From within the darkness, rain and cold of the month of Kislev, the Chanukah lights shine forth, reminding us that God “performed miracles for our fathers in those days and at this time.” According to the Book of Formation, the special sense of the month of Kislev is the sense of sleep. Fittingly, when we see the candles glowing in the darkness and recall the wondrous miracles of Chanukah, we may feel unsure if they were real or perhaps just a dream. Are miracles just virtual reality in our minds? Or do they actually take place in reality?
The Dream Stone
The twelve months of the year parallel the twelve Tribes of Israel. The twelve gemstones that represent them make up the breastplate that the High Priest in the Temple wears over his heart. The gemstone that represents the month of Kislev is called the achlamah – the amethyst. The word achlamah shares a root with the word for ‘dream’ – chalom. The special connection of the month of Kislev to dreams is expressed by the fact that of the ten dreams mentioned in the Torah, we read about nine of them in the weekly Torah portions of Kislev.
The sense of sleep of the month of Kislev is not supposed to be deep, unconscious winter hibernation. Instead, it is the time of the year when we turn to our dreams. We exit our regular consciousness and reach out to what hovers just above our awareness or to what we dream to actualize.
The Rainbow: Virtual Reality
When we talk about dreams, we are not necessarily referring to the dreams in our sleep and not necessarily about the dreams that we weave for the future. The concept of a dream is anything that exists in the seam between the tangible and the intangible, everything that is virtual reality. When a person dreams, he tangibly experiences the reality of the dream. But when he wakes up and tries to ‘catch’ the dream and feel it, it dissipates, “as a dream that flies away” (Job 20:8). Does the virtual lack any true tangibility? Is it necessarily completely detached from reality?
A distinct and picturesque example of virtual reality that we can examine is hiding right under our noses – in one of the symbols of the month of Kislev – its mazal/constellation, the rainbow. (It is important to note here that we do not believe in astrology or in the influence of the stars over people. The constellation of each month, however, can teach us about the spiritual service required of us in that month).
One of the meanings of the rainbow is the rainbow in the clouds. This natural phenomenon is an example of reality that can be seen in all its colorful array, but has no tangible reality that we can feel with our hands. But although the rainbow is a type of virtual reality, it has much significance in our tangible reality. The rainbow is a symbol and reminder of the covenant that God forged with Noah and all humanity after the Flood – the promise that God will not destroy the world again. (It is important to note that according to some opinions, this covenant itself was forged on the first day of the month of Kislev, only a few days after the end of the flood on the 27th of Cheshvan).
What can the rainbow teach us about the connection between the virtual dream and tangible reality?
Conscious and Sub-conscious
The bow is not only a rainbow. It can also be the bow of a bow and arrow.
In the holy Zohar, the basic book of the wisdom of Kabbalah, the bow is used as imagery for the act of prayer. Prayer is likened to a war. When a person prays, a battle is raging between the good and the evil in his soul. True, this battle between good and evil rages on an ongoing basis. But all day long, the battle takes place against our will. When we pray, however, we initiate it. Prayer is the time when we empower our good side so that it will overcome our evil and diminish it. When we merit and triumph during our prayers, it leaves its mark on the entire day, making it easier to do the right things and to overcome the deceptions and temptations of the evil inclination.
According to Chassidic thought, the battle during prayer is divided between two types of fighting techniques: Sword-based battle, face to face with the enemy – and bow-based battle, fought against the enemy who is sometimes so distant that he cannot even be seen, forcing us to resort to shooting the arrows in his general direction. In the soul-war that rages during prayer, the sword-based battle is against the revealed evil in the soul – the negative predispositions that exist in one’s consciousness. The bow-based battle is against the concealed evil in the soul – the negative points hiding in our sub-conscious, sabotaging our lives and thwarting our progress, while we remain incapable of identifying them precisely. It is toward that subconscious evil that we shoot the arrows of prayer, hoping that they will hit the mark and neutralize the evil.
According to this, the bow is on the seam between the conscious and unconscious in the soul. The unconscious, of course, is the source of our dreams and is virtual reality by comparison to the conscious. While in the conscious, things are tangible and definable, the images that appear from the unconscious dissipate when we try to ‘catch’ them, revealing themselves to be nothing more than a symbol of something that the conscious cannot grasp. The depiction of the bow on the seam between the conscious and the unconscious is very appropriate to dreams, in which things rise from the unconscious, knock on the door of one’s consciousness and generally sink back into the unconscious in a bow-like flow.
Bows to the Conscious, Bows to the Unconscious
Above, we described prayer as the shooting of arrows toward the unconscious evil of the soul. Regarding dreams, the shooting of arrows to the unconscious can be compared to ‘psychoanalysis’ that attempts to identify the points that need to be rectified in the unconscious from within the flashes of the dream. But as opposed to psychoanalysis and the array of psychological methods that branched out from it, Jewish psychology does not seek to exhume the unconscious. On the other hand, it does dare to judge it and to explicitly point out its negative points. Its position is exactly expressed by the image of standing in the conscious, while shooting arrows at the unconscious: We must stand firmly on our two legs outside the unconscious without getting involved with it, while rectifying its negative points so that we can be good – better – people.
The bow, however, does not have to shoot only in one direction – from the conscious to the unconscious. We can turn it around and imagine its direction starting with the concealed and unfathomable to the conscious and tangible.
In its source, Judaism does not see dreams only as a deep analysis of the psyche. Dream interpretation is helpful to identify the dream’s prophetic statement regarding tangible reality. Our Sages teach us that “all dreams go after the mouth” – the implications of the dream on reality are dependent upon the interpretation that we give it. In other words, virtual reality is fleeting and fluid. The way we interpret it sets it in its place and realizes its potential in a particular manner.
With this understanding, we can depict the bow as the tool that makes it possible to shoot arrows from virtual reality to tangible reality – from the dream to reality. The sleep of the month of Kislev is not escape from reality into a dream, but rather, the opportunity to dream in a completely new, correct way in order to realize the dream and use it to influence reality. This, for example, was the power of the Hasmoneans, whose success and miracles we celebrate in Kislev. Their ability to stand up against the reigning superpower in the tangible world stemmed from the power of their vision-dream. The dream, albeit virtual reality, makes it possible for a person to reflect its light in tangible reality – to shoot arrows from the vision and to target reality, rectify it and change it.
Now is the time to dream – because dreams really do come true!