As Adar Begins …
One of the most beloved of all our halachot is, “When Adar arrives, we increase simcha, joy.” Without a doubt, there is a unique quality to the joy of Adar, and many feel the simcha of Purim has a special, vibrant character all its own. What is this special Purim simcha? What is it’s deeper, underlying meaning?
Perhaps we can say that what’s unique about this simcha is that it’s not the outgrowth of anything specific. As a rule, joy results from receiving or achieving something. That something could be financial, educational, professional, personal or spiritual. Whatever the case, the joy is a result of time and effort invested and the sense of achievement and accomplishment.
Purim, on the other hand, simply is joyous. The intrinsic fabric of Adar and Purim is simcha. There is a unique potential within Purim known as v’nohafech hu: the ability to suddenly see things from a totally new, fresh, and different perspective. The simcha of Purim doesn’t come from this or that achievement, rather—v’nohafech hu—the potential for achievement is an outgrowth of the inner joy of Purim, of the sheer fact that we are infused with the vital energy of simcha that naturally opens our eyes to whole new realities, and the potential and possibility for new achievements.
And where does this unique simcha come from? From the essence of life itself. For indeed, our very existence itself is the source of simcha. Literally, just like the sun naturally radiates it’s light, life naturally radiates joy. To feel and experience simcha is to experience life and what flows from it. So long as we don’t cloud and suppress our essential connection to life, and as long as we allow our connection to life to flow, then simcha will be a natural state of being.
Isn’t that what we see in children? Simply full of life, and simply and naturally joyful. And why is that? Because their lives are uncomplicated, because there is nothing standing between them, and life; nothing that stymies their connection to the basic vitality of life, of living, of being alive. Their innocence and simplicity, their innate integrity and purity, necessarily fill them with a feeling of joy and happiness. From this we can understand that simcha and the richness it brings to life is actually the natural extension of simply embracing and appreciating the great gift of life itself.
When we realize that the essence of existence is existence itself, it becomes clear that everything that might try to cloud our vision and appreciation pales in the face of life itself. Indeed, we can see this clearly when we contrast life with it’s opposite. When there is a threat to our lives, suddenly it’s crystal clear how the value of life towers over everything else. Suddenly, when there is a threat—when Amalek rears it’s threatening head—everything else is thrown into clear proportion and perspective. The threat to life drives home the incalculable preciousness of life, and when the threat passes, simcha floods in; the pure joy of life itself rushes to the surface.
Imagine a parent and child whose relationship has been ruptured, seemingly, past the point of repair. Suddenly there is a threat to the child’s life, and in that moment of existential threat, everything that drove the two apart falls by the wayside. In a moment, pure love rushes to the fore. And then, when the threat passes, all that remains in their hearts is pure, unconditional, parent-child love. All those issues and complications that came between them are deflated by that near-death, then back-to-life experience. Despite the fact that the potential for seeing and feeling that innate love was always present, unfortunately, mere trivialities—in comparison to life itself—were allowed to insinuate themselves into the picture and to erect seemingly insurmountable barriers.
Amalek hates the Jewish nation, hates the very fact of our existence. Amalek couldn’t care less what we do or don’t do, he just wants us gone, dead. In Germany, we met this towering monster face-to-face. Amalek’s brutal, relentless opposition to our very existence is a response to the ohr, the light, that radiates from our lives, from the simple fact of our being a living, breathing presence in the world. Like nocturnal, darkness-dwelling bats that can’t tolerate the presence of light, Amalek can’t tolerate the presence of Am Yisrael. The fact that Amalek strove to eradicate any and every Jew, regardless of what type of life they lived or didn’t live, tells us that what Amalek couldn’t tolerate was us: our presence, our existence, our simply being alive at all.
Life Highlights Light
In Persia, when the genocidal threat of Amalek was vanquished, what suddenly became crystal clear was the pure, simple preciousness of Jewish existence: the existence of every Jew, and of the Jewish people. Amalek wanted to utterly extinguish the light of our existence, and through that failure, we came to see the pure beauty and brilliance of the light that had been so terribly threatened with extinction. That ohr, that inherent Divine light that is the essential fabric of our being, isn’t the product of something we acquired or achieved: it’s just us, pure and simple; simply the light of life, of Jewish existence.
Connection to that essential soul-light of life naturally fills us with strength and vitality, naturally drives despair away, and clears the way for a streaming flow of life to fill our hearts with hope, ambition, dreams and simcha. On Purim we learn to be overjoyed simply with being who we are; the living, breathing nation of Israel and all that entails. And, we learn to laugh at all the pettiness that gets between us, and us: that pulls our focus to what we aren’t instead of what we simply are: Jews, Am Yisrael.
In Adar, and on Purim, the holy, spiritual essence of our souls—the truest, purest reality of our existence—bursts into clear view and fills our hearts with the remarkable light of simcha. Just like our vile enemy, blind to any other consideration, hunted every Jew simply for the fact of he or she was a Jew, the opposite is also true. V’nohafech hu, the joyous ohr of Purim takes hold of every Jew, no questions asked, just because he is a living, breathing Jew. This experience, this reality, connects us to life, to our existence as Jews, and to our innate kedusha-sanctity.
This is the sōd, the deep, beneath the surface reality that is the powerful inner force of Purim. This is the underlying secret of the remarkable joy that is present on Purim, and that seeps into every nook and cranny of our being. It’s not a coincidence that Purim is thirty days before Passover, the day of our freedom, of our liberation to be ourselves, and not the slaves of another. The power of Purim bestows upon us the abilities and capabilities to be ourselves, to be liberated Jews, and to be free of any force that dares to stand between us, and ourselves; between us and life, Jewish life.
The joy – the simcha! – of being a Jew.
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Translation by Shimon Apisdorf