Joy Brings Multifaceted Redemption - Matan - The Sadie Rennert
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Joy Brings Multifaceted Redemption

Adina Ellis

This year we are gifted with an additional month of Adar. Adar I comes about as a means to synchronize the lunar and solar calendars, to maintain the distinctly Jewish months based on the waxing and waning of the moon, while aligning with the seasons associated with the sun. This enables the proclaimed salvation of the Jewish people on Purim during Adar II to be juxtaposed to the geula in Nissan, commemorating yetziat mitzrayim, our Exodus from Egypt. The two redemptions are thereby always linked. Every year, we invite more joy into our lives with the onset of the month of Adar, as is popular to sing “mi shenichnas Adar, marbin b’smcha.” (Taanit 29a). Thus, these halakhic concepts impart a powerful lesson in emunah, namely that in order to ensure the celebration of physical and spiritual redemptions in Adar and Nissan, and by extension, in our lives in general, we are urged to first add more joy. The Sefat Emet (Devarim 28:47) explains that redemption stems from worshiping Hashem with joy, even while in exile. Don’t wait for redemption from whatever situation you are in so that you are free to find your happiness. First find what sparks joy, and geula will follow.

This year we are blessed with a double opportunity to increase our happiness and to precipitate our redemption. While we call this phenomenon a leap year, in Hebrew it’s poetically referred to as a “shana meuberet” – a pregnant year- where the months are stretched to a happy thirteen and we focus on the greatness of small things. Interestingly, the pregnancy imagery is not limited to these 7 times in every 19 years when we have a shana meuberet. When blessing the new month on the Shabbat before every rosh chodesh, the molad, or birth of the new moon is announced. The small, seemingly insignificant crescent shaped moon is what allows for the announcement of a new month, it is what enables us to sanctify our time, to construct our Jewish calendar and create sacred mo’adim, or Divine meetings, in our days.

Each Individual Has a Small Part in Fixing the World

The Gemara in Chulin (60b) elaborates on a fascinating conversation between the moon and the Creator where the moon agrees to remove her crown and diminish herself, allowing the sun to maintain its status as haMa’or haGadol — the great luminary — and the moon to be labeled as haMa’or haKaton — the small luminary. This is based on Bereishit 1:16 where it initially says that G-d created, שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים, the two great luminaries. But then the verse continues to describe the great light in the day and the small light at night, along with the stars. According to the Gemara, one of the ways that Hashem tries to comfort the moon (so to speak) for collaborating in the Divine plan and agreeing to make herself less prominent than the sun, is by telling her that there are other “great ones,” righteous individuals, who are also referred to as small, such as Yaakov (Amos 7:2) and David (Shmuel alef 17:14). We, the Jewish people, are named Am Yisrael after Yaakov, and we anticipate Mashiach ben David and a king descending from David to one day rule the Jewish people. Clearly, “katan,” small, does not necessarily mean lacking in greatness.

The Meharsha (Chulin 60b) expounds that this act of diminishing should in no way be seen as reflecting something that is lacking, nor as a punitive measure. Rather,  the great luminaries, Yaakov and David, were referred to as small as they had true humility and the understanding that all of their actions were part of a greater mission which their neshamot, souls, were sent to do. Each and every neshama comes to the lower realms with its unique, small task in a much broader goal of tikkun olam, improving the world. Just as the Ma’or haKaton sheds light on us, each individual is sent to this world with varying strengths and abilities, with a Divinely ordained charge to bring more light to this world.

Hashem’s Presence at All Times and Life Cycles

The moon’s diminishment, of growing larger and smaller through the month, is the very thing used as a vehicle for establishing a new month. The moon goes through a continuous cycle of being born anew. It is a small molad, growing larger, and being full, echoing the blessing said at a circumcision, זה הקטן גדול יהיה- this small one, may he grow to be big. The middle of the month, when the moon is full, is when the moon is once again temporarily a Ma’or Gadol, equivalent in its complete spherical shape to that of the sun before it once again wanes.

We daven for a time in the future redemption when the moon’s light will once again be as bright as the sun (Yishaya 30:26). In the meantime we are called upon to increase our joy so that we can bring the ultimate redemption, physical and spiritual, that much closer. Our emunah is revitalized to find that Hashem is always close, and uniquely so at this special time of Adar (א’ דר), in the “smaller” Adar I as much as in the “greater” Adar II, where Hashem’s presence is more profoundly felt. A disciple of the Baal Shem Tov teaches us that the greatness of the first Adar is equivalent to the greatness of the second Adar, for Hashem is with us in the small days (Me’Or Eynayim, Terumah Siman 5). As it says in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:1) גם בהצנע לכת- also in modesty, in private moments, in the small moments of your life, devotedly serve Hashem, שִׁוִּיתִי ה’ לְנֶגְדִּי ,תָמִיד, be ever mindful of Hashem’s Presence (Psalms 16:8). Also in the small month of Adar I, in the small holiday of “Purim Katan” on the 14th or 15th of Adar I, find reason to celebrate, find joy in a feast (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 697; Proverbs 15:15). We see the words משתה, feasting and שמחה, joy are always found together when referring to the Jewish People in the Purim story. (Esther 8:16-17, 9:17, 18, 22). Feasting and joy go hand in hand, because for a Jew connected to The One Above, awareness of G-d’s involvement in our lives brings jubilation.

While we read the Torah portions in these weeks about building a sacred place in the world for the Almighty via the mishkan, we also focus on sanctifying our time with the Creator, in the small, mundane acts of our lives. In our mealtime, in our commute time, in our cleanup time and in our resting time, be ever mindful of Hashem’s Presence. Just as the moon is born anew and we celebrate each milestone of a baby or toddler as a wondrous marvel, so we take this gift of another month, this gift of time to do the same with ourselves, in humility, modesty, and knowledge that we are each in this world doing what our neshamot, our holy souls were sent here to do. May this month of Adar I be blessed with new ways to recognize and celebrate G-d in our lives as we increase in our joy and celebrate small things. For the small things, truly are great.

Adina Ellis

Adina Ellis

is a graduate of the Matan Bellows Eshkolot Educators Institute. She has been teaching Tanakh and machshava over the last two decades, initially on college campuses and in Hebrew Schools in the New Jersey area. Since making aliyah in 2005, she has given weekly shiurim in Hebrew and English to women in her community. Adina has taught in the ALIT program and Rosh Chodesh seminars run by the OU Women's Initiative as well as in the mother-daughter "learn and art" program of OU Israel. She is known for her unique ability to facilitate in-depth textual learning along with engaging and relevant discussions. Adina lives with her husband and children in Yad Binyamin.