Dark Days, by Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, Ph.D.

At this time of year, I like to be outside while the sun sets. When the days are short, there is something especially lovely about witnessing light fade.

It is like drinking an extraordinarily fine wine; I want to savor it fully and extract all the pleasure I can from this rare and precious commodity.

When you are lucky enough to have a comfortable home full of warmth and light, this late autumn darkness is quite appealing. It invites you to stay in for the night, read a book, and go to bed early. The problem develops when staying home is not an option. At 7 p.m. on a November evening there is often much left to do: work, meetings and errands that cannot be ignored.  Wherever we live on this great big planet there are times of year when darkness comes early. How do we embrace the beauty of this seasonal darkness while still grasping onto the light required to resist the darkness and get things done?

I am attuned to the Jewish holiday cycle and the ways in which it intersects with the seasons of the year. Last Sunday was Rosh Hodesh Kislev, the first day of the month in which Hanukkah is celebrated. As darkness falls ever earlier, this new moon reminds me that soon we will summon light into our homes with prayer and song.  The knowledge that the Hanukkah lights are coming helps me deal with the darkness now. I feel less smothered by it when I imagine my hanukiah ablaze on the last of the eight nights. This image fortifies me, and helps me lean into the darkness. I open to it now, knowing that there is light ahead.