Born in southern Spain, Yosef Qimhi was father to a famous line of sons who distinguished themselves in various fields of learning, particularly Hebrew grammar and biblical commentary. Sometime during the 1140s, he came to Provence in order to flee the Almohad invasion. He settled in Narbonne—some forty miles north of Perpignan—where he played a major role in the dissemination of Andalusian culture. Yosef Qimhi’s primary fields of interest were the same as his sons’, though he also wrote liturgical and didactic poetry, including Sheqel HaQodesh, medieval Hebrew’s largest compilation of epigrammatic poetry next to Shmu’el HaNagid’s Ben Mishlei. These epigrams, Qimhi tells us in his introduction, are drawn from a variety of sources, Arabic and Hebrew alike, especially Mivhar HaPeninim (The Choice of Pearls; some 367 of the 431 poems in Sheqel HaQodesh derive from that collection of prose aphorisms, which is often—and, it appears, erroneously—attributed to Shelomo Ibn Gabirol). He arranged these poetic adaptations into twenty-two categories according to their subject matter: Wisdom, Silence, Truth, Friends and Friendship, and so on. Most scholars agree that Qimhi’s literary gifts were limited and that, on the whole, his epigrams are awkward and make for tedious reading. Nevertheless, I find more poetry in the best of them than others have, though Qimhi’s diction is, as Schirmann notes, far less polished than that of the better writers of the day and one often senses that the poem is struggling to express itself within the metrical formulation. Still, the poetry is there—with a certain straightforward charm and insight; and that struggle for articulation embodied in these epigrams is very much like the balancing process and mechanism alluded to by the name of the volume. Qimhi’s title comes from a pun in his introduction, where he notes that he has weighed (shaqal) and put into meter (or scanned—also shaqal) the words of the wise according to the standard and currency of the sacred tongue (sheqel lashon haqodesh)—this so that these maxims and the wisdom they contain would be easier to recall. In biblical and rabbinic usage, the term sheqel haqodesh refers to a unit of weight or coin measured out by the sanctuary scale: its worth was double that of the ordinary sheqel. A critical and constant value in Judaism has been the linkage of the profane and the holy, and the driving force behind the concept of the holy sheqel was just that: the investment of sacrality into one of the most profane dimensions of social existence. This is precisely what Qimhi’s ethical epigrams aim for—and the result, when it works, is a quiet sort of ordinary mysticism linking language and moral example.