With our (hopefully last) online Purim behind us, and the month of Adar coming to its last week, and with Pesach coming up on the horizon, I was led to think this week about the link between happiness, which are the mitzvah of Adar and the promise of freedom, which the next month Nissan brings with it.
Sometime in the late eighties, as you may remember, a musical hit took the radio by storm. It could not have been written by a Jew as it started by with the words ‘don’t worry,’ but it turned all Breslau quite quickly in the second part of the line – ‘be happy’. This pop hit suggested that inner freedom from worry is what leads to happiness, and not the other way around. The Jewish calendar, however, in some twist of Jewish fate, asks us to feel joy before we enjoy freedom, while we are worried.
These two modes are still very much with us. Many of us may have already had ourr first or even second vaccine, and may be experiencing the ‘happy’ brought by ‘don’t worry’. The rest of us are called by Adar to a greater challenge – the combination of happiness and worry, or rather of being happy as a way for inner freedom. To their aid, I call upon the fact that after all, we are not happy in Purim because we are commanded to, but because our fate has changed, because there is something in the world that has shifted. And something is happening in the world again! The days are finally getting longer, and the daffodils and snowdrops start their bloom. Hope is slowly returning. The children of our community will be going back to school on Monday, the care home residents finally will be allowed to see a visitor, and all of us will be able to see a friend in the park for a picnic. The link of joy and liberation could not be clearer to us.
The ancient Israeli liturgical poet Elazar Birai Kalir saw the link between the name of the coming month Nissan and the Hebrew words for a miracle – nes. And indeed in some mystical traditions, Nissan is considered Rosh Hashana for miracles. Considering it is about a week away, maybe we can go into this Shabbat with the combination of joy, hope, and expectation of delivery and miracles, being happy instead of worried? After all, Bobby McFerrin made millions out this very idea.
Student Rabbi Tali