Rabbi Johanna Hershenson’s Words of Hope
There is little doubt that March of 2023 is in like a lion. What a snow filled winter we’ve enjoyed so far this season. If cold and snow don’t make you happy, no worries, Spring is inevitable in its time.
The Jewish calendar is fun this time of year. The rabbis instruct that during this Hebrew month of Adar we should: marbim b’simcha—increase joy in our midst. Adar is the month in which our holiday of Purim falls. How do we observe Purim, if not in humor and silliness? In some circles it is an excuse to drink oneself into oblivion, or as the ancient rabbis say until you can no longer tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai. We dress in costume and drag is encouraged. We make fun of the story of Esther in Persia with spiels rated G to R and NC-17 depending on the community.
The frivolous behavior of Purim cannot be unlike Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and Carnival. Before Easter—before Passover—an interlude of hedonism and gluttony. Once it’s out of our system, we can prepare ourselves for revisiting our exodus journey out of slavery and into the wilderness to get ready for the Promised Land.
The juxtaposition between Purim and Pesach has always interested me as a rabbi. In the scroll of Esther (the Megillah) there is no mention of God. And, in the Haggadah we read during Passover there is no mention of Moses (at least in a traditional Haggadah). When we let loose with frivolity God is absent. When we relive our liberation from Egyptian slavery, the human leader is absent. I have no doubt Purim is a time to be silly and Passover is a time for humble mindfulness.
Soon enough we will be preparing for Passover seders in our homes and with our Temple Beth Tikvah community. But before we do, let’s respond to the task of the season we are in—the Hebrew month of Adar and Purim, a time for silliness and laughter. Marbim b’simcha!
How will you invite yourself to laugh or be silly? A classic comedy film you haven’t watched in some time? Our Central Oregon Jewish Community Beatles Purim on March 6th? What about finding a laughing yoga video on YouTube to share? Maybe a practical joke on a good friend or close family member who might appreciate it?
Playfulness and silliness become less valued when we’re busy or feel threatened by viruses and divisiveness in the public sphere. Still the ancient rabbis teach just as we tire of winter and wish for spring—marbim b’simcha—increase joy around you!
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