Written for Temple Gates of Prayer Bulletin, Late Winter 2011
We all know the Rabbinic teaching, “Mishenich’nas Adar, mar’bim besimcha” (“Our joy is increased upon the arrival of Adar). And, what a gift that this year we have the added pleasure of 2 Adarim! For me, this teaching has always begged the question: What do we have to do that our joy should be increased?
I’d like to use this article to share some of my thoughts on this question, in hope that our collective awareness and joy will be increased. The first step I took in attempting to reason this question is to define “joy”. Merriam-Webster (children, ask your parents what Merriam-Webster is!) defines “joy” as, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; the expression or exhibition of such emotion.” OK, so now we know what it is that should be increased in our lives (at least according to my most trusted linguistic authority - perhaps, though, I should have checked the O.E.D. for further verification!). But should our joy only be related to success, good fortune and worldly possessions? While those things certainly add one dimension to our lives, I am not sure they are what our sages had in mind.
Look outside. As I write, I look out the window of my home office (over Shelley Handel’s backyard, actually) and am enjoying the most beautiful view! The snow has finally melted, the birds have come back to the large tree outside and the children are playing basketball (it is, afterall, 60 degrees outside at the moment). For what more can one ask than the beauty of nature and the simple things in life?
I like the way Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Dean of the School of Religious Leadership at JTS, put it this week in a drash he delivered: “The beautiful part about the arrival of Adar is that we don’t have to do anything; only to be joyous!” What a beautifully simple, yet poignant statement. Just be joyous.
My prayer for us all is that in this “season” of Adar we should only know joy, health and peace. I look forward to seeing you all at our Megillah reading and Purim celebration on March 20!
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