Hanukkah and Winter Solstice Reflections

Photo from the Jewish Multiracial Network Facebook page.

Yesterday, the last day of Hanukkah 5778, Rabbi Marc Gopin posted on Facebook some words of deep wisdom:

“It was very hard to let go of the light this year. Light in darkness feels deeply resonant now, and difficult to resist a sense of foreboding.

Sometimes when you have been caught vulnerable by thieves and criminals, especially when they disguise themselves to beguile the foolish, and sometimes in order to avoid bloodshed, you need to let them steal their trillions. Sometimes you need to learn a harsh lesson, and then build a better security system, a better community of safety and mutual protection, a better community of fair law for all.

This is the only antidote, this inescapable need to reconcile and build trust among the decent rich and poor, the decent women and men, the decent secular and religious. We can do this. Even when it’s darkest outside, there is the amazing light we conjure.”

Hanukkah is always close to the Winter Solstice, but also independent from it. In a reflection on Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice, Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote in Seasons of Our Joy:

If we see Hanukkah as intentionally, not accidentally, placed at the moment of the darkest sun and darkest moon, then one aspect of the candles seems to be an assertion of our hope for renewed light. Just as at Sukkot we poured the water in order to remind God to pour out rain, perhaps one reason for us to light the candles is to remind God to renew the sun and moon. Indeed, the miracle of eight days’ light from one day’s oil sounds like an echo of the Mishnah’s comment that at the Sukkot water pouring, one log (measure) of water was enough for eight days’ pouring.

On her website “tel shemesh: celebrating and creating earth-based traditions in Judaism,” Rabbi Jill Hammer tells us “There are a number of Jewish stories about the winter solstice. Here are some of the legends Jews can tell one another during the darkest days of winter…” You can read more of her Rabbi Hammer’s teaching on Hanukkah and Winter Solstice here.

And finally, Marcia Falk includes the poem “Winter Solstice” as part of her amidah sequence where it appears in the second-section which re-creates the traditional theme of g’vurot, “strength,” affirming God’s power as m’hayeyh meytim, “reviver of the dead.”‘ For her full discussion of this concept in her creative prayers, see the wonderful book Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary and Reflections.  I highly recommend we each have in households her The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival (CCAR Press, 2017). Copyright © 1996, 2017 by Marcia Lee Falk. Also, I found on her website that she has done mizrachs (decorative plaques hung on the eastern wall of the home) with her poems and original paintings. Check them out: beautiful gifts for yourself and others.

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