Jewish Calendar: Months of the Jewish Year

The Month of Kislev
According to Sefer Yetzirah

According to Sefer Yetzirah, each month of the Jewish year has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that correspond to it.

Kislev is the ninth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.

Kislev is the month of Chanukah (the only holiday in the Jewish calender which combines together two months: Chanukah begins in the month of Kislev and continues to enter and conclude in the month of Tevet).

The name Kislev derives from the Hebrew word for "security" and "trust." There are two states of trust, one active and one passive, both of which are manifest in the month of Kislev (see Bitachon, confidence). The miracle of Chanukah reflects the active trust of the Chashmonaim (Maacabim) to stand up and fight against the Hellenistic empire (and its culture). Kislev's sense of sleep reflects the passive trust that G-d's providence always guards over Israel.

In the tradition of Chassidut, the 19th day of Kislev, the day of the release and redemption of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the author of the classic text of Chassidut, the Tanya (the disciple of the Maggid of Mezerich, the successor of the Ba'al Shem Tov) from prison (where he was placed for the dissemination of the innermost mysteries of the Torah) is referred to as "the New Year of Chassidut" (implying that it is through the spiritual channel of this day that the inner wisdom of Chassidut and the power in integrate this wisdom into one's daily life is brought down into this world). The foundation of the way of Chassidut is absolute trust and faith in G-d's omnipresence and the omnipotence of His Divine providence.

Letter: samech;

The name Samech means "to support." The experience of feeling supported corresponds to the trust and confidence in Divine providence associated with the month of Kislev, as described above. So do we find expressed in Psalms: "G-d supports (somech) all the fallen and lifts up all the bent over;" "Even when he falls he will not be let to fall to the ground, for G-d supports (yismoch) his hand."

The shape of the samech is a circle, which represents the all-encompassing omnipresence of G-d and His providence. The "great circle" of G-d's Infinite light is explained in Kabbalah and Chassidut to reflect His "right arm" which embraces (and supports, from beneath) with great, infinite love all of reality, as is said: "And from beneath, the arms of the universe."

Mazal: "keshet" (Sagittarius--bow);

The bow of Kislev is the bow of the Maacabim. It symbolizes their active trust in G-d to fight against the empire and culture that then ruled the earth.

Though the Chashmonaim themselves were from the Priestly tribe of Israel, the "art" of the bow is ascribed in the Bible to the tribe of Benjamin in particular, the tribe of the month of Kislev.

The Kohanim (and Leviim) are not considered as one of the twelve tribes in the correspondence of the tribes to the months of the year (according to the Arizal). As an all-inclusive manifestation of the Jewish soul, the Kohanim contain and reflect the spiritual source of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is especially so with regard to the tribe of Benjamin, for in his portion was the holy Temple wherein the Kohanim served. Thus the relation of the Kohanim to Benjamin is similar to that of soul to body. The Kohanim fight the holy war embodied in the bow of Benjamin.

The bow of war of Kislev is actually projected ("shot") from the bow (the rainbow; in Hebrew both "bow" and "rainbow" are identical--keshet) of peace (between G-d and Creation) of the end of the previous month of Cheshvan, as explained above. The two bows (semi-circles) unite together to form the complete circle of the samech of Kislev.

Tribe: Benjamin;

As mentioned above, Benjamin is the tribe most gifted with the "art" of the bow. In his portion is the holy Temple in Jerusalem, as is stated in the blessing of Moses to Benjamin in the end of Torah (which, in accordance with above explanation of the relation between the Kohanim and Benjamin, directly follows the blessing to Levi and the Kohanim, and which actually prophesies the war of the Maacabim against the Greeks): "To Benjamin he said: the beloved of G-d, He shall dwell in trust over him, He hovers over him all the day, and between his shoulders He rests" (Deuteronomy 33:12). Here we explicitly see that Benjamin symbolizes both trust and rest, the sense of the month of Kislev.

Of all of the tribes of Israel, Benjamin was the only tribe who was born in the land of Israel. The land of Israel is the place where one most experiences Divine providence and G-d's absolute omnipresence. In the words of the Zohar: "There is no place vacant of Him."

Sense: sleep (sheina).

The sense of sleep is the tranquillity and restfulness that comes with trust and security in G-d and His Divine providence. So do we find in the blessings at the end of Leviticus (26:5-6): "And you shall dwell securely in your land. And I shall give peace in the land, and you shall lie down without fear...."

As the word "sense" (chush) is cognate to "quick" (chish), the sense of sleep implies the ability to sleep well but quickly (as is told of great tzadikim who required very few hours of sleep per day).

The very talent of Benjamin to shoot straight at his target depends upon a most tranquil inner spirit. He shoots and hits almost asleep. G-d carries his arrow to its intended destination. A tranquil personality is one with little inner friction and tension. The sense of sleep entails the ability to release stress, confident in the support of G-d.

The sense of sleep entails as well the sense of dreaming. In accord with our faith in Divine providence, especially manifest in relation to the connection between the weekly Torah portions and the annual cycle of months and their events, all of the dreams of the Torah are contained within the portions that are read during the month of Kislev.

When one possesses complete trust in G-d one dreams good dreams of the future. Good dreams at night reflect good thoughts throughout the day, especially the optimistic attitude and consciousness taught by Chassidut (whose New Year is the 19th of Kislev): "Think good, it will be good."

Controller: belly (keiva).

The keiva is one of the three gifts which we are commanded to give to the priests upon slaughtering a kosher animal. Our sages teach us that all three gifts--"the arm, the cheeks, and the belly"-- allude to Pinchas's act of self-sacrifice to kill Zimri (the prince of Simeon) and Kozbi the (princess of Midyan), and thereby save the children of Israel from the plague which had already begun amongst them. There, the word keiva refers to the womb of Kozbi.

Thus we see that keiva means "belly" in a general sense, including the entire region of the abdomen, whether stomach, (large) intestines, or womb (similarly, the word beten in the Torah means either stomach or womb). The womb, in particular, relates to the tribe of Benjamin, who in Kabbalah personifies the secret of the feminine yesod (womb).

The relation between the belly (when "full" and satiated) and the tranquil state of sleep is clear (and explicit in the teachings of our sages).

The word keiva derives from kav, which means "measure." Of the great Tanniac sage, Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosah, it is said: "The whole world is fed in the merit of Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosah, yet for Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosah one measure (kav) of carobs is enough for him from Friday to Friday." A tranquil belly is one who knows its proper measure. This concept will appear again with relation to the month of Shevat, its sense (the sense of eating and taste) and its controller (the etztomchah or kurkavan, from esophagus to stomach).

In the rectification of one's character traits, the rectified keiva (and sense of sleep) is never to be jealous of others. Our sages teach us: "a man desires one measure [kav] of his own more than nine of his friend." And so are we taught in Pirkei Avot: "who is rich, he who is happy with his portion."