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Shout halleluyah, c'mon get happy.

02/27/2020 09:15:07 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

The Talmud teaches us “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simcha”: With the advent of (the month of) Adar our joy increases. How interesting that of all of the holidays in our calendar, the one that is noted for the increase of joy is Purim. Is there no other time during the year when we experience joy? In the liturgy, Sukkot is called z’man simchatenu, the season of our joy, yet no such proclamation is uttered. What is it about Purim that “joy” is the operative word?

It is a post-biblical holiday whose observance is declared by Mordechai, as we will be reading in Megillat Esther very soon (Chapter 9):

Mordechai recorded these events. And he sent dispatches to all the Jews throughout   the provinces of King Achashverosh, near and far, charging them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, every year….They were to observe them as days of feasting and             merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor…In view, then, of all the instructions in the said letter and of what they had experienced in that matter and what had befallen them, the Jews undertook and irrevocably obligated themselves and their descendants, and all who might join them, to observe …And these days of Purim shall   never cease among the Jews…

Unlike the biblical festivals, Purim was established by a human being. Its’ manner of observances are clear in that we are to read Megillat Esther, send gifts to one another and presents to the poor. But what of some of the more celebratory, if not zany, aspects of the holiday. We wear costumes. We put on a shpiel that is a parody of Megillat Esther, with historic and recent examples of political satire. We drown out the name of Haman. We are supposed to imbibe sufficiently until we cannot recognize the difference between the phrase “bless Mordechai” and “curse Haman”. A Purim feast replete with even more jokes and parodies. Many communities still have “Ad Lo Yada” (until you don’t know) parades with floats. What is the source of this unbridled celebration? Some will jokingly refer to the oft-recited adage: They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.

Perhaps Purim is our national pressure release valve day, the opportunity to blow off steam.  Most of the other faiths on the planet do not have such a day in their calendar of observances, although if you have ever been in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, or in Buenos Aires during Carnival, they might compare. How intriguing that they can occur during the same time of the year, or not?

Being Jewish is about being joyous. Sometimes we might seem like a depressing civilization, but we are most certainly not. The Psalms tell us to “worship God with joy”. There is indeed much to be joyous about, and the extreme example of Purim serves as an important reminder that we must work to infuse joy into all that we do on a daily basis. May your joy increase. 


Tue, March 31 2020 6 Nisan 5780