Rosh Hodesh Adar Torah Essay
“Lehiyot B’simcha Tamid”
Our sages have given us two guidelines regarding the optimal level of joy during specific months. On the one hand in Taanit 29a it says, משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה, in Adar we must increase our simcha. Conversely, in the month of Av we must mitigate our joy, as the Mishna in Taanit 4:6 writes,משנכנס אב ממעטין בשמחה. What is the connection between the two phrases, if any? Before we can begin to understand that significance, we must first delve deeper into the meaning of simcha. What is the root of simcha? How do we achieve true happiness?
To answer this question, Rabbi Tzvi Sobolofsky Shlita says we should take a look in Shir Hashirim where we can discover what makes Hakadosh Baruch Hu happy. In 3:11 it says, צְאֶ֧ינָה ׀ וּֽרְאֶ֛ינָה בְּנ֥וֹת צִיּ֖וֹן בַּמֶּ֣לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֑ה בָּעֲטָרָ֗ה שֶׁעִטְּרָה־לּ֤וֹ אִמּוֹ֙ בְּי֣וֹם חֲתֻנָּת֔וֹ וּבְי֖וֹם שִׂמְחַ֥ת לִבּֽו. The simcha here can be understood according to Rashi, as the completion of the Mishkan. What about the Mishkan makes Hashem happy? In Chumash, simcha is always in regard to the Mishkan. For example, in parshat Reeh, simcha is mentioned in connection to eating korbanot (sacrifices), which takes place in the Mishkan or the Beit Hamikdash. Maaser Sheni is also described with simcha. When it comes to the holidays, the Chumash makes mention of simcha at the times when we are oleh l’regel, when the whole nation goes up to the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, regarding the holiday of Succot the Chumash says, וּשְׂמַחְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵ֛י ה’ אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים, And you should be happy before Hashem, your G-d, for 7 days, in describing the mitzvah of lulav (which is only done in the Beit Hamikdash on a Torah level).
Clearly the recurring theme is that going to the Beit Hamikdash brings ultimate simcha. But why? An answer given by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l is that the basic idea of simcha is being in the presence of Hashem, and visiting Hashem in His “house” .
In theory, despite not having the Beit Hamikdash today, we should constantly be in a state of happiness since we are always before Hashem, as David Hamelech writes in Tehillim 16:8, שִׁוִּ֬יתִי ה’ לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד, I am always mindful of Hashem’s presence. Unfortunately, at times, reality kicks in and we neglect this idea. In order to be reminded that we are always walking lifnei Hashem, we must try to get closer to Hakdosh Barch Hu and be in His presence. This is therefore how the Rav explains why there is an idea of simcha on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur despite the absence of aliyah l’regel. He says that since we are returning to G-d, we are lifnei Hashem and building that relationship.
If ultimate simcha is brought about by being lifnei Hashem in the Beit Hamikdash, it now becomes clear why our simcha is diminished in the month of Av. The destruction of the Beit Hamikdash was more than just the burning of a building, it took away our ability to be lifnei Hashem in an intense way.
How then is the month of Adar a tikkun, a repair, for Chodesh Av? Rabbi Tzvi Sobolofsky explains that one does not necessarily associate the month of Adar with the Mikdash. Rather, the events leading up to Purim were more hidden, there was a sense of hester panim, of G-d’s face being hidden. The barriers between us and Hakdosh Baruch Hu were so high that people began to stray, thereby decreasing the simcha in the world. Suddenly, V’nahaofchu, things were turned upside down! The Jewish people began to understand that even in galut Hashem is still present and craves a relationship with us. There was an understanding that there is still an unbelievable opportunity to be lifnei Hashem, even in times where Hashem may be more concealed. Every Purim we read in Megillat Ester 8:16,לַיְּהוּדִ֕ים הָֽיְתָ֥ה אוֹרָ֖ה וְשִׂמְחָ֑ה וְשָׂשֹׂ֖ן וִיקָֽר, the Jews had light, happiness, gladness and honor. We are joyful because of the realization that Hashem is always the force guiding us in life, and we must constantly remind ourselves we are lifnei Hashem. This coming Adar may we merit not only to serve Hakadosh Barch Hu in times of hester panim, but in the ultimate form, greeting Him in His house, the Beit Hamikdash.