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A Renewed Moon

The timing of Chanukah, at the end of the Hebrew month of Kislev, is unusual in the Jewish calendar. Other holidays tend to start in the beginning of the month or in the middle. For example, Rosh Hashanah is on the first of the month, Yom Kippur is the 10th, Sukkot is the 15th, Purim is the 14th, Pesach is the 15th, and Shavuot is the 6th. Only Chanukah begins in the second half of the month, on the 25th.

Does this tell us anything in particular? It certainly does. In Judaism, every aspect of our holidays has significance. To understand the meaning of this phenomenon, we need to consider some basic astronomical facts.



As is known, the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar month. The moon revolves around the earth for 30 days, and on this basis the Jewish calendar is set. Sometimes a month is 29 days, sometimes 30.

The cycle of the moon is reflected in its changing appearance. Unlike the sun, which always appears to us as a sphere, the moon changes shape depending on the day of the month. In the beginning of the month it is a narrow scythe, and gradually widens until the 15th, when it appears full. At that point it begins to wane, until it disappears completely on the last day of the month and then reappears. 

In Jewish sources, the Jewish people are compared to the moon. Our history consists of a series of rises and falls, reminiscent of the constantly changing moon, rather than the stable sun. Therefore, most Jewish holidays are celebrated in the beginning or middle of the month, when the moon is growing or at its largest point. The holidays represent times of light and joy, peak times in our history.

If so, why is Chanukah the exception, and begins in the second half of the month, a time when the moon is waning? The holiday represents a dark period in Jewish history; however, even those times are part of a long path that brings us to our ultimate goal. Just as the moon wanes only to be reborn at the end of the month, the difficult times the Jews have traversed lead to a rebirth with the ultimate Redemption.

This theme is never more pronounced than on Chanukah, which represents our victory of light over darkness. On the first night we light one candle, on the second, two, and so forth. This, precisely, is the Jewish way of contending with darkness--to increase in light. Only with light, and more light, can we hope to push away the darkness.




Last year we lived through the horrific terror attack in Mumbai and the loss of two beloved Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg, together with four of their guests, may G-d avenge their blood.

The image of the Holtzberg's two-year-old son, Moishy, who lost both his parents at such a young age, was seared into our minds and hearts. It evoked the age-old question: Why?! Why, G-d, did you allow this to happen? Why did these good people, who devoted their lives to helping others and serving their community, deserve to be so brutally murdered?

None of us can possibly answer this question. All we can do is hold on to our faith that everything G-d does is good and just. We cannot accept it or integrate it now, but eventually His design will be revealed to us.

And in a practical vein, what is asked of us is to increase in light. The darkness has never intimidated us--we must go forth with our mission, with renewed vigor. This added light will surely vanquish the darkness once and for all and bring the world to the ultimate light of Redemption, may it happen immediately.


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