What does G‑d do each day, very late in the afternoon?

Well, according to my prayerbook, He “brings the night,” “causes night to descend” or “darkens the evenings,” depending on how one wishes to unlock the prayer’s bothersome phrase ma’ariv aravim, which is basically a repetition of the term “night,” telling us that G‑d causes the nights to be night.

That got me thinking.

While the origins of nightfall seem to be slightly complicated, our mornings are, thankfully, smoother. In those formative hours, G‑d doesn’t cause the mornings to be morning. Rather, according to the text of the morning blessings, He “creates the luminaries,” “forms light,” and “causes light to shine upon the earth.”

For quite a while, this cumbersome blessing disturbed my eveningsFor quite a while, this cumbersome blessing disturbed my evenings. Our ancient sages were highly precise in their wording, especially when formulating a standardized prayer text for all Jewry, for all time.

Until, one day, I found myself surrounded by nature:

Standing on a clifftop, I look around me. On my right, meadows surrender to hills that continue to roll into a wall of fuzzy mountains. A forest whispers to my left. Before me, an animated ocean stretches to the sky.

The sun begins to set.

Slowly and deliberately, the blue sky gives way to the most breathtaking artwork. As if with giant strokes of an invisible brush, G‑d sets the sky as His canvas. He begins softly, gently tinting some distant clouds, but He does not stop for a moment. He successively adds orange, blends purple, swishing this way and that. An outpouring of profound emotion and deep meaning. A live sky. Every minute an entirely new scene. A Master Artist thoroughly enjoying His profession.

Not with a paintbrush, but “with His word,” as our evening prayer insists.

To me, that means that the spirit of G‑d hovers above the clouds each evening and instructs in succession, “Let there be Beauty!” “Let there be Majesty!” “Let there be Art!” “Romance!” “Awe!” “Fun!” “Hope!” “Glory!” “Trepidation!” “Comfort!” “Drama!” “Magnificence!”

He commands every imaginable blend of colors onto the scene, and they hasten to comply.

Soaking in the imagery, I realize that this is all just a bit too fantastic to be G‑d “bringing the nights” or darkening the evenings.” Ma’ariv aravim has to be more than just that.

As the wonder swirls around me, I ponder the Hebrew term for “evening”—erev (“eve” with an “r”). The term is related to the verb “to mix.” Indeed, as darkness falls, the distinct trees of the forest blend together, the distant hills are lost to the sky, objects are obscured and a dark blanket is drawn across the formerly vivid meadows.

But it is now abundantly clear to me that the evening itself is mixed. A blend of colors and hues. A fusion of dark and light, day and night. An expert synthesis of imagery. A thrilling mixture of themes and messages.

Ma’ariv aravim. That’s what G‑d does in the late afternoons. G‑d does not simply end the day and begin the night. Rather, He blends the two with beauty. He mixes the evenings into breathtaking being. He ushers out the day and welcomes in the night with a splendid sunset, with refinement and care.

A divine vision, wordless but potent, available to all who care to raise their eyes.

The scene is not identical on any two evenings. To each person, in every situation, the message differsThe scene is not identical on any two evenings. To each person, in every situation, the message differs.

To mourners returning from burying their beloved, it may convey comfort; it may weep with them, or perhaps signal the splendor of a blissfully soaring soul. To newlyweds dancing their way from under a wedding canopy, it may inspire further enchantment, blessings, hope and affection. It may impart a delighted smile to the goodhearted person extending his hand to assist the less fortunate. It inspires the artist and the imaginative. A busy merchant may pause in his tracks and recall the Source of all blessing. It extends a ray of encouragement to the depressed. It may make an atheist wonder. The mind of the arrogant tyrant may flicker with a brief recognition of fleeting insignificance. The oppressed may be reminded of a supernal Eye that witnesses injustice and plans glorious salvations.

No one can behold the birth of eve and not recall the Creator.

I gaze at the vision, breathe deeply, lift my heart heavenwards, and utter a most humble blessing to He who mixes the evenings.