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Egret and crab

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Maxiumum Tilt

Bosque Moon - © Robert Sommers 2023

Tonight at 7:27 Pacific time or tomorrow at 03:28 universal time is the Winter Solstice. It is also called the hibernal solstice and it occurs when either of earth's poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere. It is the shortest day of the year.

The solstice marks the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun in many cultures. Man has celebrated the occurrence in almost every culture on earth, back to neolithic times. Monuments like Stonehenge and Torreon at Machu Picchu were aligned to it.

In the Haggadah or Talmud of the Jewish people, specifically the Avodah Zarah (which refers to jews who live among gentiles), it is said that Adam established the solstice as a time first of fasting and later rejoicing. Business was forbidden for three days before and after the solstice.

With regard to the dates of these festivals, the Sages taught: 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. 
כיון שראה תקופת טבת וראה יום שמאריך והולך אמר מנהגו של עולם הוא הלך ועשה שמונה ימים טובים לשנה האחרת עשאן לאלו ולאלו ימים טובים הוא קבעם לשם שמים והם קבעום לשם עבודת כוכבים 
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. 
The Gemara raises a difficulty: Granted, according to the one who says that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, one can understand why Adam believed that the days were becoming shorter as part of his punishment, as he saw the short days of the winter and had not yet seen the long days of summer. But according to the one who says that the world was created in the month of Nisan, he had already seen the difference between the short days and the long days, as the days in the month of Nisan become progressively longer with the passage of time. The Gemara answers: Although Adam had experienced short days, he had not seen days that were this short, as in the days before the winter solstice. 
ת"ר יום שנברא בו אדם הראשון כיון ששקעה עליו חמה אמר אוי לי שבשביל שסרחתי עולם חשוך בעדי ויחזור עולם לתוהו ובוהו וזו היא מיתה שנקנסה עלי מן השמים היה יושב בתענית ובוכה כל הלילה וחוה בוכה כנגדו כיון שעלה עמוד השחר אמר מנהגו של עולם הוא עמד והקריב שור שקרניו קודמין לפרסותיו שנאמר (תהלים סט, לב) ותיטב לה' משור פר מקרין מפריס 
The Sages taught: On the day that Adam the first man was created, when the sun set upon him he said: Woe is me, as because I sinned, the world is becoming dark around me, and the world will return to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced upon me from Heaven. He spent all night fasting and crying, and Eve was crying opposite him. 
Once dawn broke, he said: Evidently, the sun sets and night arrives, and this is the order of the world. He arose and sacrificed a bull whose horns preceded its hoofs in the order that they were created, as it is stated: “And it shall please the Lord better than a bullock that has horns and hoofs” (Psalms 69:32). This verse is referring to the one particular bull whose horns preceded its hoofs.
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The Winter Solstice is very important in China, where it is marked by the Dongzhi Festival. Ancestors are worshipped, travel is discouraged, yang increases. Dumplings are traditionally eaten on this day.
The festival was first celebrated by the Chinese people during the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC–256 BC) and declared an official celebration during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 BC). The Han people would take a break from work to celebrate with their families. They would hold heaven worshipping as well as honoring their ancestors by burning joss paper at their ancestral shrines to show gratitude.[6] In ancient times, the day was also known as the "festival of extreme length (simplified Chinese: 长至节; traditional Chinese: 長至節; pinyin: Cháng Zhì Jié) as the sun's extreme position lengthens shadows.[7]: 238  It was traditionally a very important holiday, comparable to Chinese New Year.[7]: 240–241 .
It was also believed by some that it was the day the Kitchen God Zao Zhun went to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor the conduct of a family.
The Chinese people still celebrate certain practices during the Dongzhi festival, such as the union of family.[8] In Hong Kong, many businesses let employees off early to spend time with their families on this day,[8] while in some areas shops close for the holiday.[7]: 241  In Suzhou, it is traditional to light incense at dawn.[7]: 241 
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The solstice also was celebrated by native Americans tribe here in the United States. The Hopi regard the Soyal ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies of the year. In December the katsinas bring the sun back from its long slumber. Lasting up to 16 days, ceremonies include gift-giving, dancing, and storytelling, and are mostly performed in sacred underground chambers called kivas. The festival marks a time for prayer and purification.

The Hopi, The Peaceful Ones (Hopitu Shinumu), believe everything that will occur during the year is arranged at Soyal. Soyaluna means “Establishing Life Anew for All the World.”

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May our world experience a wonderful blessing and rebirth after this solstice.

1 comment:

Lena said...

My parents married on the winter Solstice. My dad would always say to us kids “the longest night of the year”. And then he’d wink!