Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Kislev, the ninth month on the Jewish calendar, occurs during the late autumn to early winter, corresponding to the Gregorian months of November and December. It is the rainy season in Israel, a time when the nights are long, the days are short and the weather is cool.
Though the mood outside is dark and cold, two significant events occurred during the month of Kislev that teach us a profound message of resilience and hope. The messages of the month of Kislev resonate deeply in many aspects of life, especially now given the ongoing war that Israel fighting against the evil Hamas.
On the 28th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, the Hebrew month before Kislev, Noah and his family left the ark following the flood that had destroyed the world. Upon disembarking from the ark, Noah encountered utter destruction and desolation, a world that was barren and silent. The next day, the first of Kislev, God made a covenant with Noah, promising to never again bring a flood that would destroy the world. He sealed this covenant with a powerful symbol of hope and peace: the rainbow. This natural phenomenon, with its vibrant spectrum of colors, symbolizes unity and hope amidst diversity and challenges. Implicit in the promise not to destroy the world again was a message of rebirth and rebuilding of the world which was currently empty and bare. The rainbow, therefore, symbolizes hope at a time of desolation and despair.
At the end of the month of Kislev we celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah was one of the darkest times in Jewish history. Judaism was at of being eradicated. A significant portion of the Jewish population embraced Hellenism and was deeply influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. The Syrian-Greeks perceived Judaism and its adherence to the Torah, belief in God, and observance of the divine commandments as a threat to their anthropocentric ideology. As a result, they forbade these spiritual practices.
Though the situation was dark and seemed hopeless, the Jewish people experienced a national rebirth. Under the leadership of Mattathias and his sons, a small Jewish army fought in the name of God and defeated the mighty Greeks. As a result of the miraculous military victory, the Hasmoneans recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem. One of the first things that they did was to try to rekindle the Menorah, the candelabrum in the Temple. The Menorah symbolized spirituality and the light of God in this world. The Hasmoneans were not fighting for political independence but for spiritual renewal, and lighting the Menorah was a response to the darkness of the Greek culture. Though they were only able to find one day’s worth of oil to light the Menorah, God performed a second miracle and the small amount of oil burned for eight consecutive days. The relighting of the Menorah stood as a powerful counter to the prevailing dimness of Hellenism. The holiday of Hanukkah reminds us of the enduring triumph of light over darkness, good over evil.
Meaning for Today
Kislev is the time when the world is at its darkest. The natural interplay of light and darkness is a metaphor for the struggles between good and evil, hope and despair. The rainbow and the miracles of Hanukkah symbolize the triumph of faith and perseverance against all odds and of good over evil. The month of Kislev, therefore serves as a powerful reminder of the unyielding human spirit and the potential to overcome great adversities. It symbolizes the potential for renewal and the triumph over evil.
Israel’s current struggle to protect its citizens against evil terrorists is a struggle to bring more light into the world and diminish the darkness. Just as the few Maccabees fought for their right to practice their religion and live in peace, small Israel, outnumbered on all sides by enemy nations, is fighting for its safety and stability and for righteousness and morality. And just as the rainbow suggests that there is hope following destruction, we will not be deterred by the events of October 7th, 2023.
As Kislev begins, it brings with it a message of optimism. It reminds us that even in the darkest of times, there is always a light that can be kindled, a hope that can be nurtured. It reinforces the enduring belief that good will prevail and that peace and light will ultimately overcome the shadows of discord, strife and evil.