The Special Joys of Adar

We have previously explored in these pages the meaning of “From the time Adar enters, we increase our simcha” (Taanis 29a). But since we know that “there are seventy faces to the Torah,” let us explore another light shining from the face of Adar. Indeed, the Chasam Sofer was asked two centuries ago (see Teshuvos, Orach Chaim 160) why neither the Rambam nor the Shulchan Aruch mention this halacha, while they do record the opposite one concerning the month of Av. The consensus amongst poskim (see a good review in Moadim Lesimcha, pages 84-90) seems to be that there is no specific act or mitzvah associated with this statement as there is with the month of Av. Therefore, the poskim don’t mention it.

However, the hashkafah seforim do discover practical attitudes and madreigos that are both mandated and accessible during Adar. For instance, Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu 2:123) notes that the Rambam (end of Hilchos Lulav) includes love of Hashem as part of the more general mitzvah of performing mitzvos with simcha (joy). He explains that “the joy that a Yid feels when he draws closer to Hashem is proof of his innermost desire to be connected to Hashem… The mitzvah of simcha during the month of Adar therefore implies and requires arousing our innermost and sometimes latent love for Hashem.”

Another approach to this issue is often linked to the statement in Chazal (Beitza 15b) that “one who wishes his properties to succeed and be maintained should plant an Eder tree.” The classic translation of this apparent advice is that one who wishes to retain his properties and insure them against poachers and thieves should plant this mighty tree, which will always be identified with his land. However, one interpretation (Bnei Yissoschor) is that if a person wishes to succeed spiritually in life, he should do everything with the joy associated with the month of Adar and Purim. The rebbes of Aleksander and Slonim (see Margoliyos Hashas to Beitza) understand this planting to be the middah of emes. If one infuses his business dealings with integrity and honesty, he will be successful and his endeavors will be long-lasting.

Another understanding of the name “Adar” is imputed to Rav Nochum of Chernobel (quoted by Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter in Venichtav Basefer 2:200), as explained by a son-in-law of the Gerrer Rebbe, the Bendiner Rov, Rav Chanoch Tzvi Hakohein Levine (Yechahein Pe’er, Shemos, page 81). He suggests, based upon the Sefer Me’ohr Einayim, that the word Adar stands for Alufo [shel Olam] dar (where the Master of the world dwells). He explains that Hashem dwells with His people, Am Yisroel, when they are humble and joyous. He understands joy to be a function of the modest attitude that “I am happy with whatever I have been given by Hashem.” As has often been said, the person with few expectations is happy with whatever he has been given. The person who has feelings of entitlement and expects everything is rarely satisfied and usually depressed, because he has not achieved what he feels is his.

I believe that the Bendiner Rov may be referring to the teaching that Klal Yisroel achieved a level of anavah (humility) during Adar because they knew that they had sinned at Achashveirosh’s feast. To be sure, it was a subtle sin, for they ate kosher and they were compelled to attend. But they should have “put on a happy face” and been mortified inside. Hence the masks of Purim. However, too many of us took the opportunity to enjoy the “permissible partying” and so angered Hashem. When we reaccepted the Torah out of love and teshuvah, Hashem granted us a proper period of joy and celebration.

Rav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim 2:198) sees this as the only practical result of the marbim b’simcha. We should seek to push off any court case with a gentile except for Adar, because this is a time propitious for success in such adversarial situations. The reason that this is the most auspicious time of the year is that we have been granted a special level of Hashgocha Protis (Divine Providence) during Adar. Rav Friedlander explains that this special gift flows from two separate emotions and self-discoveries. First of all, we feel our sense of inadequacies and are all the more imbued with hakoras hatov – profound gratitude – to Hashem. Secondly, the new closeness we have achieved with Hashem by recognizing everything He does for us facilitates our success in dealing with others. We come to the court as friends of the court, so to speak, perhaps even outright family, and so we triumph against them without lifting a finger.

This wonderful situation also flows from the fact that Purim is a nes nistar, a hidden miracle, which is all the more personal because it is quiet and not for public consumption. The Name of Hashem is not in the Megillah and, as many of our seforim have pointed out, Megillas Esther literally means “revealing that which is hidden.” We might venture to say that this has a double meaning. The great miracle, which was hidden in the Megillah as a mere story, play or novel, is now actually known to us all as a manifestation of Hashem’s love. But, according to the Sifsei Chaim, there is another dimension to this revelation of the hidden. That is the discovery of our own latent love and closeness to Hashem which had become obscured in the mists of the exile. This serves to fuse our bond with Hashem even more closely, for we demonstrated love and trust in Hashem even when that seemed illogical and counterintuitive.

This concept can be seen in the words of my rebbi, Rav Yitzchok Hutner (Sefer Hazikaron Pachad Yitzchok, page 345), as well. He quotes from the Maharal that the sources of the middah of ahavah and yirah are often diametrically opposed directions. Yirah, roughly translated as fear or awe, comes from the recognition of the vast difference between our Creator and ourselves. On the other hand, ahavah, or love, comes from the concept of dimuy hatzurah l’yotzrah, what we have in common with our Creator. Contemplating our hopeless distance from Hashem can only generate more distance, although it implants the proper and necessary fear of sinning and punishment. However, when we feel an overwhelming love for our Father in Heaven, it draws us ever closer into His innermost sanctum and place of joy.

The Imrei Emes, in several places and quoting his father, the Sefas Emes, explains the word nichnas as meaning to internalize. We must take the lessons of Adar and Purim and make them part of our very essence. That is what generates the ultimate joy, for we truly feel Hashem’s presence within us. That, in and of itself, removes any feelings of loneliness we may have or abandonment and disenchantment we may have experienced. Perhaps what the rebbe also means is that this great faith and belief come during Adar even before we have been saved. The power of our emunah coupled with the modesty we developed creates such an eternal connection to our Father in heaven that we can draw upon it and access its power in every generation. May we indeed have a wonderful Adar culminating in the sublime joy of Purim.