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University of Colorado Boulder Program in Jewish Studies

Strange Stillness — A Poem to Take Your Evening Prayers to New Heights

as day unwinds
wind often dies down
air becomes still as water
in a pond at dusk

sparrows disappear from feeders
fallen seed remains
exactly where it is until
blazing sun arises next day

it is strange stillness like moments
when two people discover they are in love
when you look at your aging parents
and see your face in their eyes

later, absolute stillness
descends from nowhere
when dusk can darken no more
Venus then Mars emerges

followed almost randomly
by the north star then
Orion the hunter and the Milky Way
lazily if at all

in this silent dark
anciently mysterious
sometimes frightening movement
from day to night

let us notice our breathing
hear our nervous system
sense air rustling hairs on our skin
allow imagination to wander

while overhead stars
fixed and wandering
merge into
Creation’s fullness

© 2015 Henry Rasof

Dusk. Night. The transition can be magical. Sometimes there is a lovely stillness, which you may have experienced while sitting in your yard, or going for a walk, or attending a religious service. From this stillness wonders may arise, in particular a heightened awareness of yourself and your surroundings, of simply being alive.   Sometimes, this heightened awareness seems transcendent, especially if you “remember yourself,” which is what may happen during intense concentration or meditation, or during zhikr, a Sufi (Islamic mystical) ritual meant to induce this type of experience. But lest you think Jews have traditionally not pursued such experiences, I recommend reading a book like Rabbi Louis Jacobs’s “Jewish Mystical Testimonies,” which will, I think, blow your mind!

Here is another ma’arvit liturgical poem intended to be read, recited, sung, or contemplated after the first blessing before Kriyat Shema:

“Praised are You, Lord our God…whose word brings the evening dusk…. Baruch Atah Adonai, ha-ma’ariv aravim. Praised are You…for each evening’s dusk.*

“Here you are once again… (the poem goes here).”

*From Jules Harlow, ed. and trans., Siddur Sim Shalom: A Prayerbook for Shabbat, Festivals, and Weekdays. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly and The United Synagogue of America, 1985.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Prep

About Henry Rasof

I have been writing poetry for over fifty years. During this time, I have worked as a musician, chef, book acquisitions editor, and creative-writing instructor.

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