By: Sarah Mack
Did you feel it?
I don’t mean the tingle of circulation returning to numb limbs after a foray into subfreezing temperatures. I mean the joy that comes with the month of Adar (that began just last week)!
The rabbis teach: “One who enters the month of Adar increases in happiness.” The month Adar means that the holiday of Purim is not far away (14 days to be exact) – and Purim is a time of levity and rejoicing. Amid piles of snow and ice, disrupted commutes, endless days of school and other inconveniences that come from this extreme winter weather – the joy that comes with Adar might have been a little harder to feel this year.
Judaism commands us to be happy on a number of occasions. We are told to “rejoice in our festivals,” referring to the shalosh regalim (three pilgrimage holidays). We are also commanded to rejoice with the bride and groom as we read in our daily liturgy. Another word in Hebrew for joy is oneg, literally meaning delight. Oneg Shabbat is the delight in the Sabbath that comes from rejoicing in community…and from savoring cookies, too.
When we look closely at the things that we are to rejoice about – they do not involve our own lives. We are not commanded to rejoice in our personal happiness. We are told to look beyond ourselves to celebrate our national redemption – as in the case of Sukkot and Purim or in the joy of others – as is the case with the bride and groom. Our tradition reminds us that true happiness is about looking outside of the narrow experience of our own lives. As we prepare to celebrate Purim next week, even amid piles of snow, we remember that perspective. And so we will put on boots with our costumes, laugh in the face of arctic temperatures, and joyfully eat some hamantaschen – with gratitude that Esther and Mordechai prevailed and faith that spring will come eventually.