For Atonement Eve
Send forth Thy messenger, Thy interpreter,
And let him do wonders with signs and happenings,
To cleanse us this night from scandal and defamation!
Great God, boundless and unsearchable,
Thy righteousness is like mighty mountains,
Thy judgments are like the great deep.
Bare to Thee and spied out is the heart's imagination and secret,
Lo, shaped in iniquity, how shall man justify the evil of his work?
Can the grains of his dust justify it that were accounted vanity even while he was still in being?
How then after he has perished and every element passed back to its source,
When he is driven like chaff before the wind and like smoke from the lattice?
Who shall stand up for Thy people, and who set them free?
If for decision Thou shouldst draw nigh them, and
if for judgment Thou shouldst take them,
Then judge them, I pray Thee, by Thy righteousness,
And reprove them not according to Thy wrath.
For what is the weak that he should contend with the mighty,
And how can dry stubble stand in the flame?
Lo, as the flower fadeth and the wind flitteth by like a shadow,
So flesh from spirit is rent asunder;
If then Thou wilt stir up chastisement,
There is no way of deliverance shouldst Thou press hard;
For the worker is sluggish,
And the day short and the work abundant.
Translated by Israel Zangwill