Welcoming the Joy of Adar
By Rabbi Moshe Weinberger
“Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simcha- When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy.” Interesting word choice. Instead of mishenichnas (when the month enters), it might have said, kisheba (when the month Adar arrives). The saintly Sfas Emes derived from this that we can only feel joy when we permit the joy to enter ourselves. We must open our hearts to feel the joy of an occasion, a birth, a bar mitzvah, a wedding. We must allow the joy to enter.
One who allows the joyous month of Adar to enter within, will be able to experience happiness again, despite the loss s/he experienced.
What are we welcoming when we allow Adar to enter? Wherein lays the abundance of joy that comes into the world with the month of Adar? Change. Adar is hachodesh asher nehepach, the month that can change, miyagon l’simcha, from sadness to joy, may’aivel l’yom tov, from mourning to celebration.
There is a precedent for this concept with the luchos, the tablets. Moshe broke the first set of luchos on one of the saddest days of the Jewish year. But there was another, permanent set of luchos that came afterwards. When we feel that our “set of luchos” was shattered, we need only open our hearts to receive Hashem’s gift of a “second set of luchos,” the belief that joy can and will find a place in our lives again, with luchos that will never be broken.
Loss in Our History
The first person in the Torah whose personal loss was clearly described is our forefather Yaakov.
When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he said, “Ani Yosef, Ha’od avi chai?”
Why does Yosef ask this question – “Is my father still alive?” – His brothers had been mentioning their father Yaakov throughout their conversations with Yosef!
R’ Shmuel Birnbaum zt”l says that through the years of separation Yosef Hatzadik had wondered, How could they have done such a thing? If not for me, how could they have done it to my father? Yosef suspected, My brothers probably said to themselves, “It’s okay, we’re a big family, and we have another eleven brothers! What’s the big deal if one brother is not here with us right now?”
Similarly, the Ohr Hachaim says that the brothers were unable to comfort Yaakov after Yosef was “dead.” They tried comforting him – Vayakumu kal banav linachamo – they all stood up before him to comfort him showing: “Look! You have so many other children.” However, Vayima’en linachem – their father refused to be consoled.
What was Yosef really asking his brothers?
Haod Avi Chai? “Is my father still alive? You might think that the ‘hole’ is filled with many children and grandchildren. If I were an only child, you never would have sold me. But every child is an only child to his parents. Every child has his own special connection with his/her parents.
Yosef was hinting to his brothers, “You took away my unique relationship with my father. Now I want to know if my father is still alive.” Yosef felt, they probably think: the hole is filled with many children and grandchildren. So he said to his brothers, “Ha’od avi chai?’ not “Ha’od avinu chai” because he was saying, “is my father alive?” because each child is a special world to his parent, each child is its own and has his own special relationship with his parent.
Our Own “Shattered Luchos”
It says in Shir Hashirim: “Dodi shalach yado min hachor u’may’ai hamu alav, kamti ani lifto’ach l’dodi. – My Beloved (Hashem) stretched His hand out through the pit and my insides were churning for Him and I got up to open the door for my Beloved.”
Even as a young child, the Kotzker Rebbe was well known for his sharp wit. A visiting Rabbi, approached the small boy, “So Menachem Mendel,” he challenged, “Tell me, where is G-d?
Without missing a beat, the boy responded, “G-d is wherever you let Him in.”
We have all experienced a shvira, a shattering, that left a gaping hole in its wake, a hole that can never completely disappear. How do we avoid stumbling over that hole? How do we begin to welcome joy into our lives with the belief in a “new set of luchos”?
Obviously, only the Infinite One can fill an infinite hole. “Dodi shalach yado min hachor – Our Beloved One reaches His hand out from the pit.” But He must be beloved, familiar, and, as the young Kotzker so wisely noted, we must actually get up and open the door for Him.
Hashem extends His hand in love, in support. He is there for us. But only if we allow Him access. As it states in Shir Hashirim: “Kamti ani lifto’ach l’dodi” – only if we open the door to let our beloved, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, in, can we experience joy.
A story is told about a poetry recital that took place in England many years ago. The last contestant was the clear winner; his poem was Psalm 23, “Mizmor l’david, Hashem ro’ee lo echsor – G-d is my shepherd I shall not want.”
After a stunning round of applause, an elderly Jew asked to recite the psalm. At first, everyone laughed. As he continued, the audience became quieter and quieter. By the time he reached the end, every person in the crowd was crying.
When the young contestant claimed his prize, he walked over to the Jewish gentleman, “Here,” he said, “you touched the audience with the poem; you deserve the prize.” But the man refused. “You’re the pro. You were a contestant; I was not.”
“Please tell me. Why is it that when I recited the poem the audience applauded but when you read it everyone cried?” the winner asked.
“Unlike you, I was not reading it as a beautiful piece of poetry. I know the Shepherd; I have a personal relationship with Him, so my communication with Him has more meaning.”
Inviting Hashem in to our lives, building a strong relationship with Him – at any time, in any language – not only injects meaning into our lives, but it also leaves space for the ein sof, the Endless One, to fill the seemingly endless, bottomless cavities that remain after a loss.
The Halves of our Lives
The book of Megilas Esther, like its name Esther, (hidden) is filled with hidden meaning. Whenever it says the word Hamelech – the king, it not only refers to the King Achashveirosh, but it also refers to Hashem. When Esther approaches the king to save the Jews, the megilla reads: “Vayomer hamelech l’Esther gam bayom hasheini, ma she’ailasaych…v’yinasen lach – and the king said to Esther also on the second day, “What is your request…and it will be given to you.”
The first part of our lives was “Pre-loss,” and that is the first day. The second day is an allusion to the second luchos, after the shattering loss of the first. That is when Hashem tells Esther, the Jew who experienced the obscurity of His Infinite Light, “My child, you still believe in me now? If so, ask for anything and your request will be granted.”
The second day is the second luchos and Hashem says to Esther – a Yid who went through hester panim, if you still believe in me now, ask for anything and I’ll give it to you.”
We have a relationship with the Shepherd, we’ve experienced His obscurity, and now we have the opportunity for our requests to be granted. What will we request?
When the Rizhiner Rebbe arrived in Kiev, the entire Jewish community greeted him en masse with flaming torches. This did not sit very well with the Czar. “Aha! This Jewish Rabbi thinks he’s going to take over my whole country?”
What began as a royal greeting, ended with the Rebbe in prison. Purim morning, the Rizhiner Rebbe spoke to Hashem from the depths of his dark cell: “Hashem, you have commanded us to perform the mitzvah of mishloach manos – (gifts of food to others on Purim). But there is not a single Jew here. I have nobody to whom to give food packages and nothing to give. Nothing except my tears. So, Hashem, here. I am giving you all my tears along with all the tears of the Jewish nation, the tears of the orphans and widows, the tears for all the trials and tribulations of Jews all over. That is my mishloach manos to you, Hashem. And since I am representing the Jewish people, I am expecting mishloach manos from you in return – not money, not even freedom from this cell. I want you to give the Jewish people joy, simcha, simcha, and more simcha!”
The Rizhiner Rebbe, when experiencing hester panim, a concealment of Hashem’s love, when languishing in a pit of seeming despair, communicated with the Shepherd, the King with a request on behalf of the entire Jewish Nation. Likewise, we have experienced a sense of imprisonment, and now, when Hashem is listening, waiting for us to request, we ask the greatest request of all: “Master of the Universe, we have had enough tears already! May no Jew ever suffer this kind of pain that we’ve experienced, and may every Jew have the strength to reach Hashem’s hand through the gaping cavities of despair. Please, Hashem, send mishloach manos baskets full of happiness, simchos, for your children, the Jewish People!”
“V’sechezenah eineinu b’shuvcha l’tzion b’rachamim – May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy…” Amen.
Rabbi Moshe Weinberger is the Rav of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY.
This speech was given by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger at a Chai Lifeline event for bereaved parents on February 24, 2008.
Transcribed and adapted by: Devoiry Saull and Nechamie Goldberg
This article originally appeared in Our Tapestry Issue #6, Winter/Spring 2009. All rights reserved.