We have just begun the Hebrew month of Adar, when we are commanded to increase our joy ahead of the holiday of Purim. Does that mean early partying, or is the message more profound?
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
We have just begun the Hebrew month of Adar. The Talmud teaches, “When the month of Av enters, we minimize our joy, and when the month of Adar enters, we increase our joy.”
The minimizing of joy in the month of Av (which is usually in July or August) is a reference to the saddest day of the year – Tisha b’Av, the 9th of Av— when we commemorate the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem, which is observed as a “holiday” of mourning. The increasing of joy in the month of Adar (usually in February or March) is a reference to the festive holiday of Purim, when we celebrate the Jewish People’s miraculous salvation from Haman’s plot to exterminate them.
What is interesting is that there is a common denominator between the months of Adar and Av, which is that we are to prepare for the holidays that arrive in those months already from the beginning of the month. We don’t find that with any other holiday. There is no obligation to prepare for Yom Kippur, Sukkot or Rosh Hashana weeks ahead.
It is reasonable to have to prepare for the 9th of Av quite some time before its arrival. To put ourselves in a proper mood of intense mourning for something that happened over 2000 year ago is not easy or even natural. Yes, mental and emotional preparation is in order. But why do we need 14 days – from the beginning of the month of Adar until Purim – to prepare for the holiday. It’s easy to increase in joy and celebrate! A day off work and a glass of wine is a sure way to get into a festive mood instantly!
A Day of Spiritual Joy
Among the many answers to this question is the explanation that the joy and celebration of Purim is not merely a “party.” Unfortunately, the outer trappings of Purim make it resemble a carnival. The costumes of Purim are unrelated to Halloween. The gifts of food on Purim are completely unrelated to trick-or-treating.
Yet Purim is a day of spiritual celebration. It is the day that we remember God’s behind-the-scenes workings to save us from Haman’s evil plot. The sages teach us that Purim and Yom Hakippurim (more familiarly known as “Yom Kippur”) are closely related, as their names imply. We are told that what we accomplish on Yom Kippur through fasting we also accomplish on Purim through feasting.
The message is clear. We begin increasing our joy in the month of Adar well before the arrival of Purim in order to prepare and realize that Purim is no ordinary party. It is a spiritual celebration during which we show our appreciation to God for the miracles he has made for us then – and the miracles he does for us now. Yes…. some preparation is required!