And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them….
You shall make two Cherubim of gold…
the Cherubim shall be with wings spread upward, sheltering the Cover with their wings…
It is from there that I will set My meetings with you, and I shall speak with you from atop the Cover, from between the two Cherubim that are on the Ark of Testimonial-tablets, everyhign that I shall command you to the Children of Israel.
— Exodus/Shemot 25:8, 18, 20, 22
“Lord, where shall I find You?…
You are enthroned on the cherubim, yet You dwell in the heights of heaven….
Even when You rise above Your hosts on a throne, high and exalted, You are nearer to them than their own bodies and souls….
I have sought to come near You, I have called to You with all my heart; and when I went out toward You, I found you coming toward me….
But can God really dwell among men?… Your throne is above their heads, yet it is You who carry them all!”
— Yehuda Halevi (trans. by T. Carmi)*
This portion provides instructions for the Ark of the Covenant and the surrounding mishkan, dwelling place, for God. The pair of pure-gold angels, known as “cherubim,” figures prominently in the description. (Exodus/Shemot 25)
Below is a 1901 translation, by Nina Davis (Salaman), of “Yah, ana em’tzaacha?” [“Lord, Where Shall I Find You?”] by Yehuda HaLevi Yehuda Halevi, the 11th-12th century CE philosopher/poet. It is borrowed from Medeival Hebrew Poetry.org, and, I believe the age of the translation puts it in the public domain. A newer (prose) translation is available in the bilingual The Penguin Book of Hebrew Poetry* edited and translated by T. Carmi (and quoted above).
If I can find a link to the Hebrew, I’ll post that, too.
O Lord, where shall I find Thee?
All-hidden and exalted is Thy place;
And where shall I not find Thee?
Full of Thy glory is the infinite space.
Found near-abiding ever,
He made the earth’s ends, set their utmost bar;
Unto the nigh a refuge,
Yea, and a trust to them who wait afar.
Thou sittest throned between the Cherubim,
Thou dwellest high above the cloud rack dim.
Praised by Thine hosts and yet beyond their praises
Forever far exalt;
The endless whirl of worlds may not contain Thee,
How, then, one heaven’s vault?
And Thou, withal uplifted
O’er man, upon a mighty throne apart,
Art yet forever near him,
Breath of his spirit, life-blood of his heart.
His own mouth speaketh testimony true
That Thou his Maker art alone; for who
Shall say he hath not seen Thee? Lo! the heavens
And all their host aflame
With glory show Thy fear in speech unuttered,
With silent voice proclaim.
Longing I sought Thy presence,
Lord, with my whole heart did I call and pray,
And going out toward Thee,
I found Thee coming to me on the way;
Yea, in Thy wonders’ might as clear to see
As when within the shrine I looked for Thee.
Who shall not fear Thee? Lo! upon their shoulders
Thy yoke divinely dread!
Who shall forbear to cry to Thee, That givest
To all their daily bread?
And can the Lord God truly—
God, the Most High—dwell here within man’s breast?
What shall he answer, pondering—
Man, whose foundations in the dust do rest?
For Thou art holy, dwelling ‘mid the praise
Of them that waft Thee worship all their days.
Angels adoring, singing of Thy wonder,
Stand upon Heaven’s height;
And Thou, enthroned o’erhead, all things upholdest
With everlasting might.
Translated by Nina Davis
from Nina Davis, Songs of Exile
(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1901).
Copyright © Nina Davis, 1901.
* Please see Source Materials for complete citations and more details.
Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.