Modern midrash on Christmas
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Tekufat tevet sameach!

Sunset, winter solstice, 2006: 3:50pm.

Today is overcast, white snowy earth mirrored in white clouded sky, so we won't see the sun actually drop behind the hills. One way or another, this is the shortest day of the year; starting tomorrow, the light lengthens.

In honor of the solstice, a story, courtesy of Tel Shemesh:

"When Adam saw the day gradually diminishing, he said, “Woe is me! Perhaps because I sinned, the world around me is growing darker and darker, and is about to return to chaos and confusion, and this is the death heaven has decreed for me. He then sat eight days in fast and prayer. But when the winter solstice arrived, and he saw the days getting gradually longer, he said, "Such is the way of the world,” and proceeded to observe eight days of festivity. The following years he observed both the eight days preceding and the eight days following the solstice as days of festivity." (-- Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 8a)

In this story the first human being is distressed over the decreasing light and believes it is a punishment. Only when he learns that the light will begin to grow again is he comforted. We too often feel sad or anxious when the light diminishes and are glad when it comes again. Adam's drama of fear and acceptance helps us to accept our own moments of not knowing.

After the truth is revealed to him, Adam is able to celebrate before and after the solstice. This Jewish story of the winter solstice teaches us to honor darkness as well as light. We can also wonder: where might Eve be in this story? What would she think of the changing seasons and how would she celebrate them?

I don't have good answers to Rabbi Jill's questions about how our sense of the winter solstice might change if we approached it from Eve's point of view. Maybe for Eve, and for us, winter can be a time for curling up by the fireside, savoring home and hearth, and biding our time to see what germinates in us as we follow the increasing light into spring.

Wishing all a happy tekufat Tevet! May we all be blessed with light!

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