|Sent on:||Tuesday, February 19, 2013 8:31 PM|
As Purim approaches, I just thought I'd take this opportunity to share some thoughts on the month of Adar with everyone in the Tent.
Adar is known as the month of happiness. (And in a leap year, we get two Adars, two whole months of happiness!) The premise for this tradition comes from the Talmud, which states Mi shenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha: "When Adar begins, we increase happiness (simcha)."
There are lots of occasions throughout the Jewish year when we are supposed to be happy. We even use the Hebrew word for happiness "simcha" to describe the joyous events of the Jewish life cycle: celebrating a bris, a bnei mitzvah, a wedding. There's the festival of Sukkot, which is called zman simchateinu, "the time of our rejoicing," and of course, every week there's oneg Shabbat, "the joy of Shabbat."
It's times like these- times of mandatory rejoicing- that leave me with some unanswered questions. How can the tradition command happiness? Last time I checked, the world hasn't stopped and said, "Okay, cut out all the crazy bad stuff! It's Adar, people! Only happy things!" And what about those of us who are suffering, whether from poverty, physical or mental illness, grief, or anything else?
While I still don't have an answer to these questions, I did find some inspiring thoughts on the topic that might help us think about Adar in a way that is both meaningful and also increases our happiness.
First, built into the fabric of Judaism and of Purim is the idea of remembering the poor, and remembering those who might have less cause for happiness than others. A verse in Esther describes Purim as "days of feasting and gladness, and sending portions of food (mishloach manot) to one another, and gifts to the poor" (9:22). From this verse, the sages derived the traditions of mishloach manot (giving gift baskets of food, sweets, wine, etc. to at least one person), and giving gifts of money to at least two people. An article I found on Punk Torah takes this tradition a step further and reinterprets the mitzvah of mishloach manot through the lens of food justice.
(Read the entire article from Punk Torah here)
Second, embedded in the Purim story is the message that people gathering together is a powerful force that can be harnessed for social change to create more happiness in the world and more happiness within ourselves. Here is the creative interpretation of one contemporary rabbi:
"Why does the Talmud state that when one, an individual, enters Adar, we all increase in happiness? The answer to this question is the essence of the Purim miracle. Mordechai instructed Esther to beseech Achashveirosh to rescind Haman’s decree of annihilating the Jews. Esther responded with the words Lekh kinos al kol ha-Yehudim: 'go and gather all the Jews.' The key to our survival is through our unity. When the individual Jew incorporates himself amongst the Jewish People, then the entire Jewish People have cause to be joyous."
-paraphrased from R. Binyomin Adler's Blog http://doreishtov.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/adar-month-of-happiness/
By gathering together, we become stronger and happier. In the words of the song we sing at Havdalah, La Yehudim hayta orah ve-simcha ve-sason vi-yekar ken tihyeh lanu: "There was for the Jewish people light and joy (simcha!); gladness and honor. So may we be blessed."
May the month of Adar bring you increased happiness, and may you celebrate Purim and all month long with simcha!