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Song of the Morning

Amir Gilboa’s poem “Song of the Morning” raises questions of how an individual interacts with, and becomes part of, the collective. The poem offers us a way to think about being part of the Jewish People.

Suddenly a man wakes up in the morning
And he feels he is a people and he starts walking
And everyone he meets, he greets with “Shalom”

Song of the Morning (Shir Baboker Baboker) by Amir Gilboa

For the full text of the whole poem, with Hebrew and English transliteration, see:

Explanation of Text

Amir Gilboa’s opening verse is disguised as a seemingly simple list of mundane acts performed by an individual. Holistically, this sequence of acts captures no less than the transformation of a people. Appearing in the early 1950s, the poem reflects Gilboa’s sense of the impact that the creation of the State had on the Jewish people.

He asks: What is it that makes individuals, “all of a sudden” feel like a people? His answer: Through actions, the collective essence of the group actually reveals itself and a sense of identification emerges. Thus a man first “rises” in the morning and then “feels.” It is reminiscent of Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” The act of thinking necessitates the existence of an entity that performed it. Acting upon the world as a collective makes the people a real tangible entity with which individual Jews can identify.

Gilboa captures in one sentence a historical moment where the collective and individual have become one. The creation of the Jewish sovereign entity, the subject of hundreds of years of longing and aspirations, turns the individual into a member of the collective and allows him to act upon the world. In this sense it impacts the whole Jewish people that are witnessing the rise of a new morning with endless opportunities.

Sixty years later, one must wonder what can inspire again our sense of peoplehood. What significant
collective action would make us feel today — or in the next years — like a people? What collective ethos can rejuvenate and reenergize our mission to inspire the minds and hearts of Jews around the globe? What can make them rise in the morning, feel like a people, and begin making our world a better place?

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