Image: Starry sky. Photo by Unsplash on pixabay.com.
Jewish prayer has a rhythm that roots it in the natural world. Our “day” begins at sundown, and we greet the day with a traditional prayer:
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe,
who speaks the evening into being,
skillfully opens the gates,
thoughtfully alters the time and changes the seasons,
and arranges the stars in their heavenly courses according to plan.
You are Creator of day and night,
rolling light away from darkness and darkness from light,
transforming day into night and distinguishing one from the other.
Adonai Tz’vaot is Your Name.
Ever-living God, may You reign continually over us into eternity.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who brings on evening.
– Ma’ariv Aravim, Evening Service, Mishkan Tefilah
I love this prayer. I love the way it locates me in time and space. It invites me to watch the process of the arrival of nightfall. It mentions the sunset obliquely (“opens the gates”) and then holds my hand as I watch the stars come out.
It propels me from a contemplation of the marvels revealed by science into wonder that can only be expressed through poetry.
Whatever our understanding of God, it can speak to that understanding. It works as well if we believe in a personal Creator of all things, a Wisdom behind the scenes, or a Unifying Principle underlying all reality.
Here is my own translation, slightly different:
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space,
who with Your word brings on the evenings.
With wisdom You open heaven’s gates,
And with understanding You change the times and cause the seasons to alternate.
You arrange the stars in their courses in the sky according to Your will.
You create day and night.
You roll away light before darkness, and darkness before light.
You cause the day to pass, and the night to come,
And you make the distinctions between day and night.
Lord of Hosts is Your name.
Eternal God, may You reign over us forever and ever.
Blessed are You, O God, who brings on the evenings.
– Ma’ariv Aravim, my translation