Before I Came to Be

Rabbi Misha Shulman
3 min readAug 19, 2022
A Primordial view from Mount Champlain, Maine, earlier this summer (Photo Ezzy Shulman)

The last weeks of summer are a primordial state of mind. Summer has happened. The year is over, but the next one has yet to begin. We yawn our way through the yawn-like days waiting to be reborn, thrown back into the world. In the meantime, we might catch a minute of sweetness here and there as happy hour keeps getting a few minutes earlier each day.

In one of those amorphous moments of sweetness this week I got to read a 13th century poem, which describes the time before we existed.

טֶרֶם הֱיוֹתִי חַסְדְּךָ בָאִָני
הַשָּׂם לְיֵשׁ איִן וְהִמְצִיאָנִי

She who makes something out of nothing,
She conceived me
Her kindness came to me
Before I came to be.

It’s tempting to hear in this a poem about a mother. That is probably your humble translator’s fault. Solomon Ibn Gabirol, the Paytan who penned the words was likely thinking about God. The period of time in question is probably not the 9 months of pregnancy, or even the months or years before it, but the unquantifiable, primordial end of the summer of the never-ending cycle of being and dying. “Before I came to be,” we learn, is a time of chesed, enduring love, ever-present kindness.

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Rabbi Misha Shulman

Jerusalem born, Misha has been working at the cusp of religion, art and activism since 1999. Rabbi @ The New Shul and Director of School for Creative Judaism.