November 2, 2009


This devotional work by the great medieval poet and author of “The Kuzari,” Yehudah Halevi (before 1075-after 1141), bespeaks one of the central themes of Jewish mystical contemplation: the Creator’s simultaneous transcendence and immanence. (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov addresses this theme in Likkutei Moharan II, 7, as well as in numerous other lessons.) We have attempted to replicate at least an echo of the poem’s rhyme schemes, but our translation is more concerned with communicating the author’s message than the poetic qualities of his Hebrew, which remain untranslatable. Many of the poem’s lines allude to scriptural verses and rabbinic teachings.

Where Shall I Find You?

Yehudah HaLevi

Translated by Dovid Sears

God, where shall I find You?

Your place is lofty and concealed.

And where shall I not find You?

The whole earth is full of Your Glory!

Though present within the heart’s inner core,

The ends of earth You fixed of yore.

The stronghold of those who draw nigh,

You are hope and trust of those faraway.

Enthroned on the Cherubim above the Ark,

Yet You abide beyond space, beyond light and dark.

You are praised by Your hosts

But all praises You surpass.

The sphere of heaven cannot contain You,

Temple chambers, how much less!

Upon Throne most exalted

Over all things You preside.

Yet You remain closer to the living

Than their bodies and their lives.

That we have no Maker but You,

Faithful tongues declare.

Who shall not fear You

And the yoke of Your dominion bear?

Who shall not cry out to You

Who provides their daily fare?

Your Presence I have sought,

Calling out from the depths of the heart.

When after You, I went forth resolutely

There I found You, on Your way to me.

In Your wondrous might, in the holy place,

You allowed me to envision Your face.

That he has not seen You, who can say?

The heavens and their legions proclaim Your dread,

But their voices forever remain unheard!

Can the Infinite One dwell within finite creation?

What can human minds conceive, creatures of humble station?

Yet You, Holy One, make Your home amidst their adoration.

Living angels at the summit of the universe

Your awesome paradox proclaim.

Above their heads Your sublime Throne rests,

Yet all existence is borne by Your Name!