Left to our own tendencies, we are inclined to take much of life for granted and allow our attention to dwell more on what is wrong in the course of a day than what is right. That is only natural, even if it is not helpful, in terms of energy level or perspective on life.
As I indicated a couple of months ago, our Judaic system would have us focus on gratitude, noticing what goes well and can render us joyful vs. what we find annoying and not going as we had planned or hoped.
For anyone yearning for some happiness, welcome to the Hebrew month of Adar, which begins Tuesday evening, February 4. The “proclamation” for this month is: Be Happy! It’s Adar. The sages add: when Adar arrives, we abound in Simcha…happiness and joy! Indeed, Adar’s arrival coincides with days growing in light. In January we celebrated one of 4 Jewish New Years, TuBishvat, the New Year for trees and nature. Spring and sprouting of new life is not far away.
This year the joy of Adar is doubled because we are in a leap year in the Jewish calendar. Remember how early Rosh Hashanah was this year, 5779? Well, we will welcome 5780, next Rosh Hashanah, almost a month later, at the end of September. In the Hebrew calendar, instead of adding a day in a leap year, we add a month at the end of the monthly calendar year. Since Adar is the last month (and Nisan, the first month, giving us Passover and Jewish beginnings as a people), we add an extra month of Adar, an extra month of happiness!
And what is the happiness we associate with Adar? The arrival of Purim: the holiday of laughter and joy and the story of Mordecai and Esther prevailing over the wicked Haman (Boo! Hiss!), who conspired to destroy the Jews of ancient Persia. How ironic that Persia i.e. Iran, is so threatening to survival, yet again, in this case for the world, given the instability associated with their nuclear program. I know I am getting ahead of myself and the calendar since Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, in a leap year, putting it in March, yet I cannot overlook how nice it is to have an extra month of Adar to remind us to find increasing happiness in our lives, especially when times are difficult in so many ways and for so many people.
Paradoxically, the happiness of Purim, which generates such joy for the months of Adar, emerged out of real world problems and solutions described in the Book of Esther, that left us stunned and awed by gifts of life overshadowing fears of death and the sadness of human cruelty in all its forms.
Jewish tradition associates happiness not as a goal, nor as a means to escape sadness and ignore problems. Rather, we derive happiness, first by forcing ourselves to notice whatever/whoever is good in our lives, be they significant or easily overlooked. Next, we generate happiness by consciously, mindfully and steadfastly doing as much good as we can: seeing good, speaking of good, and actively pursuing a life of mitzvah. We commit ourselves to doing what is right, what is kind, caring, compassionate and serving God by treating each other as God’s Countenance…each of us vessels and vehicles of God in how we make moments in peoples’ lives blessings.
So, in the happiness of Adar is the opportunity to refocus on the partnership of Torah and Mitzvah, learning the power and importance of accepting responsibility; we learn what we must to know that we are accountable for changing the energy in this world, in order that there be no more Hamans (Boo! Hiss!) nor Pharaohs, not in ourselves, or in the governance of our world, to whatever degree we can influence that.
Enjoy this leap year associated with 5779, and let us each find increasing happiness in our feelings of worthiness, as we see what is good, say it, as well, and devote our time to our partnership with HaShem, in bringing blessings into the lives of those with whom we share life’s journey.
Meanwhile, do what you can to live by these words, for the two upcoming months: BE HAPPY! IT’S ADAR…ADAR 1 with ADAR 2, immediately following! Let’s make happiness abound through the goodness we bring into the lives of one another and into CBI, our community home for noticing and celebrating life’s joys and blessings.