I’m not going to blog about today, because not very much happened. A number of my blogging friends post poetry. I actually went through a phase of writing poetry a number of years ago. I have no intention of writing more poetry or posting what I wrote in the past, but one poem was insistently in my mind this afternoon, and I was curious to see what response it would get. I don’t consider it a great poem, but I do like what it’s trying to say, and I wondered how clearly I’d said it.

I should say in advance that most of the first stanza and some of the second is a reasonably accurate translation (by me) of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (I Will Build a Sanctuary in my Heart), a liturgical poem by Rabbi Eliezer Azikri, a sixteenth century poet.

EDIT: WordPress has messed up the layout (stupid blocks); the second stanza should start with “Were this son of Azikri”.

Service of the Heart

Not quite five hundred years ago

The kabbalist Eliezer wrote:

“I will build a Temple in my heart

For His glorious majesty,

Place an altar there for His splendour,

Take for the everlasting flame

The fire of Yitzchak’s binding

And for a sacred offering

Bring up to Him my unique soul.”

Were this son of Azikri

To take up his quill today

He would surely write instead:

“I will build a Temple in my heart

For His glorious majesty,

Place an altar there for His splendour,

Take for the everlasting flame

The fire of my inner passion

And there I shall serve as High Priest

And deliver my offerings.”

14 thoughts on “Poem: Service of the Heart

  1. I read your poem more as a question of are we offering out of sacrifice and duty (first stanza) vs. out of love (second stanza)? Essentially, the fear of G-d vs. love of G-d question. I really like this poem! Tip: if trying to post poems with stanza breaks on WP, post as a pre-formatted block rather than a regular paragraph block. Otherwise, WP Block Editor messes up the stanza breaks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. I did not read it this way. Read it as a contrast between a true appreciation of our place before God – i.e. complete sacrifice of the self and the ego versus us today – with an inflated sense of our own importance i.e. taking on the exalted role of the high priest – almost to the point of standing alongside God himself. This applies very much to the Christian church today – interested if this is also happening in Judaism.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Interesting take. Since the High Priest is a role only open to a descendant of the priestly class (@Luftmentsch, was R Eliezer Azikiri a Cohen?) and a role marked by responsibility for the sins of the people, I didn’t really read that part as a desire for for status or power or self-righteous expression. But I can see how it could read that way

        Liked by 1 person

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