December—A Time of Light and Redemption

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

We are taught that in the beginning, there was light. December helps us reenact that very moment in time when creation occurred and light was brought into our lives. This very act gave us an awareness that not only illuminated the path of life’s journey, but also enabled us to understand the difference between good and evil.

We know only too well that evil is all around us. We see it every day, and we feel helpless at times by its ugliness. Evil is like a snake crawling on its belly, lurking around every corner. It crawls because it cannot walk upright. Evil also hides behind a cloak of invisibility, because vision is its enemy.

Good, on the other hand, requires light so that everyone can marvel at its splendor and understand how indispensable it is for complete fulfillment. It is generally difficult to be good, because our inclination is to be bad—to try to get away with something that is determined to be forbidden. Therefore, the effort is greater.

December is here to help us understand this eternal struggle. Two great festivals requiring light are celebrated—Hanukkah and Christmas. Each in its own way emphasizes the need for the elimination of evil and the enhancement our lives receive when we come out of the darkness and head toward the light.

These two holidays begin the process of globalization of the understanding of God. The true meaning of sacrifice can be found in the light from the Menorah and the light in the sky. We can learn the true meaning of the relationship between God and the created.

These two holidays come at a time when darkness surrounds us. Whether it is the darkness of mind and body or the darkness of destructive experiences. There is despair and hopelessness because the days are short, the nights are long, and the cold harshness of winter is upon us. We are reminded of our mortality. Some sleep and some die. For this is the darkest time of the year, the darkest time of our lives.

Then the light appears. The warm glow of the season brings an awareness to our hearts that radiates strongly and gives us solace. We gaze at the light, almost hypnotized, and we are assured of a brighter tomorrow. Primarily, the holidays are celebrated in the home, because there we find the comfort and serenity that separates the Holy from the profane. Our homes are sanctified through the blessings of family and friends. And it is at home that the lessons of life are first learned.

We pray not only for ourselves, but all peoples everywhere that the light of these days and nights will glow forever, that the light will give us hope and meaning in our journey. We pray that the light will illuminate the paths of darkness awakening our souls to our societal duties, reminding us that there is goodness, and we have an obligation, a moral responsibility, to comfort the oppressed, respond to those in trouble, and relieve as much pain and suffering as we are able; that tomorrow can be better, and that life is cherished above all else.

Then, perhaps we will be worthy of the blessings we seek from God.