Winter Spirituality

winter_photography_17Except for those lucky souls who have flown for a sunnier clime, everyone is soberly back to school and returning to work. Latkes and chocolate have been eaten and have taken up residence, some of us fear, on our thighs. Money has been spent and parties had, and, mostly, cleaned up after.
We are tempted to think, belts tightened, now it is just winter before us, stretching inexorably into the next two, maybe three months.
What we need to remember, looking out into the dark, is that January simultaneously requires and inculcates a precious and crystalline mode of spirituality unnecessary and unnoticed the rest of the seasons.
Autumn and spring have beauty that leaps out at us.
Summer sun bakes in happiness.
Winter has and does neither.
What it has is snowfall that causes inconvenience and accidents, then crusts hard and filthy on the side of the road, breaking our shovels and our backs. It has ice that is perhaps distantly beautiful—until we fall and view it way up close.
Generally speaking, winter is cold and grim and dark by five.
To find and grow into winter spirituality requires presence and, may I say, a certain tactile finesse. It is a scarf made of moments—the moment of walking into warmth from out of the cold, of taking that first sip of hot coffee or simple soup, and of standing warm and dry in our homes looking out at the storm. It is a long, narrow fabric knitted between two needles of stark contrast: discomfort and comfort, in danger and now safe, dying and living. Its colors are those of deepest appreciation and gratitude with more than a fringe of remembrance that there are many who are not nearly so lucky.
All this makes winter an especially good time to appreciate and grow into Shabbat. From the perspective of the Sabbath, January is studded with jewel-like holidays—five of them: lovely, warm opportunities to light candles, bring family, friends and total strangers together, sing, pray, and appreciate God, home, Temple, and each other. Shabbat always happens, coming at sundown every Friday, whether we notice or not. Not noticing any Friday is like not going indoors even though the door is right there and it is warm inside with friends. Its like not giving yourself the gift of peaceful candle lighting even though the candles are there offering a tactile and spiritual moment that connects each of our January moments—entering, sipping, appreciating—to every other moment and every other grateful person the world around. Winter may be the very best season to light candles in an almost ubiquitous darkness, gather indoors for warmth, companionship, and sharing, offer thanks and especially spread our good fortune.
The Rabbi, Temple, and Congregation stand for all of this, provide all these things. The winter is a good time, in fact the very best time, to partake and to support. Winter spirituality is keeping this warm connection, a time of flame touched to candlewick, pens touched to envelopes, care and resources shared, Shabbat to Shabbat.

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