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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Keter Malkhut

Here is R' Bezalel Naor's translation of a poem by R' Shlomo ibn Gabirol (ca. 1021-1058):

You are God,
And all the creatures are Your servants and worshipers.
Your glory is not lessened on account of those who worship other gods,
Because the intention of all is to reach You.
But they are as blind men.
Their goal is the way of the King,
And they have strayed from the way.
One has drowned in a bottomless well.
Another has fallen in a ditch.
All thought they arrived at their destination,
And they strove for nought.
But Your servants are seeing;
They go in a straight way.
They deviate from the path neither right nor left,
Until they reach the courtyard of the King.
What strikes me is the identification of failure in the search for God with a static PLACE. Those that understand that the search for God is of necessity a PATH and not a place (which can never be arrived at) are the ones who truly see. The religious paradox is that once you consider yourself to have found this, you are by definition "off the path" and as long as you are on "on the path", then you are "closer” to that which you seek. I find this to be a highly mystical idea but, amazingly, I have only found it hinted at in two rishonim, both of whom have a decidedly rationalistic tendency. The first is ibn Gabirol and the second is the Meiri in this book on teshuva which I will leave for another post.