In Praise of the Dark

Trisha Arlin

About Trisha Arlin

I am a liturgist, author of PLACE YOURSELF: WORDS OF PRAYER AND INTENTION, published in various anthologies and online at, Open Siddur, etc. 2014 Liturgist in Residence at NHC Summer Institute. Part time rabbinical student at AJR 2012-2018. BA Theater, Antioch College. MFA Film, Columbia University. Taught prayer writing at many synagogues, teaching a series of classes via Ritualwell in 2022. Founding member of Bayit Liturgical Artists working group.

About In Praise of the Dark

Shmita is the sub text for everything I’m writing this year. This piece was written in reaction to many Hanukkah pieces about creating light in the darkness. I wanted to push against the idea that darkness is better than lightness racially, emotionally or in nature and that action is superior to rest or that there is no rest in darkness.

In Praise of the Dark

Light candles if you must, but consider this:


Over many millions of years

Organisms evolved

To thrive in the dark,

Eyes big and reflective,

Taking in the main chance,

Mysterious only to those who slept 

While they flourished

Under the stars and the waning moon

Away from galumphing day hunters,

Safe in their night. 


For many thousands of years,

Humans slept during the dark

And rose in the light.

And if we didn’t feel safe at night

We sat together in circles under the stars

And told stories

Of god and miracles

Of warriors and kings

Of love and children

And that mastodon we had for dinner. 


But for the last hundred or so years,

If we were lucky,

We’ve lived in bright rooms,

Safe behind doors at night. 

Instead of circles we sit in bubbles

And the stories come from the outside,

Sometimes helping us laugh and cry. 

Sometimes they are shallow and stupid

Meant to provoke pain and shared resentment,

Each in our own well-lit isolation. 


Tonight, perhaps, 

Don’t be in such a rush

To set up your candles against the dark.  

Turn off that backyard lamp,

To let the night animals breathe

And listen to the frightening ambient sounds

That don’t explain themselves to you. 

Then tell your own stories to each other,

Of miracles and myths

Of ancestors and what you had for dinner.


And praise the darkness. 

Praise the light. 

Praise it all.