The Hebrew Month of Kislev


The Month of Kislev

The air of autumn that held the lingering scent of verdant earth is now the still air of winter, crisp with the quiet. Darkness comes sooner and the light does not last long enough. It is the going inside time.

This is Kislev, month of the unseen, the unconscious. Like the earth that feels barren to our boot laden feet, while deep beneath us is the stirring of new growth; at the end of this month the days will begin to lengthen, and like the spring Chanukah will stir us to vision.

The high holidays are over (or are they?), and last month, Cheshvan, the month of rebirth where we plumbed the abyss of our souls to be reborn is past. The time was still light, and the light of Cheshvan was piercing and intense.

But the light of Kislev is diffuse. It expands and contracts, touching all in its path with a deceptively gentle touch that goes deep. The light glistens as it expands and reaches toward the infinite, and then contracts and reaches inside of us. This rhythm of the lights is the action that describes and illustrates the spiritual meaning of the month
Kislev is about finding the trust that you will be supported and nourished while becoming strong in yourself as you experience and learn to reconcile the polarities of life even though there will be times that this seems to hard to bear. This is a month of quiet and dynamic action at the same time. But how do you do this?

One way is to look at what the word Kislev illustrates. Kis means pocket and lev means heart. Always have your heart in close reach, but don’t hold it so tight so that you cannot take your hand out of your pocket to reach out. And make sure your pockets don’t have any holes in them or you will lose and abuse your heart when you don’t even know. In other words, emotional boundaries are important for you and the other people and activities in your life.

Another way is through grace. A word associated with Chanuka is Chen(grace). This word is comprised of the first 2 letters of the word Chanukah. Grace denotes balance, as one who is graceful is not likely to be clumsy and drop the light-metaphorically or otherwise. Grace also denotes favor and protection, such as when one is shown favor by a higher force. For instance, a prayer is answered, the elevator you were going to take but did not because you saw a friend at the other side of the lobby you wanted to greet, breaks down in between floors.

The connection of Kislev to the High Holidays, in a nutshell, is that during the Hellenistic period, there was no Sukkot celebration due to the harsh times. Practice was severely limited. When the Temple was taken back, Chanukah was instituted in and for itself, but also to have the 8 days of Sukkot back. Hence the energies of these two holidays became linked. Therefore, tshuvah is still possible and welcomed. ‘The Mitzvah Candle’ by the Maharal is about this and the history and practice of Chanukah as well. It is a great winter read.


Okay, so I know you really want the ‘scoop’ on the holiday, so let’s do this first and then discuss the elements of the month, besides, this is my favorite holiday-along with TuB’Shevat and Purim.

To begin with: I do not know how to spell Hannuka, Chanukka, Chanuka,Chanukah, etc. and I offer no kabbalah on the spelling…maybe next year!

Lights    Miracles    Action-Rededication

The Two Menorahs

For many, the menorah is the first image they see when Chanukah is mentioned. The glow of the light’s reach is so primal that who has not spent time just looking at the flame. There is a feeling of satisfaction that comes with lighting a menorah. It resonates with history while it also dances with the future. There is a sense of accomplishment and new beginnings at the same moment. We can hear the sound of Judah the Maccabee’s leather sandals on the stones of the Temple, and feel the dust whipping about as he reached for that flask of oil. We can also hear the sound of the light’s whoosh to illuminate the nights to come.

Lighting 2 Menorahs

Just as life and consciousness need to move in order to exist, light needs to expand and contract in order to function and keep in balance. It can’t be day or night all of the time. We need them both. This dynamic, this process, is part of all life and is elegantly symbolized by lighting 2 Menorahs at the same time. One Menorah we start from an ascending order of candles and the other we begin to light from a descending order of candles.

Chanukah is about transmuting the light in the midst of the darkness to bring brightness and healing. Light is finite and infinite. Light illuminates and expands, it also contracts and pinpoints to the smallest spot. It can go in opposite directions and we can work with both of these.

By bringing this process to life in such a visible way we have not only a metaphor fit for a meditator; we have an illustration of the energetic realm. This is a nurturing and nourishing time. Sit with your menorahs and try to sense how the light is expanding and contracting at the same time. Contemplating and directing the light toward what we want to fix, what we want to accomplish and what we want to diminish. You are increasing the holy and diminishing the negative at the same time.

The customary way to light the Menorah is ascending from one candle to the eighth. This is the Bait Hillel way. “Ma’alin Ba’Kodesh ve’ayn Moridin,” this means “One increases in matters of holiness, and does not diminish.” By lighting the candles in this manner you are acknowledging the outgoing days and making room for them all to enter on their own. From small to large you are creating unity by joining one light to another.

Bait Shammai goes in the opposite direction. For him the incoming days are acknowledged. The potential is all there on the first night. We decrease to create a unity of the many who have become one. Diminish the negative to nothing-down to one candle. Bait Shammai has the model of the offering of bulls during the Festival of Sukkot, which begins with thirteen on the first day and, decrementing by one each day, finishes with seven on the seventh day (for a total of seventy, corresponding to the “seventy nations of the world,” for whose benefit the offering is made.). And decrements yet again to just one bull, on the “eighth day” of Succot, Shmini Atzeret for Israel.

These two methods have different meanings, but lit together the two menorahs become a unified experience and an energetic teaching. This is one of the most concrete and powerful practices one can do.

Miracles A miracle is an unexpected glance from a longed for love, a storm that becomes gentle before the forecasted time, an intervention and support from an unexpected source. Or perhaps, a miracle is being able to feel the support of the universe, to become faithful and optimistic for the first time. Did the oil really last for eight days? Was the bible really written in the desert by Moses? Perhaps a miracle will be when we all stop fighting about the details. Let’s eat some latkes and jelly donuts together.

For Chanukah we illustrate a miracle and show it to the world by lighting an eight branched menorah because eight is the number for infinity. The seven-branched temple menorah is the number for the natural world, but on this holiday we can reach toward infinity.


The Temple was rededicated by lighting its menorah. We are also temples, and so we rededicate ourselves to our lives. We need to illuminate ourselves as well. We can direct the light of the candles to what we need to fix and where we want to go in our lives. Oil is an unseen entity that once squeezed from its solid state is a force of illumination and healing. We can rededicate ourselves to always transmute our negative to the positive.

Elements of the Month

Each month was created by forces that compose a cosmic archetype of sorts.These elements are 1-the Hebrew letter that created the month, 2-the planet that rules it,3-the zodiac sign that explains its dynamic and 4-an emotional characteristic that is more prevalent for us to fix or rectify and develop about ourselves. This is called the tikkun or fixing of the month. Taken together the meaning and structure of the month become clear.

Tikkun-Sleep Sleep is not only the time we rest and regenerate. It is also the time we dream. Dreams can also teach us about our true feelings by showing them to us. Sometimes a dream is quite clear while other times a dream will need to be examined. Sometimes our conscious mind can also be an active participant in our dreams by lucid dreaming. Sleep is a place filled with symbols. Sleep is also a time when we are vulnerable. Some people do not feel safe when they are asleep. It is not only children who may need a light night. But this month of miracles and support is the month for us to try to feel the divine protection.

However sleep can also be a mode of healing or mode of avoidance and escape and there are times that we need to do both. So sleep can help us fix our trust and faith issues regarding our relationship with god and to let the light into our subconscious and speak to our conscious mind using its images as its language. This is the time when the archetypes can show themselves to us and we can enter their world. The world that sustains the deepness of our souls.

Letter-Samech -Support

Samech renders support. Samech is a circle that never ends. It does not show its beginnings and therefore cannot show its end. This is an illustration that the support and presence that is the universal intelligence, the divine, God or the Goddess is always present and always ready to render support. Samech is the inner and the outer at the same time. The outer surrounds the inner and the inner fills and is sustained by the outer. Every attribute, every thought and action has its opposite like the Samech, the truth of a situation and the way toward becoming whole is a faithful walk through this letter of support. It is the unconscious and the dream.

Sign- Sagittarius the Archer

Sagittarius in Hebrew is Keshet. This word means the bow of the archer and rainbow. The arc of the bow while in motion mirrors the shape of the rainbow. The rainbow was first shown to Noah as a sign of a promise that there will never be another flood. Again, here is another dynamic of Kislev-the bow of war and the rainbow of peace. Sagittarius is a fire sign, but in Kabbalah Sagittarius also is connected to the air. So the fire can burn off oxygen and the air can blow out the fire. But the archer who has fire in their soul can create from the dark with the passion and conviction to aim the bow and reach the highest mountain.

Jupiter is the planet of expansion and magnanimous giving. It sustains us and lets us make our mistakes. We can trust that it will always let us return. It supports the search for insight into the big issues. Jupiter gives out more heat than it receives from the Sun. It is like the menorah that has a limited span can spread its light beyond what we can see.The letter that created Jupiter is Gimelthat means nourishment and is connected

The letter Gimel- Nourishment.

This letter offers to the poor from its very source. The letter is associated with the camel that can traverse the great abyss of the desert and spirit with what it carries inside. It is stable and balanced and can carry a soul with a nurturing and trustworthy hand. Whenever you feel caught between two choices visualize the gimel between them and see where it goes, or when you feel out of balance so that you are overwhelmed need to slow down your mind visualize a gimel on each side of your brain and let them cross to the other side. Just see the right hemisphere letter float to the left and the left hemisphere letter float to the right. Breath, breath and let them do their work. When they have reached their destination, open your eyes and see how refreshed you feel.

And then, go eat some latkes. Happy Chan,Han,…holiday. Nanci


This entry was posted in Kabbalah and Jewish Studies, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Hebrew Month of Kislev

  1. Pingback: Why I Light Two Menorahs | In-Sight Healing

  2. Pingback: Why I Light Two Menorahs | The Cenafinla Illuminations

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