Limits of Time: Kislev and Happiness

With advent of Kislev I am more aware that winter is coming. It is getting darker and darker earlier and earlier. This reminded me of an extraordinary Gemara. there we read:

When Adam the first man saw that the day was progressively diminishing, as the days become shorter from the autumnal equinox until the winter solstice, he did not yet know that this is a normal phenomenon, and therefore he said: Woe is me; perhaps because I sinned the world is becoming dark around me and will ultimately return to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced upon me from Heaven, as it is written: “And to dust shall you return” (Genesis 3:19). He arose and spent eight days in fasting and in prayer. Once he saw that the season of Tevet, i.e., the winter solstice, had arrived, and saw that the day was progressively lengthening after the solstice, he said: Clearly, the days become shorter and then longer, and this is the order of the world. He went and observed a festival for eight days. Upon the next year, he observed both these eight days on which he had fasted on the previous year, and these eight days of his celebration, as days of festivities. He, Adam, established these festivals for the sake of Heaven, but they, the gentiles of later generations, established them for the sake of idol worship.

Avodah Zarah 8a
Nautical Dusk by Vitling on Amazon Music -

What would it mean to live a life in which you really believed that the entire world and the sun in sky revolved around your actions? While it seems to be the definition of being omphalocentric, it also makes you live with profound sense of purpose.

While none of us could think that the entire world was there to respond to our good deeds or our sins, many of us approach the world with a profound sense of entitlement. Why do we think that we deserve more sun light? To quote Oliver Twist, what do we deserve “MORE?”.

Ben Zoma taught:

Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot, as it is said: “You shall enjoy the fruit of your labors, you shall be happy and you shall prosper” (Psalms 128:2) “You shall be happy” in this world, “and you shall prosper” in the world to come.

Avot 4:1

If we always want more we will never be happy. In many ways we are all in the dark regarding what would actually bring us joy. Maybe we only enjoy what we have when we think we might not keep it for ever. The limits of time seems to be a punishment, but might actually be a blessing.


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