"Be Happy It’s Adar?!?"

Photo by Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

Yesterday I was texting with a rabbi friend who asked how I and my family were doing.


A normal question… that these days, provokes a fair amount of anxiety.


Perhaps you’ve felt it too?


The state of the world, the state of US politics, the State of Israel and the Jewish people – all of them seem to be in trouble, in disarray, not going in a positive direction at all.


And tomorrow night, Jews are supposed to celebrate Purim, one of our happiest and most joyous holidays, which falls in the Hebrew month of Adar.


In the Talmud (Taanit 29a), we are told: “When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy!”


Except I’m not feeling it….


So I replied to my friend in the following way:


“I’m trying to be happy for Purim. My family is well, thank G!D…. but not the state of the Jews.”


And then I realized what I had written.


“The state of the Jews” was an unconscious double entendre!


So I appended to my text above an additional response-- the words “tartei mashma,” which is the Aramaic term from the Talmud that means ‘double meaning.’


He wrote back one word: “Totally!”


I’m having a difficult time getting my joy on for Adar and for Purim, because I don’t recall a time that both the state of the Jews (the Jewish people) and the State of the Jews (Israel / Medinat Yisrael) were in such bad shape.


I’m not by nature a worrier… and I’m worried.


But then, as I contemplated all of this, I realized that our sages and our wise tradition have already shown us the way of living in an unsettling and painful reality, one they experienced quite often.


They taught us rituals that help us recognize sadness in the midst of our joy, and conversely, perceive joy in the midst of our sadness.


Breaking the glass at a wedding to remember the historic catastrophe of the Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple 2000 years ago … right before walking out of the huppah / the marriage canopy onto the dance floor.


Sitting in your home wallowing in grief after the death of a loved one… and then opening your door to visits from friends and family who love you enough to come by to comfort you at shiva.


We humans aren’t well designed to live solely in joy, nor should we dwell solely in sadness.


Life is about finding balance, ‘the golden mean’ or ‘the middle path,’ as the rabbis put it.


And so, I resolved that despite my pain and sadness, the grief I feel for all that is transpiring in my physical home of America and my spiritual home of Israel, I will set aside the 24 hours of Purim (plus the 24 hours of Shabbat that precedes it) to allow myself to feel joy.


I will give myself permission to feel happy and uplifted, to drink and to celebrate, to dance and to sing.


Because balancing the “down” with the “up” is the Jewish way of living in the world.


And because it’s a healthy way of living in the world too.


We aren’t pretending everything is okay; we are bracketing the reality for a time, joining together in unity with other members of our people, in order to gain the strength we need to deal with it.


Having figured that out for myself, I hope you too will be able to step back from the pain and the worry you feel and let go — for a day or two — and celebrate this Purim.


Hag Purim Sameach — Wishing you, your family, and the entire Jewish people a joyous holiday of Purim and the ability to truly feel some joy!

Shabbat Shalom