Divrei Torah by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
The New Moon of Kislev begins Saturday night, Nov. 20. It is the time of year most closely connected with dreams, miracles and thanksgiving.
The days are growing shorter. The darkness is increasing but there is light amid the darkness. The light and warmth of families gathering together to give thanks and gratitude; the light of the Chanukah menorah later this same month. It is in fact the darkness that allows us to see the light more clearly.
Hidden in the sound of this month’s name Kislev are the Hebrew words- Kis: pocket and Lev: heart. A heart in the pocket, like the song “I got sunshine in my pocket.” At Kislev, the beginning of winter, we find an opportune time to turn inward, to look into that hiding place and reconnect with our hearts, with our dreams, with our inner light and our inner sight.
Our most ancient book of Jewish mysticism, the Sefer Yetsirah connects this month of Kislev to sleep and to dreams. As this month progresses we are invited to pay more attention to our dreams. Talmud says that an uninterpreted dream is like an unread letter. The dream possesses the seeds for new beginnings as winter holds and protects the seeds of new life in the ground.
The written name Kislev has more inner meaning hidden within. The first syllable khis means to cover or hide. The second syllable spelled with the letters lamed vav add up to 36. The name alludes to the hidden 36, known affectionately in Jewish lore as the lamed-vavniks; the 36 righteous people by whose merit the world continues to exist. They are hidden from us and even from themselves for they are too humble to know of their own powerful importance. Yet it is their light that sustains the world.
As we move through this month, let us consider how we might magnify the light within ourselves. How might you release the power of your heart and your dreams from inside of that pocket. In a time of darkness, not only do we need everyone’s light, but every light is magnified by the depth of the darkness. That is to say, a little light goes a long way!
Perhaps as we gather together with loved ones for Thanksgiving this year, consider asking everyone at the table these three questions:
1- For what are you grateful for at this moment in your life?
2-Looking ahead, what dream of yours is pressing for expression?
3- How might you bring more light into the world?
May this coming month be one of renewed faith in the great heart of the world. May we each discover the dreams needing to emerge from our own hearts. May we listen closely to these stirrings and become builders of light in our families and communities. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving!
Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
Rabba Kaya served as Interim Rabbi of RJC from October 2017 through June 2019.
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