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Last night, we went to a Masorti service, the first I’ve been to in Israel, and an extra passage snuck into Kabbalat Shabbat spoke to me, primarily since it wasn’t in the JTS siddur I was using. I later found out that the famous poet Bialik wrote these lyrical words. The start of the poem, “Shabbat HaMalka,” references the physical holiness of sunset as the start of Shabbat: “The sun on the tree-tops no longer is seen; Come, gather to welcome the Sabbath, our Queen.” The beauty of a setting sun seemed apt to describe the amazing coming of Shabbat, and it foreshadowed an experience the coming morning.
As I am in my mid-20s with access to artificial lights and screens, I am typically more of a night person than I would like. This morning, however, I found myself tossing in my bed unable to fall asleep at 4 a.m. “This jet-lag must be really getting to me,” I thought as I looked out of the window. Losing hope of more rest, I grabbed my water and a bag of Bamba and headed outside.
Over the eastern hills I noticed a pale blue arch creeping into the darkness. With the crunch of peanut deliciousness and a rooster’s ramblings, I watched rings of colors break through the darkness. Pale blue wiped out all but the brightest of stars, and then a much stronger blue took over half the sky.
As a bit of red stretched across the hills, I returned to put on jogging attire. A cat perched on an eastern window with the most amazing view of the sunrise. Jogging between oak, olive, and pomegranate trees, I snaked up and down the hill of the kibbutz, through the neighborhood they sold during financial difficulties, and past the first mikvah I’ve ever seen. The sunrise continued to progress. The red band shifted to orange as a hazy red ball rose from the Galilee. As the red band faded into white, the ball also grew brighter.
My eyes squinted one last time at the brightness before looking away. As I concluded my exploration and retreated back to the room, I looked up at the cat’s eastern viewing point. It was empty; the cat left the ledge as the stunning view turned unbearably intense.
What was so beautiful for over an hour had now became painful. Taking time to celebrate these ephemeral transitions of our days is one thing Bialik was getting to last night when welcoming the Sabbath. Fortunately in a short while, the blazing star will turn into another spectacle for Havdalah.
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