The month of Adar – which we have welcomed today – is the happiest of the year. As Chazal say, “When Adar enters, we increase our Simcha.” Yet, true Simcha is often elusive; many obstacles seem to stand in the way of our gaining this precious commodity.
Perhaps the root of our problem is that we tend to confuse two meanings of the term. Simcha can mean celebration which entails feasting, singing, dancing, and so on. We can safely assume that in Adar we will have a fair amount of this type of Simcha, especially on the day of Purim itself. Simcha, however, has another meaning – a sense of satisfaction and contentment with one’s life; a feeling that one’s existence is purposeful and filled with genuine achievement. This, of course, is harder to find.
The fact that in the Hebrew language – Lashon HaKodesh – these two concepts share a single noun points to a deep connection between the two.
We would be better able to achieve genuine contentment if we were not so burdened with the worries of life. Community pressures, job pressures, financial pressures, and the frenetic pace of our twenty-first century lives all conspire to distract us from the simple activities, pleasures, and reflections that would lend so much satisfaction to our lives. As experts in time-management would say, “The urgent is displacing the important.” Days of celebration – if we utilize them properly – can give us the relief from the life stresses that would allow for reconnection to meaning and fulfillment.
There is, however, one condition: We must leave our baggage behind as we enter that day of celebration. If we drag it along, it will remain as the proverbial “monkey on our back”.
Perhaps this can best appreciated by an analogy to the theme of this week’s Parsha. The Mishkan sanctuary was designed to be an enclosed space, a bounded area of holiness for the service of Hashem. Many commentators take the position that if not for the sin of the Golden Calf, we would not have been given the command to build the Mishkan. As Hashem says (Shemos 20:21), “Any place that I will cause My name to be mentioned, I will come and bless you.” (See Seforno on this verse.) There would not have been a need for a reserved site in geographic space.
The Gemara (Avoda Zara 5a) teaches that if not for the sin of the Golden Calf, the Jewish people would have been as angels. Angels, being free from physical necessities and emotional needs, could link with the Divine Presence anywhere and at any time. Once we were reduced to the level of human beings, there needed to be a place to which we could escape to have that connection to the Divine. Thus the Mishkan became a necessity.
We no longer have the benefit of Mishkan or Bais HaMikdosh – the Bais HaKnesses and the Bais HaMedrash will have to suffice until the advent of the Messianic Age – but the idea still holds; connection to holiness and ultimate meaning often requires some type of getaway.
But this does not necessarily have to be a sanctuary in space; it can be a sanctuary in time. The days of rest and celebration were designed for this purpose. They come in many varieties, each with its unique flavour and tempo – Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chanukah, Purim, and so on. Each in its own way provides an opportunity for a type of spiritual experience that will contribute to our sense of satisfaction and well-being.
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