Friday, March 18, 2005

#105 Marbim B'Simcha--Increasing Joy

Musings #105
March 17, 2005
6th of Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet

Marbim B’Simcha
Increasing Joy

The Jewish month of Adar, which falls at the end of the winter, the dawn of spring, is known as the season on “increasing joy.” This year, doubly so, since it’s a Jewish leap year, meaning we have two months of Adar. In the nineteen year, Jewish calendar cycle the extra Adar is added seven times. It is very significant that it takes seven extra Adar’s to complete our calendar. Seven is the traditional number for “wholeness,” completion.

The Jewish calendar is the only one that unifies both the lunar and solar. Our months are counted strictly by the phases of the moon. The month ends when it’s almost impossible to see even the thinnest crescent, and it begins with the first showing of a strip of light from the “new moon.” If we only followed the moon, like the Moslems, we would find ourselves celebrating spring holidays in winter, and winter in summer. Holidays wouldn’t appear the same season year after year. If we went strictly by the solar calendar, like the Christians, our months would not be related to the moon.

Our sages found a solution to have the best of both worlds, a calendar that follows both the moon and the seasons. This year is one with two months of Adar. How ironic, just when our country is in mortal danger, from it’s own political “leaders,” we have double the joy according to the calendar. Not only that, but we have a “weekend” Purim holiday, a Purim “m’shulash,” a “tri-cornered” Purim. This is the only timing of Purim on which all Jews hear the “Megillat (Scroll of) Esther” on the same day.

Generally there are two days of Purim, one immediately after the Fast of Esther, before one even has a chance to eat, and the later one, for those who lived in cities that were walled, like Jerusalem, at the time of the Purim story. And there are cities like Shiloh, where Purim is celebrated on both days.

This year The Fast of Esther is on Thursday, and that evening regular Purim begins with Megilla reading, even for those who will be celebrating a “postponed” Shushan Purim on Sunday, instead of the proper calendar day on Shabbat. In the Megilla, we read a very interesting and unusual story. Considering that it’s about a miracle and strong faith, you’d expect to hear about G-d, but His Name isn’t mentioned even once. This isn’t a story like the exodus from Egypt with the splitting of the Red Sea and other very obvious miracles by G-d.

The story of Purim is a story of how a couple of Jews, the minority of the Persian Jewish community, managed to turn a critically dangerous situation into victory. The Persian king and his government, especially his chief minister, Haman, were not sympathetic to the Jewish community at all. The Jew, Mordechai, was valued only because he had been useful to the king, informing him of sedition.

Mordechai wasn’t even particularly popular amongst his fellow Jews who had gone to the king’s parties, where he ridiculed them by using precious ritual objects he had stolen from the Holy Temple. If there had been a referendum or elections, Mordechai would have lost. Your ordinary Jew was interested in being part of Persian society, not like the old-fashioned Mordechai who stationed himself by the king’s gate and refused to bow down to Haman. Ironically, Mordechai, the proud Jew, sent his Cousin Esther incognito into the king’s harem. She was instructed not to say that she was a Jew until absolutely necessary to save her people.

Only when Haman was given permission to destroy the Jewish community did they look to Mordechai for leadership. They had been certain that they were in a civilized, cultured country and wouldn’t be in danger if they assimilated. Assimilation didn’t save them. They were saved only when they united, prayed to G-d and fought together against their common enemy.

And, davka, this year, when our Nation is so divided and endangered we will all be reading the Megillat Esther on the same day. G-d willing this unity will bring us Full Redemption.

Chag Purim Sameach,

Batya Medad
, Shiloh
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