We are now celebrating Rosh Chodesh, the new month of Adar. This year is a leap year. We get to celebrate two months of Adar. There is a principle mentioned in the Talmud of “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha” (Taanit 29). Translated, this means that when Adar begins, we multiply our feelings of joy and happiness. We don’t really do anything differently during the month of Adar, though. We do not add anything to our daily liturgy or daily practices that would show our added joy. Indeed there is no concrete practice mentioned in this regard by either the Shulchan Aruch or by most of the poskim. The Munkatcher Rebbe (Nimukei OC 685) writes that there are no specific actions that one should or should not do. Rather, one should engage in behavior that makes him joyous. So how exactly are we supposed to be joyous? How important is it to be happy in general? Does the Torah value this emotion?
For the answer to this question we need to turn to Devarim 26:11. We are commanded to be happy and appreciate all good things in life that God has bestowed upon us. Specifically, the verse begins by stating, “You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem, your God, has given you and your household.”
Is being in a state of “simcha” (joyfulness) just good advice? How important is it to actively pursue being in a state of simcha? To answer that question, one can look at the end of the tochacha (Devarim 35:47), where the verse tells us that 98 terrible curses will come about “as the result of not having served the Lord, your God, with simcha and with good spirit.” Apparently, this is a very important concept.
When we start out in life we have various goals and objectives that we look forward to. We typically start by looking for a good mate to share our lives with. We hope to complete our education and get a good job. Later, we look forward to raising a family and living in our own homes, watching our giant high-definition television sets and driving the latest model cars. We wish for good health and peace of mind. It is ironic, therefore, that in these modern times, when many of our goals are actually being met, we live with so much anxiety and depression and we forget to be happy. Many of us have accomplished so much and met so many goals. Yet, we have never felt more stress and pressure to keep “pedaling” as fast as we can. We have to be reminded to see the glass half full and not just dwell on the other empty half.
The Torah verse anticipated that such contrary feelings might enter into people’s minds and might adversely affect their quality of life. That is why we need a commandment that specifically tells us that when we accomplish so much and reach many of our goals in life we should not forget to look at how far we have come and fail to be appreciative. As such, we are formally commanded to rejoice with all the goodness Hashem has given us and our household.
There is a concept in kashrut called “batel b’shishim,” nullification if the proportion is one in 60. For example, if a non-kosher meatball falls into a pot with at least 60 more meatballs its status is nullified. Everything in the pot is considered kosher. A similar concept may apply this year when it comes to experiencing joy during Adar. During this leap year we have two months of Adar. There are 30 days in a month. Multiplied by the two months of Adar, we now have 60 days where we are encouraged to be joyous and happy. If we have a bad day we can apply the concept of “batel b’shishim” and nullify it by the 60 days of extra joy.
As we celebrate Rosh Chodesh and prepare for the upcoming holiday of Purim let us take the Munkatcher Rebbe’s admonition to heart. One should engage in behavior that makes him joyous. Let us follow the Torah’s commandment to be happy and appreciate all good things in life that God has bestowed upon us. Finally, let us remember that, even if we have a bad day here or there, it is nullified by the 60 days of Adar that we get to have this year.
May Hashem continue to bless us at home, at work and with our families. May He keep us healthy and provide us with peace of mind. May His blessings overtake us and find us wherever we may be.
Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is acting president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected]