Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar!
The Talmud tells us that once the month of Adar enters, we increase in simcha (joy)- “Mi Shenichnas Adar, Marvim B’Simcha“. I have much to be joyful about this month, and in Rosh Chodesh in particular, because I got married to my dear husband on Rosh Chodesh Adar. Yes, tomorrow is our tenth wedding anniversary! (This month has two days of Rosh Chodesh– today, the last day of Shvat, and tomorrow, Aleph Adar)
In addition to the anniversary joy, as soon as Adar begins I try to create a certain environment at home that reminds us of the ordinance from our Sages – “maarvim b’simcha” (increase in joy). Throughout Adar I’ll do “quirky” things for the kids. I’ll leave little notes or small prizes under their pillows, or in their sock drawers; leave candies and love notes in their lunch boxes; play loud music and have a dancing party with them; surprise them with home made chocolate cake for a weekday breakfast; welcome them from school with a pint of ice cream, instead of a proper dinner; and so on ;-). The goal is to make us all aware that this is a joyful time of year and that thus, we must increase in our joy.
Now, in case you’re thinking “that’s so fake” and that I’m “forcing joy” on all of us, let me tell you even more. Ever since my kids were little babies, just learning how to talk, I would say to them: “We have to be…Happy!” They grew up hearing it, and by two or three years old, they all had learned to respond to my cue… I’ll say, “We have to be…” and they answer “Happy!” Now you’re starting to think I’m over doing it, right?
I hear you, but bear with me…
At a young age, children are naturally happy. In fact, you go tend to them if suddenly they are unhappy. Their natural state is that of happiness. So, why do I repeat this phrase over and over to my kids from such a young age?
There is a natural process of human development in which kids start having to put more effort into being happy. As they get older, they start experiencing life, and all the disappointments that come with it, and perhaps being happy doesn’t come so naturally to them anymore. Hopefully, however, as they grow up, they also learn a powerful lesson: that being happy requires a conscious, mindful effort. Yet, one that is very much doable, and worthwhile.
Thus, when the going gets tough, they can revert to an inner voice (which eventually will be their own) saying, “We have to be… Happy!” I’m sure sometimes my older kids want to throw this voice out the window (and me with it), but this might prove to be a powerful tool for them later in them in life. How many times do I have to repeat those same words to my adult self!?
It’s interesting that the Talmud does not say “when the month of Adar enters, be joyful”. The Talmud tells us to increase in joy. That is, it assumes that we are already joyful. Ahmmm, had the Talmudic Sages walked by the Self Help section of any bookstore, they might have assumed otherwise.
King David tells us “Ivdu es H” b’simcha“, “Serve H” Joyfully.” King David says “serve.” He does not say “feel joyful towards H”. Why? Wouldn’t that make more sense? Isn’t happiness a feeling? The warm and fuzzies inside? Aren’t we all searching for feelings of happiness and joy? And, isn’t happiness one of our inalienable rights as prescribed by the U.S. Declaration of Independence?
If it’s our right- something we are entitled to- how come we’re all searching for it, yet few of us can claim to have attained true happiness and joy? (Did you know that Happiness 101 became the most widely attended class at Harvard University in 2006? From thereon, courses on Happiness have grown exponentially across college campuses in the U.S. Maybe the schools should measure how many of all the college students who enrolled in Happiness courses, later on claim to be happy adults. Perhaps the results would be disappointing.)
I’m going to stir a few feathers here. I do not mean to offend the Founding Fathers of our Nation, but according to Torah, they were a bit off the mark on this one. And unfortunately, this premise, has led many on an endless mad chase – “the pursuit of happiness.”
Happiness is not a right. Happiness is not a goal. For Jews, happiness is an obligation. Period.
“Oh but I don’t feel like it,” you say. (Remember my Practical Reminder here?) Sorry. Do it. Whether you feel it or not. Why? Because we have to. Because G-d gave us a mitzvah to be happy. G-d is telling us, it’s all going to be much better during this roller coaster ride if we ride it with joy. In order for us to accomplish what we were sent here for – to fulfill our utmost potential and a unique mission entrusted to us by our Maker – we need to be happy. Sorry. No choice.
Nobody said it was easy. It’s pretty hard. It takes a lot of mind power and will. King David already told us this, “Ivdu es H” b’simcha“. “Ivdu” from “avodá” – work. He already told you it is going to be work. So accept it and get to it.
When your baby began to walk, it was not easy for him (or for you), but he didn’t give himself a choice. He needed to walk and he worked at it until he did it. Did he cry out to you for help along the way? (He sure did, and so can we, as I talked about here.) Did he understand that you were in fact helping him by not holding him and letting him struggle with each step? Probably not. However, he still faced his challenge head on and kept at it until he walked.
So, am I “being fake”? Am I “forcing joy” on all of us? Perhaps. But, only as a tool to do our work. So if you are not so happy, and/or do not have me around to leave small reminders ;-)… go do whatever positive, productive thing you need to do… Go to a spinning class; volunteer your time and resources to help others less fortunate than you; get more sleep; write notes to all your family members telling them how much they mean to you. Figure it out, but don’t make excuses for not being joyful. It doesn’t suit you. Smile, put on some music, smile some more, and act happy. And guess what? You might just end up feeling happy too. :-)
Do you make a conscious effort to be happy and increase in joy, even when it doesn’t come easily? What can you do today to increase in joy?
This post is dedicated to my dear husband, the most positive and happiest person I know. May G-d grant us many more days in which we shall continue to increase in joy together.