I Think of You: A Poem for Shabbat, for Every Day, for Every Moment

I think of You
Day and night

In my dreams
And deepest sleep

You are my beloved
And my lover

Thoughts of You
Crowd out all else

I cannot work
Eat or clean,

Talk to friends, fix the toilet
Or care for my health

Cannot write, read,
Pay attention to the news

There is nothing
Else but You

You are everything
And everywhere in the universe

Nothing else exists
Not stars or planets

Sun or moon
Comets or meteors

Galaxies, nebulae
Nothing, I say

Nothing exists
But You

You are a cloud
Occluding everything

But no, that occluding
Is You too

There is nothing else
No one but You

Ayn Elohim Zulatecha

© 2015 Henry Rasof

This Jewish liturgical poem (or piyyut) is a zulat (“besides,” “except,” “other than”) that is part of the kriyat shema of the shabbat morning service. It could precede or follow the sentence “There is no God but [besides, except, other than] You” (“Ayn Elohim zulatecha”) in the second long paragraph after the biblical passages. According to T. Carmi, poet, scholar, and editor of The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, “the zulat…is the second most important component of the [yotzer] sequence” (pp. 54-55).

If you write a zulat of your own and want to get fancier, read what Carmi has to say about this type of poem (p. 55 of his anthology).

And, if you are going to buy just one collection of Jewish poems, this is the book to buy (it has the Hebrew along with prose translations that are better than most verse ones). Take it, along with your Chumash and a good bottle of wine, to that desert island, or make your own palm wine once you arrive.

Two other books in English that discuss piyyutim (along with the liturgy in general) are A.Z. Idlesohn, Jewish Liturgy and Its Development (Dover Publications) and Ismar Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History (Jewish Publication Society, 1993), translated by Raymond P. Scheindlin, himself a formidable scholar, translator, anthologist, and biographer.

About Henry Rasof z"l

I have been writing poetry for over fifty years. During this time, I have worked as a musician, chef, book acquisitions editor, and creative-writing instructor.

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