As Douglas Adams wrote of his protagonist, Arthur Dent, in Chapter 8 of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish:
He almost danced to the fridge, found the three least hairy things in it, put them on a plate and watched them intently for two minutes. Since they made no attempt to move within that time he called them breakfast and ate them. Between them they killed a virulent space disease he'd picked up without knowing it in the Flargathon Gas Swamps a few days earlier, which otherwise would have killed off half the population of the Western Hemisphere, blinded the other half, and driven everyone else psychotic and sterile, so the Earth was lucky there.
I like that passage because it reminds me of strange hypotheses I had occasionally as a child, wondering if I had been immortal until I had eaten celery, or if turning right instead of left had saved me from some hideous disaster. I've always been addicted to the idea that a given moment, action or day might have unusual significance, which I could know if only I were a little wiser or more perceptive.
This idea survived my childhood; I still attach significance to the memories of nights preceding significant changes in my life: The night before I married the esteemed Rebbetzin, the night before I began as Rabbi in Rhode Island, the night before my job interview in Allentown (ah, the Ramada at the Malls in Whitehall – definitely not recommended, at least as it was in late 2000). Those were times of real change.
And then, of course, there were "nights before" when I thought something might occur, but that foreshadowed nothing at all – nights before plane flights when I wondered whether something might happen en route, moments during birkas hachodesh (the synagogue blessing of the new lunar month) when I thought this might be the month when I sold a manuscript, times when I bought a Powerball ticket and considered what would happen if this really was it.
This post is more than just a personal musing, though, because it strikes me that this idea of significant "nights before" is a central message in "ויהי בחצי הלילה, And it was, in the middle of the night," the Pesach Seder song which recounts watershed events from Tanach which occurred in the middle of the night. Rescues and vengeances and messages of portent for individuals and nations impact with shattering force at the apex of darkness, the moment when the balance tilts toward dawn.
I believe one of the themes conveyed in "And it was, in the middle of the night," is that every night has a middle of the night, every night is a potential "night before", every night can usher in salvation. ויהי ערב ויהי בקר, there is evening and then there is morning, and a new phase of Creation is struck.
To the Jew, every night can be more than just a joining of days, can in fact be a bridge between the mundane past and a glorious future. What remains is for us to capitalize on the opportunity… or to eat the three least hairy things in the fridge, anyway.