By Zahavit Shalev
Maybe it’s because I was born just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, as the year turned, that I feel most at peace in the middle of the night.
I get my best work done long after others go to sleep. I love a late-night run or a brisk walk in empty streets by moonlight.
Calm comes to me only after some of the nervous energy of the day has burned off, when there are hours ahead with no disturbances or deadlines in sight.
I love sitting at my desk or lying in my bed with just a small pool of light to illuminate whatever I’m reading or writing, leaving everything else in shadows, giving me focus.
The other day, driving home at dusk, I pointed out the full moon, low in the sky, to my son. I said, “Why do you think that all the chagim fall at the middle of the month, when the moon is full?”
It took him a while to work it out, to appreciate that in olden times, when people wanted to party, they needed to do so on a night where they would be able to find their way home afterwards.
Occasionally, visiting the loo from a deep sleep in the middle of the night, I glimpse the moonlight out of the bathroom window and experience a sense of wonderment that the me that is here now is the same me who has walked the earth, in this very body, for 43 years.
This moment is all I have. And this moment is already gone. I can neither speed up time nor slow it down. There is only now.
“Vayehi bechatzi halayla” – “It was at midnight” – says the verse in Exodus which signals the moment when our ancestors plunged forward into freedom. Like time itself they could only keep moving, poised on the hinge between past and future.
The moon tells me that time is cyclical and not merely linear. With each revolution I am renewed, remade, reinforced, refashioned. I remember and grow.
• Zahavit Shalev is a rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College