The cold rain of the last few days finally let up, allowing me a glimpse of the not-quite-new moon of Tevet tonight.
Many of us may have stronger associations with the month which precedes this one (Kislev, which includes the festival of Chanukah) and the month which follows (Shvat, which includes the New Year of the Trees) than we do with the month now beginning. Certainly Kislev and Shvat have more celebration in them; Tevet's primary significance is its minor fast day. As Rabbi Jill Hammer writes here at Tel Shemesh:
Like the shoot that must work its way upward out of the earth, the spiritual light of Chanukah must struggle forward through the winter season. Tevet (usually corresponding to December or January) is often regarded as a sad month in the Jewish calendar. During this month, we mark the tenth of Tevet, the date when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. It is taught in rabbinic midrash that Tevet is one of the months of the year ruled by dark forces.
Yet the darkness is a fertile one.
We can find the resources we need in the darkness that surrounds us. As the Joseph story we've been rereading in the cycle of Torah readings reminds us, it's necessary to descend in order to be able to rise up. Brighter days are coming, but for now it's time to remember what it feels like to be right where we are, and to know that in every buried seed there is a tightly-coiled new beginning.