By Laura Seymour
Nighttime is often scary for children and sometimes even for grownups. In the evening, before we say the Shema, we praise G-d with “ma’ariv aravim — who brings on evenings.” Night was the time when our ancestors and prophets felt G-d’s presence; it can be a time for us to feel closer to G-d as well.
Ma’ariv aravim prayer
Blessed are You, Adonai, Ruler of the universe, who, with your word, brings on evenings. With wisdom G-d opens the gates and with understanding changes the times and alternates the seasons and arranges the stars in their watches, in the sky, according to G-d’s will. G-d creates day and night. G-d rolls light away from before darkness and darkness from before light. G-d causes day to pass and brings night and separates between day and night. Adonai is G-d’s name. The Almighty, alive and enduring, will always reign over us. Blessed are You, Adonai, who brings on the evenings.
Go outside at night, close your eyes and listen — with your partner, take turns being led, blindfolded, for a short distance. Talk about it after while sitting in the dark outside.
How did it feel as you walked blindfolded? Was it harder in the dark?
What did you hear? What did you feel?
What did you like about being out in the night? What didn’t you like?
How does the prayer before bed help you feel safer and calm at night?
Hannah Senesh was a Hungarian/Israeli poet who fought as a partisan during World War II. She parachuted into Nazi-controlled Europe, where she was captured and executed by the Nazis. She wrote the following:
“There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
Take a blanket outside and lie down with a friend or family — look at the stars and read this poem by Hannah Senesh. Talk about someone in history or in your life whose light still burns for you. What can you do to be a star and a light to others?
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.