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Torah Attitude: Parashas Vayikra - Parashas Zachor: The way to constant happiness
In the month of Adar, as well as in the following month of Nisan, we shall be especially happy due to the miraculous salvations that we experienced at the time of Purim and Pesach. "It is a great mitzvah to be constantly happy." All the calamities that befall the Jewish people are connected to our lack of happiness when we observe the commandments. When we think about and internalize how G'd saved the Jewish people, it brings us to a feeling of gratitude and happiness that G'd looks after us. G'd's hidden hand protects us and insures that we survive. Our enemies realize that it is G'd's hidden intervention that spoils their evil ideas and they begrudgingly marvel at how G'd protects His beloved nation. "The G'd of Israel protects His people and directs the [Palestinian] missiles to unpopulated areas." When we internalize and focus on our daily miracles we have every good reason to be happy all the time.
This Jewish year is a leap year which means that there are two months of Adar. Last week we entered the second Adar. The Talmud (Taanis 29a) teaches that, when the month of Adar enters, everyone shall increase in happiness. Some halachic authorities are of the opinion that this obligation already starts in the first Adar. Others teach that it is only intended for the second Adar when we celebrate Purim. This is based on Rashi's commentary on the Talmud (ibid). Rashi explains that in the month of Adar, as well as in the following month of Nisan, we shall be especially happy due to the miraculous salvations that we experienced at the time of Purim and Pesach.
The fact that the Talmud instructs us to increase in our happiness during the months of Adar and Nisan indicates that we shall always be happy. This corresponds to the famous statement by the great Chassidic leader Rav Nachman of Breslov, who said "It is a great mitzvah to be constantly happy."
Lack of happiness
The Chasam Sofer (Parashas Vayechi) writes that the first mitzvah that a boy fulfills when he turns bar mitzvah (or a girl who becomes bat mitzvah) is to be happy to have reached a stage in life where one is obligated to observe G'd's commandments. He quotes from Parashas Ki Tavo (Devarim 28:47) that all the calamities that befall the Jewish people are connected to our lack of happiness when we observe the commandments.
Feeling of gratitude
The obvious question is, how can we be instructed to be happy. Is there some sort of "button" we can press to make us feel happy? If we analyze Rashi's commentary, that we mentioned earlier, we may succeed to find a way to happiness. Rashi writes that in the months of Adar and Nisan we shall increase in happiness due to the miraculous salvations we experienced in these months. In other words, when we think about and internalize how G'd saved the Jewish people in the story of Purim, and took us out of Egypt on Pesach, it brings us to feel gratitude and happiness that G'd looks after us. Despite all difficulties and calamities, we have experienced throughout our exile, G'd always ensures that we survive. That is what we express on Seder night in the Haggadah: "In every generation they rise against us to annihilate us. And G'd saves us from their hands."
G'd protects us
Every day we thank G'd in Shemona Esrei for His daily wonders and miracles. Both in Israel and in the Diaspora we are surrounded by our enemies who look for any opportunity to harm us. However, just like in the story of Purim, G'd's hidden hand protects us.
Enemies praise G'd
In Tehillim (117) King David states: "Praise G'd all nations, glorify Him all the states, for His kindness has overwhelmed us." The commentaries asked why should the gentiles praise and glorify G'd for His immense kindness to us? They answer that more often than not, we do not even know how our enemies plan and scheme to harm us. Somehow G'd thwarts their plans and nothing comes of them. Our enemies realize that it is G'd's hidden intervention that spoils their evil ideas, and they begrudgingly marvel at how G'd protects His beloved nation. Therefore, says King David, only they know about G'd's kindness, and therefore they are the ones to praise Him. This happened when Balak hired Bilam to curse the Jewish people. The Jews were totally oblivious to Balak's evil scheme, and only because G'd instructed Moses to record it in the Torah, do we know about it. And that is what happened at the time of Purim, when G'd orchestrated a whole series of events to protect the Jewish people.
At other times we also see G'd's protection. However, even then our enemies may be more aware of G'd's intervention. A few years ago, a journalist interviewed a high-ranking Palestinian officer. The interviewer made a comment that the Palestinians seemed to have a very poor sense of how to aim and direct their missiles. The officer responded that it was not true at all. "We are experts how to aim", said the officer, "however, the G'd of Israel protects His people and directs the missiles to unpopulated areas."
When we internalize and focus on our daily miracles, we have every good reason to be happy all the time. Nevertheless, our sages teach us that when the months of Adar and Nisan arrive, we must increase even more in appreciation of the miraculous salvations we experienced in these months.
May we all experience and appreciate G'd's kindness, and, in this merit may we soon see the final salvation with the coming of Moshiach, Amen!
These words were based on notes of Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shalom. Michael Deverett
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