Adar is the month in which Purim falls, but what does it mean to increase in joy? The rabbis never told us!
When it comes to celebrating Purim we have four primary mitzvot, obligations. First, we are supposed to hear the reading of the Megillah, usually, this means attending a Purimshpiel. Second, we are supposed to give sweet treats or gifts to our friends and family (mishloach manot). Third, we must give gifts to the poor (matanot l’eviyonim). Fourth and finally, we must eat a big, festive meal. Each of these mitzvot is supposed to add to our joy. That’s all well and good, but we still don’t know what it means to increase in joy as we enter the month of Adar!
The text in the Talmud (Ta’anit 29a-b) actually approaches the topic of increasing joy during Adar by talking about the opposite: decreasing joy during the month of Av--the Hebrew month in which we remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The rabbis go into clear detail when it comes to the ways we should make ourselves sad: no haircuts, don’t wash your clothes, don’t eat meat, don’t drink alcohol, and don’t play or listen to music.
The vacuum left by our rabbinic sages about increasing joy leaves space for our modern interpretation! On the one hand, we could say that all of the things we should stop before Av we should increase in Adar. Maybe that means eating a lavish meal every night, blasting music in your car and home, and buying new outfits. Maybe not. In the Talmud, a joyful time means having meat and wine at the table; however, that might not be our definition of joy.
I believe we are left with an opportunity to treat ourselves and our loved ones to things that bring us joy. Maybe that means going out for ice cream or having a special dessert this Friday night. Perhaps adding joy means going on a family vacation or doing some outing that you save for special occasions. As Jews, we know that the world is not always a happy place, and there is certainly a lot to worry about in our time as well, but we should always make time for joy, especially in the month of Adar. As the saying goes, “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”
L’shalom | In Peace,