Candles: Symbol of Tevet

"We light the Sabbath candles...."
Ketzirah lighting Sabbath candle at SXSW in Austin, TX (2011)

Tevet 5772 begins at sundown on December 26th, 2011 and ends at sundown on January 24, 2012

Tevet, the Jewish month that falls during December and January, is a tough month to pick an object or spiritual practice to be its symbol.  Hanukkah does fall during Tevet, but only first couple of days.  The only other holiday is Asara b’Tevet, which is a minor fast.  When you look at the themes surrounding Tevet it’s all about vision,clear sight, and breaking through darkness. With this in mind, we turn to the practice of lighting candles in Judaism for our Tevet focus. We light a LOT of candles in Judaism.  In Tevet alone, if you take advantage of all the traditional opportunities to light candles you will light at least 27 candles.  This includes the last two days of Hanukkah, the Sabbath and Havdalah. Granted Hanukkah certainly raises the bar for volumes of candle lighting, but even in another month there are a lot of candles. So what’s with all the candles? Continue reading “Candles: Symbol of Tevet”

Tekufat Tevet – The Winter Solstice

Tekufah Tevet from the Beit Alpha Synagogue Mosaic
Tekufah Tevet from the Beit Alpha Synagogue Mosaic

Most people when discussing the tekufot align them with directly with the astronomical solstices or equinoxes, but according to the Jewish Encyclopedia they may actually fall up to 14 days after this.  For example, think about the fact that the Winter solstice is called the “Tekufat Tevet.”  This year (5771 / 2010) the Winter Solstice actually falls in the month of Tevet, but this is not always the case.

Many years, the Winter Solstice actually appears in the month of Kislev, and aligns with closely with Hanukkah, which occurs during the dark moon nearest the winter solstice.  If you look at the Gregorian calendar for 2000-2009, only five of those ten years had the Winter solstice falling in Tevet.  Want to see for yourself?  2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) So on the years when the Winter Solstice falls in Kislev, when do you you celebrate Tekufat Tevet?  I say we celebrate the solstice on the solstice.  It’s an astrological event, not a subjective one.

“The winter solstice seems to have to do with sight, or the lack thereof. Mountains become visible to Noah, and the patterns of nature become visible to Adam and Eve. Leviathan is associated with inner site. Jepthah, on the other hand, is blind to his own wrong doings.  On the winter solstice the sun’s light begins to become stronger, and we too consider how to strengthen our vision.”  (From the Jewish Book of Days by RK’Jill Hammer)

There are actually many Jewish winter solstice tales and a great deal of lore around the Winter and other tekufot.  For a variety of reasons, we’re not supposed to drink water stored in the house or in “vessels” on the first day of the tekufot. The belief is that the water is poisoned with blood.  Each season seems to have its own reason for this.  At the Winter Solstice it’s because that is the day Jepthah sacrificed his daughter.

Continue reading “Tekufat Tevet – The Winter Solstice”

Tevet: The Lesson of Dan

Winter Landscape with Fading Light
Tevet 5771 begins at sundown on December 7th, 2010 and ends at sundown on January 5th, 2011

(cross-posted on Punk Torah)

~This is an excerpt from the Tevet Wheel of the Year Guide for Rosh Chodesh. 
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How do we know the difference between good and bad judgment?  How do we know the choices we make are the right ones?  What do we allow to influence us?  What we do allow to blur our vision?  What do we use to clear our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to turn back to the right path? Where do we cross the line between right and wrong, and do the ends justify the means?  These are the questions that the Tribe of Dan, the tribe associated with the month of Tevet (טֵבֵת), asks us.

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Tevet: Who Frees the Bound

Kislev (Temperance) - Tevet (Devil) - Shevat (Star) illustrated with the Transparent Tarot

Tevet is the month of darkness.  Tevet is the month our vices have the most opportunity to enslave us. Tevet is the crucible.  Without this difficult month the promise of Kislev’s rainbow can never be realized as the star of Shevat. Anything we did in Kislev that we shouldn’t have, will rear its ugly head in Tevet.  Spend too much?  Bills arrive in Tevet.  Eat too much?  Step on the scale and you’ll see it now.

But that’s the negative way to look at it.  Continue reading “Tevet: Who Frees the Bound”

Tevet: Seeking and Seeing

Tevet

(excerpt from Tevet Rosh Chodesh Guide)

Tevet is a month to seek clarity on our path.  Kislev was the month of illusions and the realm of the Ba’alat haOv.  Tevet is the month of the Doreshet, the seeker.  After visiting with the Ba’alat haOv, we must often begin our journeys again.  And we must begin when the days are still short, and the nights are long and dark.

The letter of the month, ayin, represents the gift of site the Ba’alat haOv gave us.  The letter means “eye” and the word Tevet is related to the word “tov” or good.  According to Inner.org, this source of blessing or “the goodly eye” begins with the “gazing at the the Chanukah candles, especially when they are complete on the eight day.”

Continue reading “Tevet: Seeking and Seeing”