Rosh Chodesh Kislev began Sunday, Nov. 19. This month is about dreaming, the victory of light over darkness, and miracles. It’s also about Chanukah, which begins on the 25th day of Kislev — the night of Tuesday, Dec. 12, this year.
I always feel sad when I hear adults say, “Oh, Chanukah is for the children.” It isn’t just for them. We all have an inner child to nourish and keep active. Chanukah is the perfect time to do that.
Maintaining a sense of wonder keeps us young and in touch with that spirited part of ourselves. Admire the bright candles in the menorah. Watch the flames dance on a window or mirror to double the reflection of joy. Take delight in the spinning of the dreidel. Imagine yourself spinning in circles with the freedom and wild abandon of a child.
Breathe in the smells of the kitchen, which can unlock delicious memories of the past as new ones are created. Savor the tastes of latkes and applesauce or sour cream and the sweet, powdery, confectionary dessert of sufganiyot. Peel the gold foil off the gelt and let the chocolate melt on your tongue.
Invite all your senses to the party.
The zodiac sign of Kislev is Sagittarius. The Hebrew word is keshet, or rainbow. The sign is represented by the archer, a centaur who is half-man, half-horse. Rainbows are also featured because after the floods of Cheshvan, in the time of Noah, a rainbow appeared as Hashem’s promise that the whole world would never again be destroyed by floods.
The symbol of the rainbow has taken on new meaning in our current culture. The rainbow signifies gay pride.
In 1978, Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, designed the first rainbow flag so gay men and lesbians would have a symbol of their own. It has eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
According to Baker, those colors represent sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony and spirit. He actually dyed and sewed the material for the first flag himself.
Along the theme of rainbows, the Hebrew letter sameh appears to be constructed of two bows. One may represent the rainbow, while the other is the bow of the archer.
The tribe of Benjamin is associated with Kislev. Jacob’s 12th son, Benjamin, the only one to be born in the promised land, was known to be a skilled archer.
Meanwhile, with rainbows on my mind, I found myself humming “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while on the elliptical machine at the gym. I was doing my cardio workout to Judy Garland’s version from “The Wizard of Oz,” then suddenly switched to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ukulele rendition. My inner child had taken up the gauntlet to play and was having a field day.
I pondered whether the song is a happy or sad one, so I looked it up.
A composer by the name of Rob Kapilow developed a program called “What Makes It Great.” He analyzes the effect that musical pieces have on us. He concluded that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” tugs at our heartstrings because of what he refers to as “the leap” and then “the circle/yearn.”
In the first line of the song, the low note of “some” and the high note of “where” create a leap from where she is in her mundane existence in Kansas to the projection of what life could be like if her dreams come true.
There is a yearning for more, then the transformation that allows her to see that if she never had the obstacles in Oz, she wouldn’t fully appreciate what she had at home all along.
“There’s no place like home.” It touches our hearts because we all want that feeling. Our inner child may just be the still, small voice of Hashem, sparking us to be fully alive and engaged in our world.
To wrap this all up in a silver-and-blue Chanukah gift, here is the Meditation Focus: If you’re the dreamer, caught up in the dream, what changes would you make or actions would you take to transform your life into one filled with wonder and gratitude?