בן סירא מב:כא-מג:לא | ben Sira 42:21-43:31, a hymn of creation translated by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

אֶזְכׇּר־נָא מַעֲשֵׂי אֵל.
וְזֶה חָזִֽיתִי וַאֲסַפֵּֽרָה׃
I would fain bring to mind El’s works,[1]Perhaps poesis might be a more interesting translation in place of “works”
And what I have seen I would recount.

בְּאֹֽמֶר אֱלֹהִים נוֹצָרוּ.
וּפוֹעֵל רְצוֹנוֹ לִקְחוֹ׃
By the word of Elohim his works were formed,
For his will carries out his decree.

שֶֽׁמֶשׁ זוֹרַֽחַת עַל־כֹּל נִגְלָֽתָה.
וּכְבוֹד יְיָ עַל־כׇּל־מַעֲשָׂיו׃
The light of the rising sun is everywhere manifest,
So the glory of YHVH is over all his works.

לֹא הִסְפִּֽיקוּ קְדוֹשֵׁי־אֵל
לְסַפֵּר נִפְלְאוֹת יְיָ׃
El’s holy angels have not the power
To recount the wondrous works of YHVH;

אִמֵּץ אֱלֹהִים צְבָאָיו
לְהִתְחַזֵּק לִפְנֵי כְבוֹדוֹ׃
But Elohim gives strength to his hosts,
That they may have the boldness to stand in the presence of his glory.

תְּהוֹם וְלֵב חֹקֵר.
וּבְכׇל־מַעֲרֻמֵּיהֶם יִתְבּוֹנֵן׃
He fathoms the depth of the sea, and of the heart of man,
And to his discernment they are laid bare.

כִּי־יוֹדֵֽעַ יְיָ כׇּל־דָּֽעַת.
וְאוֹתִיּוֹת עוֹלָם יַבִּיט׃
For YHVH knows all there is to know,
And sees the eternal meaning of things.

מְחַוֶּה חֲלִיפוֹת וְנִהְיוֹת.
וּמְגַלֶּה חֵֽקֶר נִסְתָּרוֹת.
He declares what is past and what is future,
And reveals the profoundest secrets.

לֹא נֶעְדַּר מִמֶּֽנוּ כׇּל־שָֽׂכֶל.
וְלֹא חֲלָפוֹ כׇּל־דָּבָר׃
No insight is withheld from him,
And no matter escapes him.

גְבוּרַת חָכְמָתוֹ תִּכֵּן.
אֶחָד הוּא מֵעוֹלָם׃
The might of his wisdom is established;
From everlasting he is the same.

לֹא נוֹסָף וְלֹא נֶאֱצָל.
וְלֹא צָרִיךְ לְכׇל־מֵבִין׃
Nothing has been added to him, nothing has been taken from him;
he needs none to give him counsel.

כׇּל־מַעֲשָׂיו נֶחְמָדִים.
וּכְנִיצוֹץ דְמַרְאֶה׃
All his works are truly lovely,
And are like blossoms to behold.

הֵם חַיִּים וְקַיָּמִים לָעַד.
וּלְכׇל־צֹֽרֶךְ הַכֹּל יִשְׁמָע׃
They live and abide for ever.
And to every need the whole universe responds.

כֻּלָּם שׁוֹנִים זֶה מִזֶּה.
וְלֹא עָשָׂה מֵהֶם שָׁוְא׃
All things are different one from another,
But of all he has made no thing is superfluous.

זֶה עַל־זֶה חָלַף טוּבוֹ.
וּמִי יִשְׂבַּע לְהַבִּיט תֹּֽאַר׃
All give of their bounty one to another;
Who can gaze enough at their beauty,

תֹּֽאַר מָרוֹם רְקִֽיעַ טֹֽהַר.
וְעֶֽצֶם שָׁמַֽיִם מַבִּיעַ נְהָרָה׃
At the sublime beauty of the pure firmament,
The very heaven overflowing with light?

שֶֽׁמֶשׁ מַבִּֽיעַ בְצֵאתוֹ חֻמֹּה.
מַה נּוֹרָא מַעֲשֵׂי יְיָ׃
The sun when he goes forth radiates heat —
How awe-inspiring is the work of YHVH!

בְּהַצְהִירוֹ יַרְתִּיחַ תֵּבֵל.
לִפְנֵי חָרְבּוֹ מִי־יִתְכַּלְכֵּל׃
By noontide it makes the world seethe with heat,
Against its scorching ray who can hold out?

כּוּר נָפֽוּחַ מֵחֵם מוּצָק.
שׁוֹלֵֽחַ שֶֽׁמֶשׁ יַדְלִיק הָרִים׃
As a blast furnace keeps the casting hot,
So the sun’s dart sets the mountains ablaze;

לְשוֹן מָאוֹר תִּגְמַר נוֹשָֽׁבֶת.
וּמִנּוּרָהּ תִּכְוֶה עָֽיִן׃
A tongue of flame lays waste the inhabited world,
And with its fire the eye is scorched;

כִּי גָדוֹל יְיָ עוֹשֵֽׂהוּ.
וּדְבָרוֹ יְנַצֵּֽחַ אַבִּירָיו׃
For great is YHVH that made it,
His word makes his mighty servant triumphant.

וְגַם יָרֵֽחַ לְעִתּוֹ שָׁב.
מֶמְשֶֽׁלֶת קֵץ וְאוֹת עוֹלָם׃
Moreover, the moon he made with its phases recurring,
To regulate our times, an everlasting sign;

בּוֹ מוֹעֵד וּזְמַנֵּי חוֹק.
וְחֵֽפֶץ עֹשֶׂה בְּתְקוּפָתוֹ׃
It sets our festivals and appointed seasons,
Rendering service as it goes about its circuit.

חֹֽדֶשׁ בְּחָדְשׁוֹ הוּא מִתְחַדֵּשׁ.
מַה־נּוֹרָא בְּהִשְׁתַּנּוֹתוֹ׃
Month by month it renews itself —
How wonderful is it in its transformation!

כְּלִי־צָבָא נִבְלֵי מָרוֹם.
מְרַצֵּף רָקִֽיעַ מִזְּהִירָתוֹ׃
It is a weapon for the hosts of the clouds on high.
It paves the firmament with its shining.

תּֽוֹאַר שָׁמַֽיִם וַהֲדַר כּוֹכָב.
עֲדִי מַזְהִיר בִּמְרוֹמֵי־אֵל׃
It is the beauty of heaven, the glory of the stars;
It is like a gleaming jewel in the heights of El.

בִּדְבַר־אֵל יַעֲמֹד חֹק.
וְלֹא יִישַׁן בְּאַשְׁמֻרוֹתָיו׃
At El’s behest the law goes forth,
That the moon may not sleep at its watches.

רְאֵה קֶֽשֶׁת וּבָרֵךְ עוֹשֶֽׂיהָ.
כִּי מְאֹד נֶהְדָּרָה בְּכָבוֹד׃
Behold the rainbow and bless its Maker;
Most resplendent is it in glory.

חוּג הִקִּֽיפָה בִּכְבוֹדָהּ.
וְיָד־אֵל נָטַֽתָּהּ בְּגָאוֹן׃
It encompasses the heavenly vault with majesty;
The hand of El spreads it out with magnificence.

גְּבוּרָתוֹ תַּתְוֶה בָרָק.
וּתְנַצֵּֽחַ זִיקוֹת מִשְׁפָּטוֹ׃
His might directs the lightning,
And makes brilliant the flashes of his retribution.

לְמַעֲנוֹ בָּרָא אוֹצָר.
וַיָֽעֶף עָב כְּרֶֽשֶׁף׃
For the lightning has he made an arsenal,
When he sends the clouds flying like birds.

בִּגְדֻלָּתוֹ חִזֵּק עָנָן.
וַיִּתְפּוֹצֲצוּ אַבְנֵי בָרָד׃
With his might he arms the clouds;
Hailstones burst forth from them.

קוֹל רַעֲמוֹ יָחִיל אַרְצוֹ.
וּבְכֹחוֹ יָזִֽיעַ הָרִים׃
The sound of his thunder makes his earth to quake;
By his strength he shakes mountains.

אֵימָתוֹ תְּחָרֵף תֵּימָן.
זִלְעֲפוֹת צָפוֹן סוּפָה וּסְעָרָה׃
The terror of him stirs up the south wind,
The whirlwind of the north, hurricane and tempest;

כְּרֶֽשֶׁף יָנִיף שִׁלְגּוֹ.
וּכְאַרְבֶּה יִשְׁכֹּן דִרָתוֹ׃
His snow he makes fly like a flock of birds;
Its flakes settle down like hordes of locusts.

תֹּֽאַר לִבְנוֹ יַגְהֶה עַֽיִן.
וּמִמִּטְרוֹ יֶהֱמֶה לֵבָב׃
The beauty of its whiteness dazzles the eyes,
And the heart marvels at its down-pour.

וְגַם כְּפוֹר כְּמֶֽלַח יִשְׁפֹּךְ.
וְיָצִיץ כְּסַפִּיר צִיצִים׃
The hoar-frost also he pours out like salt,
And makes the crystals sparkle like sapphire.

צִנַּת רֽוּחַ צָפוֹן יַשִּׁיב.
וּבְקֶֽרַח יַקְפִּיא מְקוֹרוֹ׃
He lets icy blasts of the north wind blow,
And freezes the pond till its surface is glazed.

עַל־כׇּל־מַעֲמַד מַֽיִם יַקְרִים׃
וְכַשִּׁרְיָן יַלְבִּישׁ מִקְוֶה׃
Over every pool of water he spreads a crust,
The pond appears to have put on a breastplate.

יְבוּל הָרִים כְּחֹֽרֶב יַשִּׂיק.
וּנְוֵה צְמָחִים כַּלֶּהָבָה׃
The frost consumes the produce of the mountains like a drought,
And the sprouting pasture like a flame.

מַרְפֵּא כֹל מַעֲרַף עָנָן.
טַל פּוֹרֵֽעַ לְדַשֵּׁן שָׁרָב׃
A healing for all is the distillation of the clouds,
Even the dew that brings refreshment after heat.

מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ תַּשִּׂיק רַבָּה.
וַיֵּט בִּתְהוֹם אִיִּים׃
By his counsel he stills the deep;
It is he who has planted the islands in the ocean.

יוֹרְדֵי הַיָּם יְסַפְּרוּ קָצֵֽהוּ.
לְשֵֽׁמַע אָזְנֵֽנוּ נִשְׁתּוֹמֵם׃
They that go down to the sea tell of its extent,
And when our ears hear it we are astounded.

שָׁם פְּלָאוֹת תִּמְהֵי מַעֲשֵֽׂהוּ.
מִין כׇּל־חַי וּגְבוּרוֹת רַבָּה׃
Therein are marvels, the most wondrous of his works,
All kinds of living things, and the monsters of the deep.

לְמַעֲנוֹ יִצְלַח מַלְאָךְ.
וּבִדְבָרָיו יִפְעַל רָצוֹן׃
At his bidding the angel descends,
And by his decrees performs his will.

עוֹד כָּאֵֽלֶּה לֹא נוֹסִיף.
וְקֵץ דָּבָר הוּא הַכֹּל׃
More words like these we will not add,
Our final word is: he is ALL.

Ecclesiasticus (ben Sira) 42:21-43:31 is presented as “God the Lord of Nature” in The Sabbath Prayer Book of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (The Reconstructionist Foundation 1945), p. 367-372 in the Supplements subsection, “God in Nature.” The text of ben Sira used here differs in places found in other manuscripts. I have adapted the text to replace references to divine names ‘God’ and ‘the Lord,’ with the transliterations of the divine names, El, Elohim, and YHVH. –Aharon Varady

Those unfamiliar with ben Sira’s use and reception in Jewish liturgy may gain from Dr. Michael Satlow’s article on ben Sira at theTorah.com.

Source(s)

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Perhaps poesis might be a more interesting translation in place of “works”

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