Welcome, friends, to the Hebrew month of Adar.
משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה
“When the month of Adar begins,” our Talmud teaches, “joy increases.”
We want joy to be an easy thing, a thing that happens all by itself when — as Paul Simon has it — we have “soil soft as summer and the strength to push like spring.”
But Adar (at least in this part of the world) is a month that asks us to “push like spring” toward joy when the ground is still frozen, when the nights are still longer than the days.
מצוה גדולה להיות בשמחה תמיד
“It is a great mitzvah” Rebbe Nachman teaches, “to be in joy always.”
But Rebbe Nachman knew that joy is something we have to cultivate. Joy — whether in late winter or whenever the soul is wintery — is not just something that happens; it’s something we find by “always” (i.e. with constant persistence) digging deeper and deeper into our scanter and scanter reserves until we get right down to that one tiny place inside where joy has no choice but to bloom.
And so it’s no wonder that Purim (near the full moon of Adar) is a holiday of being at least a little bit off. The working with what we’ve got, the drinking, the transgressiveness cries out: Joy by any means necessary; Torah and more Torah even if the only Torah we’ve got left is this funky stuff that’s been fermenting underground all winter.
Adar is silly and playful but underneath this there is a warrior-like persistence for joy.
Me? I find myself, in this persistence, digging into many other cultures wildly all over the map for anything that keeps my head joyously above water. I’ve been reconnecting with the Shambhala warrior teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I’ve been watching Maori-inspired Rugby haka on YouTube. I’ve been listening to this Scottish-Celtic folk rock “Stamping Ground” song on repeat. And the sea chanties, let’s not forget those. Mine turn even saltier at this time of year. (Apparently Adar brings out my inner masculinity. Perfectly Purim-appropriate but we’ll save that for another post.)