Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Excerpt from the Book of Sirach


This is an excerpt from the book titled Sirach, or otherwise titled Ecclesiasticus, or The Wisdom of Yeshua Ben El-azar Ben Sira. The Book of Sirach is a part of the Apocrypha or the non-canonical books added to some bibles. Note also that although this book was highly regarded in rabbinic literature, it was not considered canonical in Judaism either. (Sometime I may do a post explaining what canonical meant as taught from rabbinic sources.) The version here is a part of the NRSV Bible.

The Book of Sirach is reliably dated to around 180 BCE by the inclusion of reference to Simon II, who was high priest from 219-196. I find the writing to be beautiful and flowing, with colorful analogies to evoke the imagination. This is an acrostic poem at the end of Sirach explaining the author’s love of Wisdom.

Sirach 51:13-30

While I was still young, before I went on my travels, I sought wisdom openly in my prayers.
Before the temple I asked for her, and I will search for her until the end.

From the first blossom to the ripening grape my heart delighted in her; my foot walked on the straight path; from my youth I followed her steps.

I inclined my ear a little and received her, and I found for myself much instruction.
I made progress in her; to him who gives wisdom I will give glory.

For I resolved to live according to wisdom, and I was zealous for the good, and I shall never be disappointed.
My soul grappled with wisdom, and in my conduct I was strict;

I spread out my hands to the heavens, and lamented my ignorance of her.
I directed my soul to her, and in purity I found her.

With her I gained understanding from the first; therefore I will never be forsaken.
My heart was stirred to seek her; therefore I have gained a prize possession.
The Lord gave me my tongue as a reward, and I will praise him with it.

Draw near to me, you who are uneducated, and lodge in the house of instruction.
Why do you say you are lacking in these things, and why do you endure such great thirst?
I opened my mouth and said, acquire wisdom for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under her yoke, and let your souls receive instruction; it is to be found close by.

See with your own eyes that I have labored but little and found for myself much serenity.
Hear but a little of my instruction, and through me you will acquire silver and gold.

May your soul rejoice in God’s mercy, and may you never be ashamed to praise him.
Do your work in good time, and in his own time God will give you your reward.

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