Shabbat Shalom: Evidence of the Earth’s Exhale

Dec 22, 2022 | Article

Shabbat Shalom: Evidence of the Earth’s Exhale

Dec 22, 2022

By: Renée Rockford
Interim President & CEO

Did you know that the earth breathes? In winter, as the Northern Hemisphere rotates away from the sun, some of the CO2 taken up by vegetation in the summer sighs back into the atmosphere. Watch the animations of this natural process from NASA, and you’ll see that the rhythmic summer inhale and winter exhale, mirror the way we breathe. Imagine the earth exhaling and nodding off like a loved one drifting to sleep next to you as you whisper the Shema and wait for your own sleep to come.

As the earth slumbers around us, dreaming through these shortest (and coldest) days of the year, we keep the night-watch and illuminate the dark with little lights. Many different cultures and faiths celebrate light in the dark of winter. In Jewish tradition, Hanukkah candles bear witness to a great miracle.

What miracle? A military triumph? A flask of everlasting oil? Or perhaps, they bear witness to a more primal miracle. Each year, Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev, when the moon is a waning sliver in the sky. These are the longest nights of the year, and our Hanukkah candles stir the earth and remind her that she can’t slumber forever. It is time to slowly start working her way back toward the light. On the winter solstice, December 21st, we lit our fourth candle, and the scales are now beginning to tip. The days will begin, imperceptibly at first, to grow lighter.

May the rest of your Hanukkah be one of attunement to the quiet beauty of the dormant, dark, and hibernating world. May you emulate the earth in deep rest, and may your candles serve as a miraculous reminder that at the end of Hanukkah, the earth will again begin to turn towards the light – the days will grow longer, and one day, a few months from now, the earth will inhale deeply, wake up, and summer will spring forth.

Shabbat Shalom, Colorado. 

Inspired by Sarah Rockford, Rabbinical Student, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Arthur Waskow on Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice

Please email Renée Rockford at with comments or questions.