Friday, May 24, 2024

Adar Awakening

Imagine life for one long day with no night for sleep and no sunrise to awaken to. What would it be like if one started the day off on the wrong foot? It would be kind of hard to get back on the right track.

My rosh yeshiva, Rav Mordechai Gifter, often said that one of the great chassodim Hashem bestowed upon the world is that by His word He brings on evenings, with wisdom He opens the gates (of light), and with understanding He changes the season (tefillas Maariv).

If one wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and has a trying day, he can go to bed at night, sleep it off, and wake up refreshed the next day. The Jewish nation is blessed with much more than that. Had a rough week? Comes Shabbos, a day of menucha and kedusha, to replenish our kochos and revitalize us for the coming week. A difficult month? Don’t despair. There is Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of a new month, to renew our lives with a fresh opportunity for success.

The Tur (Orach Chaim 419) says that it’s a mitzvah to increase the seudah of Rosh Chodesh, as it is compared to the moadim. Chazal also say that all of a person’s parnassah is designated from Rosh Hashanah to Rosh Hashanah, except what he spends for Shabbos, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, and Chol Hamoed, when, the more one spends, the more he will be given.

It is obvious from the tefillos of Birkas Hachodesh that the welcoming in of a new month is quite an auspicious moment. Starting with the yehi ratzon, a plea to Hashem that He inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing – we daven for a long life, a life of peace, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health – we see that it is sort of a miniature Rosh Hashanah. Then we daven for the geulah to come, and then again for Hashem to renew the coming of the month for life and for peace, for joy and for gladness, for salvation and for consolation.

There are those who fast on Erev Rosh Chodesh and say the special tefillos of Yom Kippur Koton. The Chofetz Chaim was once in Warsaw on Erev Rosh Chodesh and was looking for a minyan to say the tefillos of Yom Kippur Koton, but the people in the vicinity where he was staying did not observe this minhag. When he asked them why it was not their custom, they answered, “Because their rebbi does not observe this minhag.” The Chofetz Chaim told them that he was reminded of a story.

“I was sitting and riding on a train and there were no Yidden in my car. When the train made its first stop, a Yid entered. I asked him where he was headed to and he answered that he was traveling to the same destination I was. Ah… Boruch Hashem, I had a Yid to converse with the entire way. But then, as we were approaching the very next stop, I was surprised to see my companion getting up and preparing to exit the train.

“I told him that we were still a long way from our destination and that he could sit back and relax. To my disappointment, he answered, ‘I am well aware that it is a long way to my destination. Yet, I am forced to get off here anyway. You see, you are able to afford a full fare from the beginning of the trip to the end. I, however, am a pauper and cannot afford to pay the fair at all, so I go around begging for just enough money to get me to the next station. Then I get off and solicit more money to take me to the next stop, and then eventually, in this way, I reach my destination.’

“Your rebbi,” said the Chofetz Chaim, “is wealthy in zechuyos. He can afford to make the long trip from one Rosh Hashanah to the next without having to stop in the middle to beseech Hashem to let him go further. We simple people, on the other hand, have a limited amount of merit that cannot pay for the entire fare from one year to the next. We need those stops in the middle at every Yom Kippur Koton to daven to Hashem to allow us to proceed further until the next station, the next Erev Rosh Chodesh.

Just how potent the power of Rosh Chodesh is to revitalize can be seen from the following. Dovid Hamelech was a family member in the house of King Shaul. After his triumph over Golias the Plishti and his numerous victories on the battlefield, he became famous and beloved amongst his people. But his popularity brought about the jealousy of the king. This was exacerbated by an ill spirit that descended upon him to confuse him. Despite the fact that Dovid married his daughter, Michal, and was able to soothe the misery caused by the evil spirit by playing music on his harp, Shaul was out to get him.

First Shaul tried killing him by flinging a spear at him, but Dovid eluded it in the nick of time. Then he sent men to surround the house that Dovid was in for the purpose of capturing him. With the help of his wife, Michal, Dovid was able to escape through a window. Hearing that Dovid had fled to Ramah, hometown of Shmuel Hanovi, Shaul pursued him there as well, but as he approached the place where Shmuel was, he was overwhelmed by a spirit of nevuah and lost his sense, thus allowing Dovid to escape once again.

Now Dovid was in a quandary as to whether he should return to the palace or not. Of course it would be in the best interest of the royal family and the entire kingdom that he return, but he feared for his life. Yehonason, his loyal friend, tried convincing him that it was safe to return, so Dovid decided to test Shaul to see how deep his ill feeling toward him was. He said to Yehonason, “Behold, tomorrow, in the new moon, when I would usually sit with the king to eat, grant me leave and I will hide in the field until the third evening of the month” (Shmuel I 20:5-6). If Shaul would get angry, that would be a sign that the evil decree had become final with him.

One wonders: What was Dovid thinking? He had already eluded Shaul’s spear. He had escaped when Shaul sent men after him. He fled when Shaul chased after him in Ramah. How could he possibly think that Shaul was not out to kill him?

Rav Shimon Schwab explained that in those days, Rosh Chodesh was considered a Yom Tov, as is evident from the pesukim. This wasn’t merely a physical celebration of eating and drinking. Rather, it was a day of ruchniyus, when a growth-oriented person could elevate his spiritual level. It was a day of renewal, as its name implies, when a person could shed his deficiencies and get a fresh start for the coming month.

This is what Dovid was banking on. “Tomorrow is the beginning of a new month. Although in the past Shaul was out to kill me, perhaps since he encountered Shmuel Hanovi and prophesied now with Rosh Chodesh, he can start a new life with a clear mind and a positive attitude.” This was Dovid’s hope. Unfortunately, the evil spirit was too strong for Shaul to cope with. But we do see from here how potent Rosh Chodesh was in the eyes of Dovid Hamelech that it could bring about a total change in Shaul’s attitude.

This quality of renewal that is inherent in Rosh Chodesh has a special significance for us at this time of year. A long, cold winter tends to confine us, constricting our senses and bringing about a malaise in our avodah. Chodesh Adar brings a special simcha and exuberance into our serving Hashem. This leads into Nissan, the month of the geulah and the ultimate in hischadshus. It all begins with Shabbos Mevorchim this week, when we daven for a month of blessing and success.

Chazal tell us: “If one wants his assets to be everlasting, he should plant them in an Adar tree” (Beitzah 15b). There are numerous explanations of this statement. The Bnei Yissoschor explains that with Yetzias Mitzrayim, Hashem showed the entire world that He was able to perform miracles and bend the laws of nature. But when the world functions according to the laws of teva, the non-thinking person doesn’t see the Yad Hashem and fails to realize the Hashgocha Protis on every individual.

The neis of Purim happened without bending the laws of nature. It all happened b’derech hateva, yet in the end, it was plain for all to see how Hashem’s Hand was present every step of the way. This is the special lesson of Adar, that every aspect of our lives is controlled by Hashem. The more we connect with Hashem, the more we daven to Him and attribute our accomplishments to His guidance, the more successful we are.

This is what is meant by planting an Adar tree. If we want our assets to flourish, we must plant in them the outlook of Adar that our lives, our parnassah and our blessings are all in the Hands of Hashem. And the closer we bring ourselves to Hashem, the more He brings blessing into our lives and our material assets are preserved.

But there is a deeper meaning in this. Our material assets are not really everlasting, for even the most successful entrepreneur cannot bring his acquisitions with him to the next world. They are only meaningful to him as long as he is alive. But if one plants the hashkafah of Adar in his life and walks with Hashem, then he uses his assets to serve Hashem and to sanctify His name. Then his material acquisitions and every physical action become spiritual and follow him to Olam Haba. This is something to ponder and internalize in our Adar awakening.



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