Kislev, Winter Solstice and Hannukah

The month of Kislev is an auspicious month. As we head closer to the Winter Solstice, the days are growing shorter and the nights are continuing to get longer and darker. In the Jewish calendar, we are heading towards Hannukah, the festival of lights.

Unlike other Jewish festivals that fall on a full moon (Passover, Sukkot, Tu BiShevat), Hannukah always starts on the 25th of Kislev as the moon cycle is waning and winding down towards to the new moon. Futhermore, Hannukah falls closest to the new moon nearest Winter Solstice, when the night sky is the darkest in the Northern Hemisphere.

According to Jewish wisdom traditions, Kislev is a month for rekindling dreams and finding healing and rest through sleep. Dreams that we have while we are asleep and dreams we have while we are awake. This seems a perfect time of year for this. As plants and animals are hibernating, we may also find ourselves needing more sleep or cozy time to relax and recharge. Additionally, each of the Torah readings that fall during the month of Kislev had a dream sequence (Jacob's dream of the ladder, Joseph's dreams, and Pharaoh's dreams). As we tuck into bed at night, consider how you might pay more attention to your dreams this month. Maybe write them down in the morning and look them over. Take some time think about the dreams you had as a child and what happened to those dreams. Think about your dreams for the future. How can you nurture those dreams and visions?

Since Hannukah always begins on the 25th of Kislev, the new moon of Tevet always falls at the end of Hannukah. In the Northern Hemisphere, Hannukah, like many other festivals of light in different cultures at this time of year, celebration of light, hope, faith, and dedication in time of year when it can hard to feel those things.

Hannukah lasts 8 nights, and each night we add another candle to grow the light or to ascend in holiness (according to our sages). Just as the moon is waning, and the sky is darkest, we add and additional candle each night to the Hannukah menorah.

After Winter Solstice, sunset grows a little later each day, just as the flames of the Hannukah candles grow brighter each night. The return of the new moon that always falls at the end of Tevet is a symbol of renewal and a reminder that the light will return again, coinciding with the all 8 candles burning.

This year, the first night of Hannukah falls on December 22, the night after Winter Solstice, which is also the first day of winter. How might the symbolism of the returning light help you throughout the winter? What intentions might you set for this season?

The word Hannukah means "dedication" and invite you to consider how you might want to dedicate some time for yourself this Hannukah and this season. What dreams, visions, wishes or best practices to you need to dedicate some time and space for this winter? How might you take some time for yourself this Hannukah to dedicate for your own self care or spiritual practice or just to check in with yourself?

Wishing you a bright, beautiful, cozy, and warm Hannukah and Winter Season!

Rabbi Sarah