Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

A Tale of Two Adars: Two Months of Joy and Contemplation

Two Adars allow us to explore how to be happy more often than usual (see Kedushas Levi, Parshas Ki Sisa; Rav Tzadok Hakohein, Likkutei Maamorim 16). For instance, even if all does not seem to be perfect, “the greater the darkness, the greater is the revelation of the true unity when this evil is destroyed” (Ramchal, Daas Tevunos 124).

The beginning of Megillas Esther represents one of the worst moments in Klal Yisroel’s history. Haman wore the ring that had the power to destroy every Jew in one evil moment, r”l. After much fasting, prayer and repentance, the decree was nullified and unimaginable joy ensued. However, in retrospect, even the frightening days and months before turned to be for the best, because in the end, we finally had the opportunity to eradicate a sizable chunk of Amaleik. This is therefore a time to reflect seriously upon acceptance of everything that befalls us – individually and as a nation – in the spirit of gam zu letovah, that everything Hashem does is ultimately for the best.

Rav Yehudah Halevi (Kuzari 3:11) describes the lengthy dialogue between the king of the Khazars and a rabbi who guides him in Jewish thought and philosophy. At one point, the king asks his mentor how to become a chossid, a totally righteous person. The rabbi answers that, among other things, he should learn to live by tzidduk hadin, fully accepting Hashem’s will. He explains that this will lead to a life of happiness. How can becoming like Nochum Ish Gamzu make one happy? Didn’t he suffer horribly and live a life of pain and tribulations? The rabbi expounds, “As a consequence of this attitude, [Nochum] lived a life of constant tranquility. He probably also rejoiced at his suffering, since he realized that the suffering atoned for his sins. This is the same joy a person feels when he pays off his debts. He also rejoiced for the reward he was to receive in the future because of his suffering. A person with this positive attitude…acquires the ability to tolerate the difficult aspects of life and to rejoice with his appreciation of what Hashem has done for him.”

Having two months to prepare for Purim allows us to contemplate the words of Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (Kedushas Levi, Vayeishev) that a person should have “bitachon and faith that there is good even in something that seems bad, since bad does not come from Hashem.”

The Malbim, too (Divrei Hayomim I, 4:10) states that to a person with this kind of attitude, “everything will be equal in his eyes, and from the bad events of the world it will become something not to be upset about.”

One thinks of the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l and other such survivors of Churban Europa who constantly had smiles on their faces and lived lives of great simcha despite the horrors they had experienced.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner (Nefesh Hachaim 2:11) addresses the question of how one can accept everything as good and yet daven for it to change and improve. He writes, “Even though it is a clear halacha…that a person may pray for a refuah sheleimah…it still should not be done because of his concern for his personal suffering.” Rav Chaim goes on to explain that since suffering is like a medicine that cures, one should not pray for it to disappear. It seems that one should pray for forgiveness and expiation, causing the pain to subside because it is no longer required.

Mordechai and Esther imposed a painful series of fasts upon Klal Yisroel, but it was understood that this could remove the horrific decree, thus inherently becoming a positive event. For this reason, many poskim take the position that Taanis Esther actually represents a joyous event, unlike the fasts that evoke mourning and sadness. This is another example of how the two months of Adar can represent one continuous time of joy.

The Orchos Tzaddikim, too (Shaar 9, Simcha) reminds us that “there are many unpleasant things that, in the end, turn out to be beneficial.” He cites the parable of Chazal (Niddah 31a) of the person who literally “missed the boat” and was mortified that he could not travel until he found out that it had sunk. The anonymous author reminds us that “a person therefore needs to rejoice with his suffering and other calamities that befall him because he doesn’t know the good that will eventually come from it.” This may be the message of two Adars of rejoicing. Looking back, the first Adar cannot have been very wonderful. It was full of the angst and fear of Haman and his machinations. Yet, today we can look back at the wave of teshuvah that Klal Yisroel experienced, resulting in the second Kabbolas HaTorah and the incredible salvation of the second Adar.

The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:32) also offers a parable that we can apply to the two Adars and our daily lives. When Yisro’s daughters told him that an “Egyptian saved us,” the Medrash asks why the Torah refers to Moshe Rabbeinu as an Egyptian. The moshol is to a person who was bitten by a poisonous snake. He required water and ran madly to the river to obtain the lifesaving liquid. Instead, he arrived just in time to save a young boy who was drowning. When the child thanked him for his rescue, he replied that it was actually the snake that had saved him, not his apparent rescuer.

The Medrash continues, “Thus, when Yisro’s daughter thanked Moshe for saving them, he replied that the Egyptian he had killed [causing him to run away] had been the agent of their rescue. That is why they, in turn, told their father that an Egyptian had saved them, meaning the Egyptian Moshe had killed.”

This approach to life is actually codified in halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 230:5) that a person should always accustom himself to declare that “whatever Hashem does is for the best.”

Another way to look at this life’s lesson is through the eyes of Rav Meir of Premishlan. The Chovos Halevavos (5:5) teaches that one who has not reached the madreigah of appreciating praise and an insult equally has not achieved the middah of hishtavus, equanimity. Rav Meir Premishlaner often made a seudas hoda’ah, a public meal thanking Hashem for His kindness, when something appropriate occurred. One day, after his talmidim had already just enjoyed one such seudah, he suddenly proclaimed another one. “Rebbe,” the chassidim inquired, “what happened now? We didn’t notice any new hatzolah.” He responded with a smile, “Didn’t you just hear that man excoriate me, calling me all those vile names?” They responded puzzled, “Yes, rebbe, we heard, horrified, and we looked toward you to evict him, but you held up your hand. Why should we now celebrate?” The radiant rebbe responded, “Don’t you realize that there must have been some complaint about me in heaven that could have resulted, G-d forbid, in physical or other suffering for me or my loved ones, including you? Now we were all saved though a mere humiliation. Let us drink a lechayim.”

The Rambam (commentary to Pirkei Avos 4:4) reports upon learning this middah from a mussar sefer: “A very pious man was asked to describe the happiest day of his life. He replied that he once traveled on a ship where he was given the worst place in the cargo hold to sleep. One of the sailors humiliated him incredibly, but he did not even reply. Later, he explained that his happiness stemmed from the fact that he was tested by heaven to see if he would react to this kind of embarrassment and he had passed the test.” That is true happiness.

The Sefer Hatanya (Iggeres Hakodesh 11) also teaches that “it is only because man cannot comprehend properly that he perceives these events as bad or suffering. In truth, no evil comes from above and everything is good… This is the essence of the faith for which man was created.”

We, too, should be totally filled with joy during the days of Adar, as well, which were terrifying but led to such eternal greatness. In a leap year, when we are given the opportunity, we should take advantage of the time to thank Hashem for everything he does, whether or not we understand at the time.



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