Kislev: The Month of Dreaming

Three-year-old Rebecca very carefully uses a candle to light the other eight candles of her menorah.

We call Kislev the month of dreaming. It comes to us in the darkest time of the year. Around the solstice, on 25 Kislev, we’ll begin the eight-night holiday of Hanukkah, the celebration of light in the darkness. In addition to playing with spinning tops (dreidels) and eating lots of food fried in oil (latkes and sufganiyot), we’ll light candles at nightfall, increasing their number by one each night. We (or at least I) will sing one of my favorite songs: “Banu Choshech Legareish,” “We Came to Drive Out the Darkness.”

We came to drive out the darkness
In our hands is light and flame
Each one of us is a small spark
Together, we are a mighty blaze

Flee, darkness, into the black night
Flee, from the face of the light1

It feels fitting that last night we turned out clocks back to end daylight savings. It’s only 7 pm as I’m writing this, and already pitch-black outside. The urge to line my window with lit candles is a strong one.

I’ve been thinking today about dreams and rest. I’d meant to post last Friday, on Rosh Chodesh proper. I was going to write something inspirational about nurturing the dreams that sustain us, about signing with a literary agent last week and once again returning to the dream-world in which I’ve been writing for the past few years. The word “Kislev” can be broken into “kis”— container or pocket—and “lev”—heart. Our dreams live in this heart-pocket, those visions we most treasure, those to which we return for secret comfort when the world feels cold and dark. Our kis-lev carries the light we hold within us, the light we use to carry us safely through the night. Returning to my story-world again feels like returning to that heart-pocket, leaving aside for a moment the words on the page and coming back to the dream that inspired it all from the beginning.

I was going to post about that. But instead, I ended up spending most of the weekend at the hospital with a loved one. As the new moon rose Thursday night, we drove to the ER; today has been my first day home. Don’t worry—we’re alright—but I’m soul-tired. And so I’ve been thinking about the relationship between dreams and rest.

Often, on the first night in a new place, I dream vivid and wild dreams. As if I were really running through that shifting and vibrant landscape, I wake exhausted, feeling like I hardly slept. The next night, I collapse into bed and sleep like a corpse, not dreaming at all.

I’m sure those rules aren’t absolute. But when it comes to the dreams in my kis-lev, it can feel hard to reach down and let them fill my mind when I’m so, so tired. Some dreams we can only dream when we’re awake.

So I don’t have an inspiring post for this New Moon, only a prayer for rest. Let Kislev be a month of dreaming, insomuch as it can be a month of rest. Give us dreamless sleep, as much as we need, so that we can awaken ready to dream.

And a prayer for all who need healing.


1These lyrics are my own translation of the Hebrew. You’re welcome to quote them, with credit.

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