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From the Rabbi - Words of the Spirit
On The Full Moon of Kislev
11/27/2015 02:38:23 PM
I pen these words today bathed in the light of the full moon of Kislev, figuratively speaking. This is the 14th day of the Jewish month, and so if the clouds permit, tonight we’ll really be en-light-ened by the reflected light of our winter sun.
The leap from the light of the Kislev moon to dark night of the full moon that follows is, Jewishly-speaking, not so large. In Psalm 81:4 both new and full moon are mentioned as ritual occasions: “Blow the horn on the new moon, on the full moon for our feast day.”
In this next moon phase we’ll begin celebrating, on the 25th of Kislev, that quintessential holiday of lights – and therefore, of darks.
The shofar, traditionally, has both of those metaphoric associations, if we allow “light” to stand for newness and growth and affirmation of life, and “dark” to stand for waning or fading. This works, for example, for the shofar sounding at the New Year and on the Day of Atonement, with the references to life-and-death in the liturgy.
“Gee, rabbi, what a downer! Hanukkah, about life-and-death?!? Isn’t it all about miracles? And having fun with dreydls? And enjoying fried food and gifts?”
Well, yes, but which Hanukkah? There’s Historical Hanukkah, Mythical Hanukkah, Conceptual Hanukkah, Contemporary Hanukkah and many others. There are disturbing aspects to the historical narrative: issues of violence within the Jewish world, staggering losses inflicted on our people, tremendous shifts of power leading to a cataclysm that radically transformed a religion and a people on the precipice of destruction. Not much fun in THAT story!
So as the full moon of Kislev just begins to wane this weekend, we’ll tell some stories that mix in light-and-dark – reading both the Book of Maccabees and children’s Hanukkah stories at Machaneh Shabbat [see calendar listing]. On the Shabbat before Hanukkah begins we’ll include in our Shabbat service an acknowledgement of Human Rights Shabbat, sponsored by T’ruah:The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and informed by the biblical value concepts kevod habriot (respect for all humanity) and tzelem elohim (image of God). We read a tales of imprisonment (Joseph and his cell-mates), and, as we often do, search for links of connection to our time [see calendar listing].
And THEN … during Hanukkah, time for potato pancakes, jelly donuts and dancing, time to integrate, as we light candles against the darkness of the short, cold days, we illuminate our cyclical encounter with the fullness of our tradition, and how we ritually bring ourselves into connection with what is challenging as well as cheerful, moons full and moons new.
- Rabbi Liz