Based on a shiur by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, the following has been prepared by Rabbanit Kineret Sarah Cohen of OhelSara.com to help us prepare to be joyous during the two months of Adar in a Jewish leap year.
PREPARING FOR THE TWO MONTHS OF ADAR
Excerpts From Rabanit Yemima Mizrachi Shiur
Edited With Additions By Rabanit Kineret Sarah Cohen
There is a pasuk in Sefer Tehilim that embodies the way we should attempt to live our lives and how we should proceed with doing mitzvot. It is a pasuk that will hopefully leave us with a deeper understanding of what it means to live happily even amid the turbulent times we face.
David Hamelech (a”h) writes: “Ashirah la’Hashem be’cha’yai – azamra Le’Elokai be’odi.” On a simplistic level, a “shir” is a song that people sing unassumingly; just because. But chachamim tell us that many of us have lost that pure and unassuming state. How then do we retrieve it? How can we bring ourselves to sing a happy song from within?
Rabee Nachman (a”h) teaches that the greatest song you could sing, is a song of thankfulness and praise; a song that bursts forth from the heart and makes you feel that it is worth it to be living in this world because you are meant to achieve something; because you have a purpose. “Ashirah La’Hashem be’chayai, azamra le’Elokai be’odi.” How good it is; how wonderful it feels to be alive.
The fact that I am alive makes me happy enough to burst forth into song.
The question is: are we happy women? The answer is, no. A woman is not naturally happy. Her nature is sadness. Why?
When Chavah was banished from Gan Eden following the sin of the Etz Ha’daat, Hashem cursed her saying, “Arbah arbeh itzvonech v’heronech – I shall surely increase your sorrow and your pregnancy. B’etzev teldi vanim ve’el ishech teshukatech – in pain you shall bear children, and to your husband will be your desire…”
For this reason chachamim explain, a woman will always experience sadness concerning one of these two areas of life: her children or her husband. Therefore, happiness does not come naturally to a woman and she must work much harder to attain it and maintain it.
The Rambam (a”h) explains that being be’simchah, feeling happiness is a big job, “avodah gedolah hee.” But the time of year that has the ability to elevate our neshamah to a heightened level of simchah takes place in the month of Adar. In order to understand this on a deeper level, let us first analyze the definition of sadness and happiness according to Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (a”h).
He states that a broken heart or a feeling of bitterness is not considered sadness. This is not the definition of atzvut. What is sadness then?
Sadness, he explains, is when your heart is as stiff as a stone and there is no life in your being. It is when you do not feel wither sadness or happiness. You are indifferent. This is sadness.
Someone with a broken heart can still experience tremendous happiness. How so?
The word “etzev,” which is defined as sadness in Hebrew, also means, a statue. This is seen in the pasuk in Tehilim: “Atzabeyhem, kesef v’zahav – their idols were fashioned of silver and gold. Peh lahem ve’lo yedabeiru – the idols have a mouth but do not speak – eynayim lahem ve’lo yiru – they; have eyes but cannot see…”
It stands to reason that being completely indifferent to everything that goes on around you is like a statue that has no life or energy. This is indeed sadness. When you cannot allow some feeling whether sadness or happiness to enter your heart, this is atzvut. When you have eyes but cannot see the wonders that surround you, this is atzvut. When you hear your children singing and cannot comment on the beauty of the melody, that is indeed sadness. This is atzvut.
When you cry however, believe it or not, you are exhibiting signs of a happy woman. When you feel a sting in your heart of bitterness, you are expressing your state of happiness. When you yell at your children, you are a very happy woman. This is because you are actually allowing something or someone to affect you, to move you, and to create a reaction in you. You are no longer a “statue” that does not talk, see, hear, or know.
When you are in a state of sadness or happiness in just one moment everything can change. You can go from your sad disposition to being a happy person. We find this idea in the Gemara: “K’shem she’mi’shenichnas Av me’maatim be’simchah – kach mi’she’nichnas Adar, marbin be’simchah.” This is a strange comparison.
The Gemara states that same way that when the month of Av comes along on the calendar you must diminish your simchah – this is the same way you must increase the simchah when Adar appears on the calendar.
What an odd comparison this is. How can we take two opposing ideas and compare them? There is obviously a deeper meaning that we must endeavor to understand.
Chachamim reveal to us that we can rebuild our Bet Hamikdash by crying in the month of Av and we can also rebuild our Bet Mikdash in Chodesh Adar by increasing our joy. We see this at the end of Megilat Esther where shortly after the story of Purim, the second Bet Hamikdash was constructed.
This was a powerful message being sent to us.
Happiness and joy can build a Bet Mikdash while sadness and tears can rebuild it as well. Why? Because it means we are actually feeling something. We are allowing our hearts to be flooded with emotions. It turns out that we are not sad women after all. We are women who have feelings and are filled with emotion and passion. We have a heart that moves us. We are not indifferent. We actually care.
One of the things that makes it hard for us as women to be truly happy is when someone else in our home is not happy. Whether it is a husband or a child, we see their sadness and wonder what we can do to help them. And almost automatically, we too become sad.
Rabee Nachman teaches that if there is someone in our home who refuses to be happy, we cannot help him. Why?
Because happiness is a choice that a person possesses. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad. If that were not true, chachamim would not have asked us to accelerate our joy in Adar and diminish it in Av. Think about it.
We are not robots. How can Rabanim tell us when to be happy and when to be sad? We cannot be switched on and off whenever they tell us to. We are not a light switch. We are human beings.
Precisely because we are human beings we have that ultimate control in our hands. Each of us has the ability to choose to be happy or chas v’shalom to be sad. Therefore, if someone chooses to be sad, there is very little you can do for that person. Rabee Nachman states, “Kashe meod laazor le’mi she’yesh lo bechirah.” Someone who is handicapped and does not have a choice can be helped. A little child who does not yet understand the meaning of choice can also be helped. But a mature, healthy person who chooses to be in a state of sadness cannot be helped.
If this is so, how can we ever have a happy home?
Rabee Nachaman reveals the secret of a happy life and a happy home. He writes that simchah is contagious. You should walk into your house and exhibit happiness. Put on some happy music. Sing along and dance along. Try to daven out loud be’simchah. Constantly distribute positive words that leave an optimistic feeling in the air. At first, everyone in your house will look at you as though you fell off the moon. But then you will notice something miraculous will occur. It is called, “Ve’davak be’ishto.” Your husband will cling to your happiness and he will want to experience it too.
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot states: “Im ein ani li, mi li – If I am not for myself, who will be for me? U’che’she’ani le’atzmi, ma ani – and if I am for myself, what am I? Ve’im lo achshav ei matai – and if not now, when?”
The holy Sefat Emet (a”h) explains the words of the Mishnah in the following manner:
“Im ein ani li, mi li – if I am not going to make myself happy, who is going to make me happy?”
I must stop waiting for the entire world to make me happy. I have to stop saying, “When I’ll be rich I’ll be happy. When I lose 25 pounds, I’ll be happy.” This isn’t true. When I will be happy, I will have the blessing of parnasah. When I will be happy, I will not care that I am over weight. (I should care but the point is that the over weight problem will not cause me to be sad).
This coming month of Adar, we women must try to bring into our home the influences of simchah.
The Sefat Emet points out that the term, “mi’she,” in the word, “mi’she’nichnas,” does not mean “whoever.” He explains that it means, “from the second Adar begins – “mi’she’nichnas,” – if from the second Adar appears on the calendar you make an effort to be happy – then, marbin be’simchah min ha’shamayim. Hashem will grant you a year filled with happiness. This is especially true when there are two Adarim in the year.
Rav Levi Yitzchak Mi’Berditchov adds to his and states that since there are 60 days of Adar in a leap year – if you make an effort to be happy, then your sadness will be batel b’shishim. This is how special it is to have two Adarim.
The Sefat Emet continues with the interpretation of the Mishnah: “U’che’she’ani le’atzmi, mah ani?” If I am happy, but alone, this is not true happiness because happiness is contagious. Everyone around me should be happy as well. Therefore, we have to share that happiness with the members of our family.
“Ve’im lo achshav, ei matai? – and if I will not try to be happy in this Month of Adar – ei matai? Then when will it ever happen?“
The holy Rav Papo (a”h) taught that on Rosh Chodesh Adar there is a special Siyata Dishmaya that descends into this world in order to assist you to be happy. How is this manifested? Chazal tell us: “K’shem she’mi’she’nichnas Av me’maatim – kach mi’shenichnas Adar marbin.” Let us examine some of the things forbidden to do beginning Rosh Chodesh Av.
Beginning Rosh Chodesh Av we refrain from eating meat. On this Rosh Chodesh Adar, prepare a meal made from meat to welcome this joyous month. Do not be lazy. A fleishigeh meal is a segulah for simchah. In the month of Av we are not permitted to listen to music. On Rosh Chodesh Adar put on happy music and if you can, sing and dance along. Moving your body creates more joy. It does something to your neshamah.
Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch (a”h) taught that when we move our hands and body it is as though we are showing Hashem that we are here, that we are alive, that we still feel something in our heart.
Interestingly, the famous poem, Eshet Chayil makes many references to the hands: “Va’taas be’chefetz kapeha – and her hands work willingly.” “Mi’pri kapeha nata kerem – the fruit of her handiwork she plants.” “Yadeha shilcha be’kishor – she puts her hand to the distaff.” “Ve’chapeha tamchu falech – and her palms support the spindle.” “Kapa parsa le’ani – she spreads out her palm to the poor.” “Ve’yadeha shilcha le’evyon – and extends her hand to the destitute…”
When you move your hands and body while doing a mitzvah, it is a sign of life. That sign of life is seen from the heavens and Hashem brings down to your heart and home a little more happiness and blessings.
Perhaps we can now understand those ridiculous hand gestures they used to make us do in elementary school when we sang songs like, “Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar meod…” We now know the beauty and the secret behind the hand movements. Those hand gestures created a sign of life and reawakened something inside us.
Therefore ladies, beginning this Rosh Chodesh Adar, you should start cooking, baking and dancing. Do something that projects movement and joy. Texting does not count.
Beginning the month of Av we are not permitted to purchase new clothing. Need I say more? The good news is, this year there are two Adarim. Ladies, go out and buy yourselves something new, even if it is a small item.
The Maharal (a”h) teaches that new clothing that a woman purchases makes her happy. He writes that the word Adar, which comes from the word, “Aderet,” means, a “disguise.” Eliyahu had an aderet, a cloak, a disguise that he wore. Chachamim say that until Eliyahu Ha’navi comes when we will experience real happiness – we are in the darkness and sadness of Galut Edom.
In order to feel some happiness from inside in this galut, we have to put on a disguise; we have to clothe ourselves from the outside in order to influence our heart from inside. Beginning Rosh Chodesh Adar, go out and buy yourself something new because there is nothing more expensive than a sad woman. I am certain your husbands will agree.
Rav Shelomo Zalmen Auerbach (a”h) once said that there are four things we should do in preparation of this joyous month and they are categorized as follows:
Mi’she’nichnas: Beginning Rosh Chodesh Adar before you enter your home ask yourself: “Am I entering a happy home? What am I going to do to create happiness behind this door?” Rav Auerbach used to fix his jacket and his pants before walking into his house and when his talmidim asked him why he was doing this, he replied, “I’m now going to meet the Shechinah! My wife is the Shechinah and when I enter my home it’s a mini Bet Hamikdash.” On Rosh Chodesh Adar before you enter your home, before you are “nichnas” through that door, ask yourself: “Is this a happy home?”
The Zohar Ha’kadosh states that there are two couples. Their names are, Sason ve’simchah and Yagon va’anachah. Ask yourself what is written on the door to your home? Does your plaque read, “Here live Sason ve’simchah?” Or does it read, “Here live Yagon Va’anachah?”
Is there yelling and criticism in your home? Or worse. Is it a quiet home where each person retreats to his corner of the house, secluding himself to his own agenda and technology? If you stand by your door and realize that you are entering a home that is not the happiest – place your right hand on the mezuzah and say the following words: “Et panecha Hashem avakesh – Hashem, I want to experience your illumination. I want to have a Me’ohr Panim and be able to shine forth from within so that my home will radiate.”
Adar – We learned that Adar come from the word “aderet” which means a disguise. Try and disguise some of the things you would want to say. You do not always have to be straight forward and blunt. Not everything you think has to be said. If you work on this point especially during these two months, you will notice how much happier your home is.
Marbin – The word “marbin,” is often used in the context of forgiveness. We find this idea in the words we daven in tefilat Shemoneh Esrei: “Chanun ha’marbeh lisloach.”
We must work on forgiveness. Many people are sad not because they are in a disagreement with someone rather because they are fighting with themselves from within. When they are alone in the privacy of their own room and are angry at their neighbor – they begin to conjure up an entire disagreement in their mind all by themselves: “If I see her, I’m going to tell her A,B,C. And if she tells me D – I’ll tell her E. And if she’ll try and tell me F, then I’ll say G, H, I, J, K…”
It is very important during this month of Adar to make peace with those you are conflicted about. When you make peace with those around you, you will have peace within yourself. When you feel peaceful inside, the door of your heart can be open to experience happiness.
Be’simchah – Interestingly, we do not say, “Marbin ET ha’simchah.” We say, “Marbin Be’simchah.”
In other words, we should not think that we need more in life in order to attain happiness. Whatever we already have in our life, be’simchah, we should be happy with it. We should be content with all that we already possess. Marbin be’simchah – be happy with the little bit you have and you will realize how much you truly possess.
We are not only asked to accelerate our joy in the month of Adar. We are asked to become more aware of all the happiness we should feel for all we already possess but have not managed to see it the other months of the year.
There is so much happiness in our home that we are not aware of or choose to ignore. Chachamim ask us to realize how much we have in our life and in so doing this will increases our happiness from within. A happy woman breeds a happy home.
A happy heart projects outward and effects the inner core of those around you. A happy soul radiates, inspires and warms the souls of those whose hearts are stiff and cold.
May we all be zocheh as a result of our efforts and work, to experience great miracles in our life – v’nahafoch hu. In the merit of your simchah, may any sorrow in your life be overturned to joy. In the merit of you forgiving others, may any gezar din you may have had to experience be reversed in your favor. And B’ezrat Hashem may all your efforts help to build our third Bet Mikdash b’karov mamash.