It’s almost the shortest day of the year, and today and again next Friday will see the earliest Shabbatot this season.
These are the days of crisp, thin, colorless, almost unbearably clear light, with shadows so sharp that you could cut yourself on them. These are the midafternoons when the sunset is purest gold, even coming through your never-quite-clean-enough windowpanes, setting your walls on fire. These are the nights when the stars are so bright and there seem to be so many of them that even here, so close to the city’s competing lights, you could cry from their wild beauty.
These are the days when the winds toss tree branches and you don’t ever want to go outside, except when it snows and no matter how old you are the white enraptures you.
And these are the dark days that you know will grow longer so very soon.
This year, Chanukah, which will start on the evening of Wednesday, December 16, comes right after the earliest Shabbat and just before the winter solstice on December 21. The candles we light don’t do much to fight the darkness, but they are a precursor to the light that will be flooding back, sooner than we realize.
It’s odd when Shabbat starts so early. There is no time to do much of anything on Friday except rush; dinner starts so long after sundown that the candles have burned down and erev Shabbat and Friday seem barely related to each other. But then Shabbat ends so early that there is a whole evening, regained. And as soon as you get used to a new rhythm, it switches again.
It is glorious to know that sunlight and warmth are coming back, but there also is something so comforting in spending long cold nights cuddling inside that perversely enough, there is some regret in giving them up.
Or does that just mean that no matter what we have, we both long to keep it and yearn to give it up?
Whatever. It also means that whatever we have, we can glory it in.