Rosh Chodesh Adar hits differently this year. We know we’re supposed to be more happy when it comes, but how can we feel joy at a time like this? How can we celebrate being saved so long ago, when we continue to watch our precious sons and daughters right now sacrificing their lives? How do we commemorate the downfall of Haman, when it seems like everywhere we turn people are out to destroy us? The answer to those questions lies at the core of what Purim is all about. If we understand that message and work to take it to heart, then we can unlock the tremendous spiritual power of these days in a way that will help us overcome hardship and find joy and connection all year round.
The story of Purim is not simply about the Jewish people’s survival against all odds, or even that Hashem runs the world behind the scenes. On Purim, we revel in not knowing. We bring ourselves to a state of “lo yada,” where we (in theory, at least) have no idea what’s going on right now, let alone how things will turn out. We surrender our understanding and our control entirely to Hashem.
For the Jews, the experience of having the entire fate of the nation rest on a lottery drawing was discombobulating. If everything is up to chance, then we have no control at all. We’re entirely lost. Thankfully, instead of despair, they turned to Hashem. But if you think about it, in some ways, that’s not much different than Haman’s lots. Either way, the Jews had no control over how things turned out. Of course, the big difference is that with chance, there’s no control at all, while the miracle of Purim shows us that, even when we can’t see it, Hashem is in control the whole time.
The essence of Purim is learning to surrender to Hashem, being able to recognize that if we place our faith entirely in Hashem’s power during hard times, we’re always in good hands. On Purim and throughout the months of Adar, we get a spiritual boost to be able to understand and accomplish that. During this time, we have the ability to grow and to develop a spiritual path that will help us overcome deep pain and crippling uncertainty, and to find security and true joy.
This principle of spiritual surrender—acknowledging our limitations and entrusting our fate to a divine plan—can be both daunting and liberating. It challenges us to relinquish the illusion of control and embrace trust in the divine, fostering a sense of peace and contentment. This mindset is supported by a growing body of research in psychology and health studies, demonstrating that individuals who practice spiritual surrender, trusting in God’s plan for their lives, experience lower levels of stress and anxiety. This reduction in stress is attributed to a shift in perspective that diminishes the burden of feeling compelled to control every aspect of one’s life. Furthermore, spiritual surrender enhances individuals’ coping mechanisms, enabling them to view life’s challenges as meaningful parts of their journey rather than painful, insurmountable obstacles. This perspective promotes resilience and well-being by framing difficulties within a context of growth and learning.
Individuals who practice spiritual surrender tend to exhibit a form of religiosity that is more intrinsic, sincere and meaningful overall, compared to extrinsic religiosity, which is driven by external benefits and empty rituals. Their faith brings them more peace and assurance, leading to a greater sense of well-being. This is rooted in the belief that everything happens for a reason, even when the reason is not immediately clear, providing a profound sense of calm even amidst life’s uncertainties. The research underscores the value of spiritual surrender not only in enriching one’s spiritual journey but also in offering tangible benefits to mental and emotional health.
As we enter Rosh Chodesh Adar and look forward to Purim, we are reminded of the potential for joy that transcends our circumstances, rooted in a deep trust in divine guidance. This period offers a chance to reflect on the importance of embracing life’s uncertainties with faith and to celebrate the strength and peace that come from spiritual surrender.
Dr. Bin Goldman is a clinical psychologist with offices in Teaneck and on the Upper West Side. He is also the director of psychology and guidance at RYNJ. He is also visiting scholar and clinical psychology supervisor at Teachers College at Columbia University.