Gabirol morning

(from a poem by Shlomo ibn Gabirol:)

At dawn I seek You, my Rock and Refuge;
I judge [1] myself before You in my mornings and my evenings, too.

Before Your Grandeur I stand, alarmed;
Your Eyes see all the thoughts of my heart.

What can the heart and tongue do;
What power has my soul within me [2]?

Yet, behold: To You, man’s songs are good;
Therefore I’ll thank [praise] You
as long as the Divine Soul [3] is in me.


[1] אערוך/”eh’eh’roch” — which I translate as “I judge myself…” comes from a root meaning “to put in order.” In the context of this poem, he doesn’t mean “put my prayers in order.” Rather, he’s “putting himself in order;” examining his thoughts and actions to determine what needs improvement, and in what sequence of immediacy. Elsewhere in Jewish literature, this might be called “cheshbon ha-nefesh.” He then goes on to say that he can never be perfect in G-d’s eyes, but knows that expressing sincere love for G-d elicits a loving Divine response.

Doesn’t G-d love us anyway? Isn’t that G-d’s midat Hesed?

Yes — but G-d’s expression of Himself to us usually depends on how we express ourselves to Him.

Ibn Gabirol experiences G-d’s loving him in spite of his imperfections. At that moment, he’s taking his attention off of himself and putting it on G-d. He experiences G-d’s midat Hesed personally — causing him to love G-d joyously. It’s similar to what Erich Fromm writes in “Ye Shall Be As Gods” about the change he notes in many psalms from sadness, worry or fear [in the beginning and middle verses] to joy and confidence [in the final verses].
Ibn Gabirol’s also telling us: by the degree that we take our attention in prayer off of ourselves — our needs, our wrongs, etc. — and put it instead on G-d’s unchanging Loving, we’ll experience it, too.
G-d’s midat Hesed is always the same Love, Light and Joy. G-d’s midat Gevurah varies its expression in response to our own thoughts and acts.
If we’re doing wrong and need to be corrected — Gevurah!
If we’re doing right and should be rewarded — Gevurah!
Thus — there aren’t two “opposing” qualities (“Hesed vs. Gevurah;” “Kindness vs. Judgement.”
The underlying, unchanging fairness of these expressions makes G-d’s midat Gevurah an actual expression of G-d’s midat Hesed.
More — if and when we come to the realization that even the seemingly “negative” was serving an Divine purpose that’s ultimately Good, we likewise understand that all is Hesed.
When we understand this with our intellect alone, we’re still within the realm of Gevurah; perceiving from a limited, finite level of what we are. Through ideas, we’re “looking at G-d,” but as something separate from the part of us that’s doing the looking. Still, this can be a necessary first step.
When, instead, we understand this with our heart, in that awareness our attention is moved from ourselves to G-d. We’re in the realm of Hesed; the Infinite within what we are perceives Itself. Then, we’re filled with joy and peace.

[2]  to deserve Your (G-d’s) Love

[3] i.e. life; breath