According to the Jewish creation story, the formation of the world began five days before Rosh Hashanah. Adam and Eve came on Rosh Hashanah itself. So did their eating of the forbidden fruit (a rather eventful day).
Eating the fruit resulted in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and caused them to become mortal. Their expulsion took place immediately, but their death was delayed. They knew it was coming, they just didn’t know when.
So picture this, it’s autumn, and everything that we’re used to happening in autumn is happening, but they’ve never seen autumn before. Adam and Eve are no longer in the Garden, and they know that death is coming for them. Each night they watch the sky, and see that the sun goes down later, and stays down longer. Within a month, it’s already down longer than it’s up. Each day keeps growing shorter, each night grows longer.
This, they determine, is death coming for them. The sun will keep appearing for less and less time each day, until it is completely gone, and then they must perish as well.
Then one day, the sun remains up just as long as it had the day before. The following day, it’s up for a bit longer.
According to the Midrash, Adam suddenly realizes that his mistake did not cause the darkness. This was not death coming for him, this was a natural cycle of the world.
His response? To immediately hold an eight day festival, during the darkest time of the year, celebrating the light.
It’s still a bit too early to call, but despite everything I read on Facebook these past few months, I do not believe the world is going to end in 2016.
This Chanukah is arriving unusually late. Normally, the darkness is still in increasing at the time of year that we light our menorahs outside our front doors or in our windows, casting our own light into the darkness. This year, the light has already begun to increase, and we get to join with it, illuminating the darkness.
Personally, I tend to hibernate in deep winter, bundling up and staying indoors. Yet, Chanukah in Nachlaot brings me out of my shell. The streets come alive. We visit friend after friend at their menorahs, joining them for singing, hot drinks, sufganyot, and to celebrate the tremendous beauty of our lights shining in the darkness. By the time the holiday ends, the land of Israel will already begin to bloom, and signs of spring will be everywhere.