Educationally Speaking – March 2019

Increasing Joy

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

Purim is a holiday in the month of Adar. This is a month where we Jews say, “with Adar joy increases.” The period of going into spring and getting ready for Passover is momentous and joyful. My little bit of writing this month is going to compare the holidays of Purim, Hanukkah and Tisha b’Av. On Hanukkah, we celebrate miracles of God and the miracle that a small nation can be victorious in the war over an empire. We Jews faced the descendants of Alexander the Great when his generals took over what is now Syria forming the Greek Assyrians. The king of that area was named Antiochus. His reason for making war on the Jews was that he wanted everybody to worship the same way. As his religion was full of idolatry, the Jews had no choice but to revolt.

For Purim, another type of battle was carried out. Haman, with the support of King Ahasuerus, was going to kill the Jews of the world and ultimately he found himself hung on the gallows he had prepared for the Jews. This reversal of fortune is another example of when the Jews overcame great odds to bring defeat to a great empire. Due to these historical outcomes, we have reason to be joyful.

For Tisha b’Av we have a holiday that is quite the opposite of Hanukkah or Purim. We have a 25 hour long fast where we focus on all of the times our small people was defeated in history. Without the idea of failure, it is difficult to understand the joy of victory. The beauty of the Jewish calendar and our holidays is that they can capture these lessons for us to learn year after year. I believe that when we incorporate Jewish holidays into our lives we are learning a curriculum of living that reflects excellent lessons and actions.

As we are approaching the holiday of Purim, besides it being a joyous time, there are several time-tested mitzvot for us to consider. One is that we should give gifts to the unfortunate. Two is that we should give gifts to our friends. Three is that we should have a festive meal. Four is that we should hear the book of Esther read. And lastly, five is that we should express the joy. I am deeply appreciative of the idea that we send gifts to our friends and family as well we are also required to send gifts to the needy for Purim. The celebration of the holiday takes these opposites and honors both in the same holiday. Perhaps this is the reason why we have joy during the Jewish month of Adar.

I hope that you will join me and our school in celebrating the holiday of Purim and preparing to increase joy personally, within our congregation, as well as outside. As spring approaches I do wish that its newness and vitality envelops you in a spirit and celebration of peace and joy.