Shahar Avakeshka / At Dawn I Seek You
Prior to the Nishmat ("breath") section of Shabbat morning services, the middle part that follows the introductory psalms and precedes the reading of the Torah, we often sing a piyut, a liturgical poem, at my synagogue to preparefor breathing in and releasing the prayers that follow. Shahar Avakeshka, written by 11th-century Spanish poet and philosopher Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabriol, describes his feelings during the early dawn as the uncertainties of darkness yield to the warmth and light of the sun:
Text: Shahar Avakeshka (excerpt)
At dawn I seek You, my rock and my fortress
my morning and evening prayers I lay before You
Before Your greatness I stand in fright
for Your eyes can see into the thoughts of my heart
What is this that the heart and tongue can
bring about, and what is the strength of my spirit within me?
Behold the singing of man will be pleasant to You, therefore
I thank You while the soul of God is within me
I always think of this section as connected to the paragraph right after the first blessing after the Shema, which follows shortly after in the Shabbat morning service and talks about opening the windows of the sky:
Text: Hakol yodukha prayer (excerpt)
All will thank You and all will praise You, and all will declare, 'Nothing is as holy as God!' All will exalt You, Selah, You Who forms everything.
The God who opens daily the doors of the gateways of the East, and splits the windows of the firmament, Who removes the sun from its place and the moon from the site of its dwelling, and Who illuminates all the world and its inhabitants, which He created with the attribute of mercy.
How can the sky have windows? But it makes sense to me in the context of Nishmat; breath also opens and closes like a window. This design alternates between lines of Shahar Avakeshka (in white) and Hakol yodukha (blue) and tries to make those words look something like a window or gate, or maybe even an eye, that opens at dawn as we awake and breathe in the morning air.
(The print version with English translation includes a short portion of those texts.)
Listen to Shahar Avakeshka as sung by musicians of B'nai Jeshurun, New York City.
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