“When Adar comes, joy increases” (Ta’anit 29a)


On Wednesday night we will enter the month of Adar, the month of the holiday of Purim. On Purim we will read the crazy, upside-down story of Queen Esther, where despite evil counselors and foolish kings, all turns out well, and we are commanded to shout and sing and drink and eat in celebration. But what if we don’t feel like celebrating? What if we’re not feeling the joy? In the world around us, injustice and threats to liberty and well-being abound; it would not be surprising if our hearts were full of grief more than happiness at this moment. So what are we to do with the Talmud’s declaration that the month of Adar must herald joy, that we are required to celebrate and be happy at this time of year? Perhaps the answer comes from the megilah itself, the Book of Esther that we read with such ceremony on Purim. “That month” – this very month of Adar we are about to enter – “was reversed for them from grief to joy” (Esther 9:22). In other words, the month of Adar was declared a month of happiness, not because the people were already joyful but because they were full of grief. The month of Adar asks us to reach down into ourselves, despite the bad feeling and sadness that might surround us, and to pull joy out of ourselves, to reverse our grief, even if only for a short time. Despite all the signs that the world is dark, we have to reaffirm for ourselves the possibility of light, the potential for joy that always lies just below the surface. So even as we struggle for justice in this world, let the month of Adar open us to joy. Hodesh tov – a good and happy month to us all!