Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
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Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
 
The Covenant of Sinai
By Joseph Leiser
 
LO, this is the law that I gave you,
  Who called you to honor My name:
(From the sweltering Nile did I bring you
  And lead you by cloud and by rain,
Even here unto this lonely Horeb,        5
  Where I, all enthroned do abide)
That you might be known as my people,
  Espoused unto me as a bride.
 
O’er shimmering plains have I led you
  As caravans pilgriming south,        10
’Mid swirling simoons and sand-storms
  To languish and thirst in the drought.
I led your host steadily onward—
  And the walls of the Red Sea I clove
Lest ye halt a day in your journey,        15
  Fear-stricken as sheep in a drove.
 
And here have I brought you to Sinai
  Where the silence and awe of the hills
Descends as the night with its terror,
  And the void with its grim darkness fills—        20
That here all alone and a-trembling
  You may list to the words that I speak:
Though My words ride the wind and the thunder
  Yet the contrite of heart do I seek.
 
And ye have I raised as an emblem        25
  And made you My sign to the world;
Wherever ye dwell, do I sojourn,
  And there is My purpose unfurled:
For you are My law to the peoples;
  Your ways are the paths I have trod—        30
In you is revealed My own being
  And through you Man knows I am God.
 
My glory is hung on these mountains,
  That ’neath them, encamped you may see
The luminous tables I’ve graven        35
  With truth that will make all men free.
For you I turned flint into fountains
  Whose waters o’er thirsty fields rolled—
You are Mine, e’en though you belie Me;
  You are Mine whom I summoned of old.        40
 
You are Mine, though I load you with burdens
  And lash you with woe and with pain.
I will send you from hence to all peoples,
  To hunger and want to be slain.
I charge you to go among nations        45
  And teach both the high and the meek,
That I am the I am Eternal
  And those who seek Me do I seek.
 
I gave you these tables of granite
  And the letters of each are writ large;        50
And you are to bear them and do them
  Forever to keep them in charge;
To die for them, yea, if it must be,
  But never to sell them for pelf—
But the law that is largest among them        55
  Is that law which each makes for himself.
 
Oh, hear as this old mountain rumbles
  As if it were shivering with dread.
To the living I call as my servants,
  Who bury their past and their dead:        60
Who serves each one in his fashion,
  In justice and love, I decree
Is living My law among peoples
  And harkened forever to Me.
 
 
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