Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Month of Adar: C’mon Get Happy

The Mishna in Ta’anit tells us that with the arrival of the month of Adar comes an increase in joy. But what’s to get happy about?

The Sfat Emet teaches that Adar is a time for awakening one’s love for Hashem. Just as Elul, the month before Tishrei and Rosh Hashanah, is a time for tshuva (repentance), so too the month of Adar is a special time for tshuva, since Nissan also marks a beginning of the year.

But there is a substantial difference between these two types of tshuva. During Elul our tshuva is driven by awe; during Adar, it is driven by love.

Adar is not about fear of judgment, but rather about a desire to be close to our Creator.

Rav Yitzhak Luria, known as the Ari of Tsfat, taught that Yom Kippur is Yom Ke-Purim, i.e., the day that is likened to Purim. In other words, Yom Kippur, a day in which Hashem wipes the slate clean from all our misdeeds, takes a back seat to Purim. How can this be?

In the Sfat Emet we see an answer. A relationship based on fear or awe is not a complete relationship. Imagine a marriage in which the spouse is only fulfilling his or her obligations out of a feeling of fear. Obviously this is a relationship in dire straits. So too with our relationship with Hashem; if our whole desire to come close is only out of obligation or fear of punishment, the relationship is on shaky ground.

Adar is a time to focus on all the good and blessing that fills our lives, and how we want to be close to the Source of that blessing. There is no room for misdeeds when this is our focus. And as our sages teach, there is no greater joy then experiencing closeness to Hashem.

Here are some practical ways in which to feel this joy and closeness:

¨ Before you go to bed at night, write down three things that happened that day for which you feel thankful to Hashem.

¨ Find a quiet place to talk to Hashem. Speak freely about specific positive events that have happened to you recently.

¨ Take an extra moment in your daily prayers to close your eyes and take a breath, and to focus on the source of that breath. Alternatively, during prayer put your hands on your chest, and feel the warmth and life that radiates from your body.

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