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Share the Light, an Origin Story for the Solstice

According to Jewish lore, the first light of creation was called into being on the 25th day of the sixth lunar month, Elul, day one of Creation. On the sixth day of that first week, according to Genesis, God formed the first human-being, adAm, the earthling, both male and female. Thus Adam, was brought into being on the first day of the 7th lunar month, Tishrei, (a day that Jews would come to celebrate as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year), the new moon nearest the fall equinox.

So, at the end of the first week of that beginning, a natural order was established, and it was good – the length of dark nights balanced by an equal span of daylight. Indeed, it was very good. As the days, weeks and a few months passed, that first human began to notice a change above and below. The sun seemed to set sooner and rise later, and at midday she for sure stood lower in the sky. The shadows and the nights grew longer and the world colder. Many trees dropped their leaves, and adam and adamah, earth and earthling, welcomed the fallen leaves as coverings against the cold.

The creatures of the garden gathered closely together for warmth and comfort. Still, Adam was afraid. “Perhaps this is my fault that the sun is going into hiding.” He said to himself. “Without the sun, I will surely die, all life on earth will perish.” Filled with guilt from an imagined sin, Adam decided to fast. Refusing to eat, for the next seven days he watched the sun, hoping his sacrifice would restore the length of days and return the sun to a place of honor high again in the sky.

Alas, his efforts were to no avail. The nights continued to lengthen, and Adam’s guilt soured into shame, doubting his worth and resigning himself for the end. Clouds rolled in and covered the waning moon. As the growing darkness and cold seemed irreversible and absolute, there was a flash of light across the sky, followed by a thunderous boom, and then a strange glow high in the branches of a tree in the midst of the garden. Adam turned toward the tree of light. As he approached cautiously for a closer look, part of the tree fell to the ground, the broken branch lit with this strange fire the colors of the distant sun, its flames dancing on the splintered fragments of wood.

Adam reached down and took hold of one of the branches as its glowing tips brought a warm light to the dark night. And Adam, the earthling, wondered if this gift, this wondrous source of light and heat could be harnessed. From then on, Adam would dedicate life to that purpose, perpetuating and sharing the gift of fire that renewed his faith, hope, and love in the face of doubt, fear, and despair.

And so, with advent of this dedication, or hanukkah, humankind divined a purpose, a new dimension of stewardship. On the second night, Adam holding one in his hand, lit two branches set up beside one another in the ground, and called the companions to enjoy together this gift from the heavens. On the third night, three branches. By the sixth night, a new moon appeared in the night sky. And by the seventh night, it seemed to Adam that the sun had set just a bit later than the night before. By end of the eighth night, he was sure. The sun was returning to make the days longer and warmer, and life for earth and earthling would endure and grow, with renewed purpose – dedicated to dispelling the darkness of doubt, chills of fear and despair with the heavenly powers of faith, hope and love -- sharing this formidable fruit from the tree of knowing both the darkness and light within and around.

SOURCES: BT Rosh Hashanah 10b-11a, Avodah Zarah 8a

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