught to the grave.

Thou fliest thy nest,

Swift as a bird to thy place of rest.

Life is a vine-branch;

A vintager, Death.

He threatens and lowers

More near with each breath.

Then hasten, arise!

Seek God, O my soul!

For time quickly flies,

Still far is the goal.

Vain heart praying dumbly,

Learn to prize humbly

The meanest of fare.

Forget all thy sorrow,

Behold, death is there!

Dove-like lamenting,

Be full of repenting;

Lift vision supernal

To raptures eternal;

On every occasion

Seek lasting salvation.

Pour thy heart out in weeping

While others are sleeping.

Pray to Him when all’s still,

Performing His will.

And so shall the Angel of Peace be thy warden,

And guide thee at last to the heavenly garden.


(Trans. Emma Lazarus).

Excerpt From A Book Of Jewish Thoughts Selected And Arranged By The Chief Rabbi - Dr J.H.Hertz