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Purim and Happiness
By Menachem Mendelson
One of the more interesting aspects of the Jewish month of Adar, is the
special relationship it has to "simcha" (happiness). In
the Talmud, and also in the Code of Jewish Law, it says: "When the
month of Adar arrives, happiness increases."
Now we have to really scratch our heads and understand this. Isn't a
Jew supposed to be happy all year around? Are we not urged to serve
G-d with and through happiness and joy? In fact the Code of Jewish Law
tells us that we must always be happy! So why is the month of Adar so
special? Perhaps especially so for us Jews, who have endured centuries
and generations of national tragedy, how have we been able to keep this
special aspect of "simcha?"
Rashi, the master Bible commentator, explains to us that the reason that Adar is so special that "simcha" increases as the month begins is because these are "the times of miracles for the Jews, 'Purim and Passover'." It seems clear from Rashi that the happiness that comes in Adar extends not only through out Adar, but also into the next month, Nissan, the month that contains Passover.
Also Rashi clearly points out that the reason is because of the miracles
that took place during these months. This is alluded to in the month of
Nissan by the name of the month "Nissan" which is related to the Hebrew
word "Nes" which means miracle and the ending of the word "Nissan"
- "an" which tells us that it is in plural.
Especially relevant is the fact that the miracles of Passover in Nissan were miracles that transcended nature, whereas the miracles in Adar of Purim, were miracles that were in nature, whereas the course of nature continued unchanged.
From the statement in the Talmud: "When the month of Adar arrives, happiness increases," we see that the happiness that increases is not a new or different happiness, but the same happiness that a Jew should have during the entire year, except the amount is increased.
In addition to all of the above, a special emphasis is placed on the actual
performance of the mitzvoth. This is stressed in the Megilah, that the
Jews "did what they had previously accepted upon themselves to do." This
refers to the giving of the Torah and Mitzvoth, which were only accepted
at Mount Sinai through coercion as it is related in a Medrash that G-d
held a mountain over their heads and threatened them with destruction
if they did not accept the Torah. At Purim time, however, (through the
joy and happiness), the Jews accepted the observance of the Torah with
that same joy and happiness.
Many therefore ask, what was the special ingredient that was present during Purim that caused the Jews to accept readily the Torah with such delight? When their forefathers stood before G-d at Mount Sinai and saw revelations of G-dliness that hither to fore never were revealed and since then, no mortal has seen, yet their acceptance of Torah on Mount Sinai lacked this joy and euphoria. This question is especially highlighted by the fact that the Jews viewed signs and wonders, miracles openly and undeniably visible, prior to the receiving of the Torah. They saw miracles that even the vice ridden and corrupt Egyptians could not but realize and tremble.
Yet it was precisely this, that due to the greatness and onerous implications of such openly visible miracles, the acceptance of the Jews was reduced to one rooted in fear of the consequences of not accepting the Torah. Purim, however, when the miracle was shrouded in nature, when only the believing heart could accept the salvation of G-d, then the latent love of G-d that is inherent in every Jew burst forth in joy and ecstasy causing an acceptance of the Torah with the ensuing crescendo of love.
The happiness of Purim is virtually the ignition of darkness exploding
into myriads of joyous light. Everything burst open into change, the heart
of Achasverous changed from being an enemy of the Jews to being our friend.
Whereas at Passover, Pharoah was drown in the Red Sea with the rest of
his army - no change, just elimination!
Therefore Purim (and Adar) signifies the advantages of G-d's working within nature. We, the Jewish people, were not overwhelmed by the miracles as during the Passover time which completely subjugated our own individuality, reducing us to a submissive and subservient mass. Since the miracles at Purim time were in nature, our natural inherent love for G-d was vindicated. We, as individuals, individually perceived G-d's working in nature, a miracle, and yet we were still unaffected by the miracle enough retain our own individual thinking, feeling and rational processes enabling us to independently come to the realization that our belief in G-d's love for us had been borne out.
Moreso, the two ideas, miracles and happiness, go together. The concept of a miracle, in Hebrew, nes, meaning also, to melt away, as in "nes caf?", (instant coffee) implying that the limits of nature are trampled and shattered. Happiness, is very similar, as we have been told, "simcha breaks down limits." A person in a state of happiness is capable of accomplishing greater achievements than a person who is in a state of depression, he is capable of expanding his own personal limitations beyond his own personal expectations.
Miracles break down the limits of nature. Simcha also breaks down natural
limits. In miracles, it is G-d who thrashes the limits that nature has
imposed upon us. Through simcha, it is we who thrash the limits of behavior
that we have imposed on ourselves and we can extend our abilities to do
more and to realize greater accomplishments. In Purim, we reach a limit
called, "Ad d'low yadah", meaning that we can achieve beyond our
own personal beliefs and assessments. We don't even realize the extents
that we are really capable of achieving.
Yet it is only during this month that we begin our increase in simcha. Our increase in our abilities to achieve expands even more and more, just like a person who increases pressure on the gas pedal, so his car increases speed and power.
Yet it is precisely Rashi, who has brought the miracles of Purim together with that of Passover, who gives us the final clue. Whereas chronologically, Passover preceded Purim by nearly a thousand years, still Purim precedes Passover in our yearly calendar.
Both represent the two types of miracles: Passover is the overwhelming,
undeniable, overtly visible change in the course of nature that
forces within us the tremendous awe and fear of the Creator. Purim on
the other hand, is the subtle, almost un-perceptible change in the
course of events that unless the observer has a believing heart, can
be completely denied. Yet it is just this type of miracle that allows
us to reach that concurrence that G-d has altered events for our sake,
causing an increased joy and happiness on our part.
Therefore we happily conclude that it is this time itself that causes
us the great increase in joy and happiness. It is the joy and happiness
that causes us to reach beyond our (supposed) limits which gives us the
ability to see the actions of the world as a mere manifestation of G-d's
will. Through our use of this time to see G-d's
manipulations in the world, we are able to increase our joy and happiness
and thereby draw more "simcha" into our lives to be with us through
out the entire year.
from the February Purim 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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