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Where the Darkness Greets the Light
Chanukah, Solstice and Christmas, Oh My!
Reminder: Sacred Light and Dark Unservice is coming up on Thursday, December 22!
I am writing this on December 19, two nights into Chanukah, on the verge of the Winter Solstice and less than a week from Christmas. It’s a big week for many of us! In Toronto, all this week, the sun will be up for 8 hours and 56 minutes each day. We are in the darkest week of the year. And we meet this week with festivals of light. Increasing candlelight of Chanukah, lanterns and big flames for Solstice and lights everywhere, especially adorning trees for Christmas. This is sympathetic magic at work. We show God/dess or the Universe what we want. We say, “we bring light, you bring light. Right?” And then, in less than a week, if all goes according to plan, the sun will be up a little longer each day. The lengthy darkness will give way and we will be on our way to the balance of the equinox. It’s a dance that plays throughout the cycles of the year.
For the past two years, I have been focusing on the blessings of the darkness like never before. I have been inspired by a teaching from Rabbis Jill Hammer and David Seidenberg that rather than seeking to banish the dark at this time of year (per a popular Hanukkah song from the 1960s) we can sanctify it instead. I love this teaching. I love inviting the rich, deep, restful, generative womby dark to hold me at the time of year when the earth is calling me towards stillness.
But this year, I have been feeling something different stirring. I am remembering my past journeys into the darkness of seasonal depression and the yearning I have felt for light to guide me through it. Today was a very grey and cold day here in Toronto and I am doing some grieving work. The sadness I allowed myself to sit in reminded me of marah schorah, the “bitter darkness” of depression. I remembered how much I need the light, too. Yes, the calm, quiet of darkness and also yes, the bright, energetic promise of light.
And tonight, I finally sat down with all the lyrics from Rabbis David and Jill’s alternative version of Banu Choshech and I was surprised to find that it’s actually not about darkness OVER light. It’s about their playful weaving and meeting. Stars enrobed in black, night sky, sparks in our hands growing to meet the dark and dark night rising up to meet the light. I wrote a new melody for their words and altered them slightly in a few places. Singing this little song, I imagine light and dark swirling in harmony, dancing together on their way back to balance.
I offer this song/prayer for all of us. May we remember that we hold the light and the dark both. And that we are held gently in each of them. Together, we are it all and we need it all.
Kuma Choshech | Rise Up Darkness Rise up darkness, come up night, Rise up, to greet the light! (2x) We’ve come to sanctify the dark, in our hands a little spark Each of us a tiny light, and together we shine bright. Kumah choshekh Aleh sh’chor Kumah, likrat ha-or! Banu choshekh l’kadesh B’yadeinu or va’esh Kol echad hu or katan V’khulanu or eitan
Join me live, in person in Toronto to explore these themes of light, dark and rest through chant, prayer, personal sharing and ritual at Sacred Light and Dark on Thursday, December 22. Get all the details here.
Chagim Urim Sameach, Happy Festivals of Lights,
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