“When the month of Adar enters, we increase our joy!” So declares the Talmud (Taanit 29a). The Hebrew month of Adarâ€”which began Saturday nightâ€”is famously a month of joy, of celebration. There are a few obvious reasons for thisâ€”the winter is finally ending (well, in a lot of placesâ€”maybe not the Midwest). And particularly in the ancient world, before our modern amenities and ability to get to food without dependence on the harvest seasons,that in itself was a pretty big cause for celebration. And, of course, Adar is the month featuring Purim, our crazy, wonderful, racuous celebration of silliness and inverting of assumptions, a time when our normal ways of being are thrown upside-down. Huzzah!
Of course, it’s hard to mandate that a person be joyful, or to be certain that you’re never going to have an off day all month. But the Talmud here isn’t saying that you will feel a certain wayâ€”joyfulâ€”but that we should act a certain wayâ€”joyfully! Sometimes our feelings change as a result of our actions, and when we do joyous, when we engage the world in a space of happiness and exaltation, it can have a huge impact on the way we feel inside.
A look at other sources that use the same word (simcha) is illuminating. Deuteronomy, eg talks about rejoicing “you, and your son, and your daughter, and your male servant, and your female servant, and the Levite who is inside your gates, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widowâ€¦.â€ This passage talks about having a festive feast, including not only your family (or, today, perhaps closest friends) but also people who might not be so obvious, from all classes and strata of society, and the most vulnerable members of societyâ€”the widow, orphan and stranger. Being joyful involves community, and involves casting a wide net of inclusivity, care, and justice.
Perhaps this Adarâ€”for the next monthâ€”you can move through the world in a space of joy. Act as though your life is a cause for celebration. Come together in community with those you love. Give generously and inclusively to those who are in a more marginal position, and feel your heart and your life expand as a result. And may you increase and keep increasing joy in your own life, and everyoneâ€™s.