Moshe Ibn Ezra: At the Hour of Closing

Moshe Ibn Ezra (c. 1055-1138 CE) was a Jewish philosopher, linguist and poet born in Granada, in what was then the Muslim province of al Andalus.  He is considered one of Spain’s greatest poets, and his work had considerable influence on the world of Arabic literature.  The liturgical poem below is often included in Jewish prayer books, and is intended to be recited on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, at the moment when the gates of heaven are closing to prayers of repentance.

At the Hour of Closing

Lord of wondrous workings,
grant us understanding—
now, at the hour of closing.

A chosen few are called,
their eyes toward you lifting—
they stand exalted in their trembling,
now, at the hour of closing.

They pour forth their souls;
erase, then, their straying—
and grant them, Lord, your absolution
now, at the hour of closing.

Be a shelter for them
through all their suffering.
consign them only to rejoicing
now, at the hour of closing.

Show them your compassion,
in your justice turning
on all who brought oppression to them—
now, at the hour of closing.

Recall their fathers’ merit
and count it as merit for them;
renew their days as once they were,
now, at the hour of closing.

Call for the year of grace—
the remnant flock’s returning
to Oholibah and Oholàh*—
now, at the hour of closing.

*These names, from the Book of Ezekiel, refer to Samaria and Jerusalem, but with the implication of places where sacred covenants have been broken.  

from The Dream of the Poem
Tr. Peter Cole

2 Replies to “Moshe Ibn Ezra: At the Hour of Closing”

  1. Sakina Angeli Janssen

    Dear Murshid Nawab, is there a relation between the returning of the people at the beginning of the new year to places where the covenants were broken? Are the latters metaphors for the world with sins and limitation? Or? The idea of being able to repent. . . also a theme in the last summerschool brings peace. Thank you, Nawab. Warm regards from Sakina

    • Nawab Pasnak Post author

      Dear Sakina,
      Many kind thanks for the very perceptive question. On a personal level, the Day of Atonement is a day when one fasts — not even water is permitted — and prays for forgiveness. One source says that abstaining from food and water is to make the faithful like angels. With the release of the burden of our faults, the experience could be tremendously uplifting — heavenly, in fact. Perhaps the reference to those places is to remind us that here on earth it is possible to stumble, and so the prayer calls for the year of Grace, to help us preserve this holiness ‘through the darkness of human ignorance.’
      With warmest greetings, Nawab


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