This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
By: Jackie Ross
By most points of reference, we are starting a new year: the secular calendar just turned over, the season is changing (at least here in Israel) to resemble spring. The Jewish calendar as well is winding down. This week we enter the month of Adar - known most famously as being the month of Purim, as well as the month that Moshe Rabbeinu was born and died. Adar is really a cool month. First off, not every month gets its own song - but Adar does. The lyrics go Mishah nichnas Adar/ Marbeh B'simcha: When Adar comes in, our happiness increases. Usually we wait until Pesach for such a question, but what makes Adar different from other months?
There is the most obvious answer - each day is feeling less and less like winter. A relief to those with Seasonal Affective Disorder and ready to throw off the darkness that has been with us since Kislev. Any month that brings with it more sunshine is song-worthy in my book, but of course, in Judaism, nothing is that superficial. Next up, we have the holiday of Purim, which outside of the minor holiday of Tu B'Shevat, has been our last real celebration since Hanukkah. We'll go more into Purim when it gets closer to the big day, but we can at least now touch upon something unique to the whole event - the fact that Haman davka chose the month of Adar because it's supposedly when the Jews are 'without mazel' or as he saw it - supposedly a time of bad luck for us. As we know by now, he got it very wrong. Being without mazel, or flow, means that we are beyond normal limitations. Extraordinary things can happen...such as the very gallows Haman constructed to hang Mordechai from, were instead used to hang Haman and his 10 sons. Slightly morbid, but a great reminder not to mess with the Chosen People.
According to the Book of Formation, the letter associated with this month is ק which spelled out is קוף which also means monkey. The overriding theme of Purim is the fact that all of the miracles G-d did for the Jewish people seem like mere coincidences - it was only through the Jewish people coming together and following the guidance of Esther (whose own name means hidden) that we are able to see the divine intervention. Similarly, monkeys and people look a lot a like. There is room in Judaism for evolution to be part of how the world looks how it does today, but it shouldn't be thought that Adam HaRishon's aba was a monkey. G-d hides His presence in the world through nature. Even though it may seem that humans have evolved over time from primates into people, we shouldn't be fooled into thinking our existence is a coincidence.
In the same vain, the zodiac sign for the month is Pisces - fish. Fish are considered to be tzniut, modest, because they live hidden underwater. The word for fish in Hebrew is דג which is related for the word to worry לדאוג don't worry is אל דאג because when we worry we are forgetting that G-d runs the world - even though His presence is concealed. Just like we can't see fish underwater when we are standing on shore, we often can't see G-d's presence in our lives. Occasionally, a fish will jump up, which is comparable to seeing an unbelievable 'coincidence' or outright miracle.
Lastly, this month is associated with laughter and the spleen. Not two things you would normally put together. Laughter is our natural reaction when something unexpected happens. It's what Sarah Imeinu did when G-d told her at 90 she was going to be a mom for the first time. The spleen is not associated with light-hearted humor, but rather 'black humor' when something is dark or ironically funny. This makes sense when we look at the function of the spleen in our body: while it's possible to have your spleen removed and live, it's very important for our immune system and the function of healing and repairing tissues. Similarly, being able to laugh at the darker moments in life is a valuable trait that helps us to soldier through the more gruesome things we unfortunately encounter.
Our sages teach us that we are not allowed to gloat at the misfortune of our enemies, for they are still people and created by G-d, but we are allowed to laugh at Haman's downfall. Perhaps now we can see why that is - in a month that can otherwise seem bleak (it's not officially spring yet), and where we are subject to possible annihilation, if we can not worry and rest assure that G-d is working behind the scenes to ensure the continued success of the Jewish people. And the idea that our enemies can ever fool themselves into thinking otherwise, well, that's just laughable!