Simchas Adar and Purim
Rabbi Kaddish Rubinfeld
The Jewish calendar is filled with joyous days, and the happiest day of the year is, of course, Purim. Families and friends gather to drink and make merry without any limitation. Jewish law is restrictive when it comes to drinking, but Purim is a notable exception. 'Chayav inish l'vesumi ad d'lo yada bein arur Haman l'baruch Mordechai' (there is a mitzva on Purim to drink and become intoxicated until one cannot distinguish between the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai)1.
We are commanded to drink excessively because of our obligation to be excessively b'simcha on Purim, without any limits or shiurim. It is a day of pure, unadulterated simcha.
So great is the simcha of Purim that it spreads out to the entire month of Adar, as the Gemara teaches us 'Mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simcha' (as Adar approaches, we increase our level of simcha)2. Although we rejoice because of our victory over Haman on Purim, there must be more to this special simcha, as we are required to rejoice the entire month of Adar.
Let us examine the source for a better understanding of this unique obligation. The Mishna says 'mishenichnas Av mema'atin b'simcha' (as the month of Av approaches, we reduce our level of simcha) 3. The Gemara adds the following comment: 'k'sheim she'mishenichnas Av mema'atin b'simcha, kach mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simcha' (just as we reduce our level of simcha in Av, so too we increase our level of simcha in Adar) 4. It stands to reason that if we determine why we reduce our happiness in the month of Av, we can apply it - conversely - to understand why we increase our happiness in the month of Adar, for the Gemara introduces this halacha with the word 'k'sheim' (just as) implying that there exists a connection between the two.
It is not difficult to ascertain the reason for reducing our joy in the month of Av. It is the time when we mourn the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (the holy Temple). Clearly, we are not crying over the mere loss of a physical structure, as magnificent as it was. We mourn the loss of the Shechina (the Divine Presence) that dwelled in our midst. The Beis Hamikdash brought the Shechina, which not only rested in the Beis Hamikdash, but dwelled in each and every Jew. As the Alshich points out, the verse states, 'v'asu li Mikdash v'shachanti b'socham' (make for Me a Mikdash and I will dwell in you 5. It doesn't say 'make for Me a Mikdash and I will dwell in it,' it states 'in you' - 'b'soch kol echad v'echad.'
When the Beis Hamikdash stood, the Shechina was found in each Jew. After the Temple was destroyed, The Shechina distanced Itself from us. This is why we cry; we miss that close relationship, and we yearn for the day when the Shechina Hakedosha will return.
Thus, just as we decrease our joy because we are separated from the Shechina in the month of Av, so too in Adar we rejoice because the whole month is a time when the Shechina is close to us. The Midrash says that when Hashem Yisbarach commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to construct the Mishkan, He made the following request 'asei Li kiton echad v'edor beineichem' (make for Me a small chamber [ie. the Mishkan] so that I may live in your midst) 6. The Sefas Emes, quoting his grandfather (the Chidushei HaRim), points out that the word 'v'edor' (and I will dwell) is related to the word 'adar' - the very name of this month implies that it is a time when the Shechina dwells among us 'v'edor beineichem' 7.
It is not a coincidence that the Torah portions read during the weeks of Adar, are those chapters in the Torah that deal with the Mishkan. They are Teruma, Tetzaveh, Ki Sisa, Veyakheil and Pekudei. Is there a more appropriate time to read about building a place for the Divine Presence, than the time of the year when the Shechina is close to us?
The Gemara8 describes how Rav Masneh prefaced his lecture on Purim with the remarkable passuk 'ki mi goy gadol asher lo Elokim kerovim eilav keHashem Elokeinu' (is there another nation [as great as Am Yisroel] that has Hashem as close to it as Hashem, our G-d, is close to us) 9? Why was this his introduction to Purim? The reason is that Hashem being close to us is what Purim is all about.
Being close to the Divine Presence is the greatest source of simcha. When saying the Grace after Meals in the presence of a bride and groom, we say, "shehasimcha b'me'ono" (simcha is in this domain). We say this during sheva brachos (the seven blessings bestowed upon a bride and groom) because a home for hashra'as haShechina is being built, as Chazal say 'ish v'isha Shechina beineihem' (the Divine Presence rests in the home of a couple that dwells in harmony) 10. 'Oz v'chedva biMkomo' (strength and jubilation are in His place). This is why prophecy can only be attained when a Navi (prophet) is in a state of simcha. 'Ein haShechina shoreh ela mitoch simcha' (it is a necessary prerequisite to be in a state of simcha in order to connect with the Shechina) 11.
Thus, 'mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simcha.' We prepare ourselves to encounter the Shechina during the month of Adar. The climax of this avoda is Purim, when we are so close to the Shechina that our simcha is without boundaries, just as everything about Hashem is boundless. Having established that Adar is a time of closeness to the Shechina, we must ask ourselves why. Why is the Shechina Hakedosha so close to us in Adar? In explaining the reason for 'mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simcha,' Rashi says, 'yimei nissim hayu l'Yisrael, Purim v'Pesach' (Purim and Pesach were days of miracles for Bnei Yisrael) 12.
A neis (miracle) is a manifestation of gilui Shechina (revelation of the Divine Presence). Hashem is ro'eh v'eino nireh (He sees but cannot be seen by us). When Hashem performs a neis for Am Yisrael, He is showing Himself to us. He is allowing us to see the Shechina. The Ramban explains that the word for miracle - neis - is from the same root as the word for a banner - 'v'sa neis l'kabeitz galiyuseinu.' This is because a miracle serves as a banner to show us that Hashem is there; Hashem is close.
To be sure, we encounter nissim on a daily basis, as we thank Hashem in the Amida - 'al nisecha shebichol yom imanu' (for the miracles that you perform for us each day). However, not all miracles are equal, not every miracle warrants a Yom Tov (holy day). A neis must be of a certain magnitude to be celebrated as a Yom Tov.
Such a neis was the neis of Purim. It was a miracle that serves as a beacon of light to illuminate our long journey through galus with gilui Shechina. The Gemara 13 explains that the verse 'v'lamenatzeich al ayeles hashachar' (For the conductor, on the morning hind) is a reference to Esther. 'Ma shachar sof kol halaila af Esther sof kol hanissim' (just as dawn is the end of the night, so too Esther is the end of all nissim). The Neis Purim was the last of the nissim that reached the peak of gilui Shechina.
May we merit seeing the Sehchina in its full glory 'V'havi'einu L'Tzion ircha b'rina u'liYerushalayim beis mikdashecha b'simchas olam!'
1. Megilla 7b.
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