October 23, 2009


From The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, edited by T. Carmi, pp. 98 (biographical note) and 285 (poem)

Samuel HaNagid (993-1056), the first major poet of the “Golden Age,” was born in Cordoba and was amongthose who fled the capital when the Berber hordes destroyed it in 1013. A reknowned Talmudist and statesman, he was the first Spanish Jew to be granted the title “Nagid (Prince)” (Editor’s Introduction). We have chosen this poem for this website because, echoing the Book of Ecclesiastes, it expresses the ephemeral nature of worldly existence and the existential primacy of the moment – hence its title. This, too,was an important theme in Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s mystical works some seven centuries later.

The Moment

She said: “Rejoice

For God has brought you

to your fiftieth year in the world!”

But she had no inkling

That , for my part, there is no difference

Between my own days which have gone by

And the distant days of Noah

In the rumored past.

I have nothing in the world

But the hour in which I am.

It pauses for a moment, and then

Like a cloud

Moves on.