This Hebrew month is called Adar. From one perspective of calculating the Jewish calendar, it is the last or 12th month of the Jewish year. Adar is connected to the Hebrew word Adir which implies strength. Adar is the month of good fortune for the Jewish people – in fact the Talmud states that we should actually settle legal disputes in the month of Adar because of its good luck.
Interestingly, Adar is the only month of the Jewish calendar that we repeat in the instance of a leap year.
The month of Adar is associated with the zodiac sign of Pisces – in Hebrew dagim. This mazal or sign is symbolic in Judaism of blessing and fruitfulness, so Adar is the month of blessing and fruitfulness. More so, we are told:
Mi shenichnas Adar Marbim be simcha!
With the month of Adar we should increase our joy.
But how? We don’t actually do anything different – we don’t add anything to our prayers, we are not told to behave differently, just to increase our joy.
The source for this idea is in the Gemara which comments that just as when the month of Av arrives we reduce our joy, so when the month of Adar arrives we increase our joy. The reason that the Gemara gives is that Adar is the month of Purim closely followed by pesach which is a time of redemption – both are times of great miracles for the people of Israel.
Furthermore, we are commanded to always worship Gd “bsimcha” so if we are not changing anything how to we actualise this in the month of Adar? How do we Marbim be simcha?
First I want to give a very textual explanation and then I will give a more personal one:
The midrash tells us that when hashem commanded Moshe to build the Mishkan he made a request: asei li kiton echad v’edor beineichem (make for me a small chamber, a mishkan, so that I may live in your midst.). The Sfat Emet explains v’edor (and I will dwell) is related to the word Adar – the very name of this month implies that hashem is dwelling in our midst. Furthermore, all the Torah portions that we read during Adar are connected to the building of the Mishkan. On a very deep, spiritual level, it is this closeness that differentiates Adar and is supposed to bring us such enormous joy. It is the notion of Hashem’s closeness that is the greatest source of simcha.
But that is quite a difficult thing for most me to attain and even comprehend so I wanted to draw a more personal connection.
Yesterday at a funeral that I attended, the Rabbi commented that while all of us were rejoicing in Adar, the family of the deceased were destined to mourn in sorrow. I found myself wondering about the nature of this “simcha” that we are expected to find in this month of Adar. How do you find this joy if you are indeed in mourning?
It seems to me that the answer lies in the very meaning of Purim, the culmination of Adar׳s simcha.
Purim. The festival that celebrates all that is hidden, a time when we dress up to emphasize the illusive, when we eat food like hamantaschen filled with hidden deliciousness, when we revel in all that we cannot see – when we tell a story that glorifies Hashem’s but never mentions his name. It is the festival that forces us to look long and hard and deep at everything in order to find the magic that makes us unique and life worth living.
mi Shenichnas Adar Marbim b’simcha.
The simcha is not the laugh out loud wedding simcha that so often represents only a fleeting surface joy. Rather it is the lasting warm satisfaction that comes from connections with others, from friendships, relationships and accomplishments.
So you can mourn and still experience the simcha of Adar on some level because in the act of remembering itself there is an expression of Adar, bringing what is hidden to the fore and experiencing joy, albeit fleeting, at that memory.