Tevet, the Jewish month that falls during December and January, is a tough month to pick an object or spiritual practice to be its symbol. Hanukkah does fall during Tevet, but only first couple of days. The only other holiday is Asara b’Tevet, which is a minor fast. When you look at the themes surrounding Tevet it’s all about vision,clear sight, and breaking through darkness. With this in mind, we turn to the practice of lighting candles in Judaism for our Tevet focus. We light a LOT of candles in Judaism. In Tevet alone, if you take advantage of all the traditional opportunities to light candles you will light at least 27 candles. This includes the last two days of Hanukkah, the Sabbath and Havdalah. Granted Hanukkah certainly raises the bar for volumes of candle lighting, but even in another month there are a lot of candles. So what’s with all the candles? In Jewish tradition, the flame of a candle represents the human soul. Even those who are not religious are often drawn to rituals around candle lighting. The Society for Humanistic Judaism says this about candles:
Humanistic Jews find in candle light a reflection of the human spirit. In lighting candles, we seek a connection with the past, with each other, and with ourselves. Candles, at their brightest, communicate strength, vitality, vision, and warmth. As they burn down to nothingness, they demonstrate the fragility of life. Humanistic candle blessings are blessings of peace and light in the world. They express comfort in the warmth of togetherness and connection, joy in the accomplishments of human beings, and a commitment to humanity.
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Adapted from a post originally written for Peeling a Pomegranate, 2011