Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Light One Candle

Written by Karin Frank
Outreach Coordinator for WAIPL

We are already at the final day of Hanukkah, and the weather in our part of the world is compliantly bringing us an early taste of winter. For the Western churches this Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, and we begin the countdown to the return of light to our world. Around the (northern half of the) world, people are watching the darkening days and, especially here in the northwest, huddling around our fires and space heaters. The Talmud relates:

Our Rabbis taught: When primitive Adam saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, 'Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned, the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion; this then is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from Heaven!' So he began keeping an eight days' fast. But as he observed the winter equinox and noted the day getting increasingly longer, he said, 'This is the world's course', and he set forth to keep an eight days' festivity. In the following year he appointed both as festivals. Now, he fixed them for the sake of Heaven, but the [heathens] appointed them for the sake of idolatry (Tractate Avodah Zarah, 8:a).

Roger Glenn,
While disapproving of the pagan nature of the winter solstice observances of the surrounding cultures, the rabbis recognized the sacredness of the human connection to the natural cycles. Observing, with anxiety and rejoicing, the cycles of light and dark are such a human universal that they started with the very first human. Many of our religious traditions live out an annual cycle of narrative and nature, our stories intertwining with the seasons. Whatever the diversities of our narratives, we share our common human experience of living on this earth. In this season of darkness, we are united in our prayers for light and new life in the world.


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