Starry Night

Thoughts on the Days of Awe

By Bonnie Saul Wilks
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Posted in Days of AweJewish Holidays on February 19, 2018

I loved the line in the movie “Contact” starring Jody Foster, when she was traveling through space and beholding wonders and beauty unlike anything on earth, “They shouldn’t have sent a scientist to describe this, they should have sent a poet.” Nice compliment from the scientist to the poet!

The beauty of space, stars, and galaxies is certainly worthy of the expression of poetry. As a little girl, I sat on the front porch night after night and fell in love with the stars. My memories are vivid: the cool night air, the inky black sky, and the sparkling stars, singing against the dark. I heard their songs. And I sang too, all alone in my girlish meditations, private symphonies of praise to my Maker, who created in beauty the worlds beyond our world.

On those inspirational nights alone in the starlight, one Scripture came to me over and over, “Be still and know I am God.” The dark sky, the twinkling stars, and the awesomeness of God made all of the creation I could see and not see overwhelmingly vast, limitless, beyond comprehension. Still, the weight of this knowledge did not crush me; I did not feel insignificant. I felt the opposite. God had something important for me to contribute. My life had meaning, purpose, and order just like the universe.

Later in life, I discovered that my culture pulled against those feelings I had as a child. I learned that very intelligent people thought and taught that man had zero significance in the role and plan of the universe–that there was, in fact, no plan at all. Immanuel Kant, 18th-century, German philosopher, wrote that the vastness of the universe destroys the importance of humankind. Nietzsche, 19th-century atheist, said that we are cosmic outcasts.

In spite of the conflicting opinions in the culture around me, I grew to find great contentment in what a young shepherd boy wrote about the universe:

“When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands. You placed all things under Your feet” Psalm 8:3-6.

I believe God created the universe with extravagance to prove every day, as we enjoy it, that He is capable of extravagant love. He ordained it, so we could learn to measure it, study it, and draw closer to Him. I actually believe that God intends for the vastness of the universe, known and unknown, to compel us to know the Designer and Artist.

The Jewish nation across the globe certainly thinks soberly about the Creator of the universe as they walk through the Days of Awe before Yom Kippur. They are hoping to be weighed as “good enough” in balance of the justice of their good works. They feel the weight of their bad deeds. Gone are their historical remembrances of the cleansing power of the blood of bulls and lambs which disappeared with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Absent is the knowledge of the amnesiac power of the Lamb’s blood to cancel the stain of man’s sin.

May the awesome, extravagant God of the universe draw them out into the starry nights during this season. I pray one by one each will sit in the silence of his heart, looking up at the stars and discovering the Jewish nation is still significant to God’s eternal plan. I pray Jews all over the world will remember that God promised Abraham that his descendants would flourish as the stars in the sky. And may they understand that this covenant-making God, who does not lie or turn a deaf ear, will not release Himself from that profound promise unless those very stars fall from the sky.