Darkness and Dreams: The Month of Kislev

A Water from the Well blog post, Kislev
by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
December 6, 2020

The Moon of Kislev is just past full. Have you seen it?  A bright light amid the dark night. The days are still growing shorter but there is light amid the darkness. It is in fact the darkness that allows us to see the light more clearly. According to our traditions, this is the time of year most closely connected with dreams and with miracles.

Hidden in the sound of this month’s name, Kislev, are the Hebrew words Khis, meaning “hidden” (also the word for a literal pocket) and Lev, meaning “heart.” You could translate it as a “pocket heart” or a heart in the pocket, as in the song lyric, “I got sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet.” The month of Kislev, the beginning of winter, is an opportune time to turn inward, to look into what may be hiding in the heart, to connect with our dreams, our inner light, and our inner sight.

Sefer Yetsirah, our most ancient book of Jewish mysticism, also connects this month of Kislev to sleep and to dreams.  As this month progresses, we are invited to pay more attention to our dreams. The Talmud teaches that dreams are 1/60th of prophecy and that an uninterpreted dream is like an unread letter. The message has been sent to us but if we don’t pay attention, we can’t learn anything from it. Perhaps our dreams contain a kernel of understanding or idea for new beginnings in the same way that winter holds and protects the seeds of new life in the ground. How can we encourage them to sprout and flourish?

The written name Kislev has more inner meaning hidden within it! The first syllable khis means to cover or hide. The second syllable spelled with the letters lamed vav add up to 36. The name Kislev therefore 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 dark time, let us consider how we might magnify the light within ourselves. How might we release the power of our hearts and dreams from inside of that pocket?  In a time of darkness, not only do we need everyone’s light, but each light is magnified by the depth of the darkness. That is to say, a little light goes a long way!

Perhaps as you sit at your Shabbat table or as you light your Hanukkah candles this year, consider asking yourself and those gathered on zoom, these three questions:

  1. What lights you up?
  2. What dream of yours is pressing for expression?
  3. How might you bring more light into the world?

With blessings for vision and a light-filled season,
Rabba Kaya