Purim The Joy of Adar

Nov 17, 2014

Rabbi Aba Wagensburg

We are told that just as Adar begins we are to increase our level of joy (Ta’anit 29a). Why does this mitzva take effect at the beginning of the month and not just on Purim itself?

B’ezrat Hashem, through gaining an insight into the nature of the month of Adar, we will be privy to a new dimension of how to facilitate profound joy in our own lives.

The Meor Einayim (by Rabbi Menachem Nachum, the Chernobyler Rebbe) suggests that we can see the meaning of Adar through its three letters, aleph, dalet, and reish. Aleph, the first letter in the alphabet, also has the numerical value of one, hinting to Hashem. The dalet and raysh together form the word dar, which means to dwell amongst us. I was thinking also that if you take the word dar and spell it backwards, you get the word reid, which means come down. Putting all the letters back together, we can see that Adar means that the One G-d will come down to dwell amongst us. The Sfat Emet echoes this idea, saying that Adar should really be pronounced E’dor, or I will dwell amongst you.

Adar is the month of spreading G-d’s sanctity in this world. How did this come to be?

The Gemora in Megilla (13b) says that when Haman cast his lot to see which month was the best to destroy the Jews, he was elated that it fell on Adar because that was the month in which Moshe Rabbeinu died; but little did he know that Moshe was also born on the 7th of Adar. The standard understanding of this passage is that even though Moshe died on the 7th of Adar, nevertheless 120 years earlier he was born on the same date. However, let’s look further into this to get a deeper understanding.

The Tikuney Zohar (69,112) says that Moshe Rabbeinu’s sanctity spreads throughout every generation. The Meor Einayim explains this to mean that every single Jew has a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu in them, and through that spark we have the ability to understand the Torah. Thus Moshe Rabbeinu remains the eternal lawgiver to every generation.

Furthermore, the Sfat Emet explains that Moshe is called an “Ish Elokim,” a man of G-d, (Divrei Hayamim 1, 23:14) because he had a G-dly quality. Just as Hashem is a mashpia, or one who gives influence, so is Moshe, as we find in the Gemora (Bava Batra 75a) where Moshe is compared to the sun, and Yehoshua to the moon, the classical giver/receiver relationship Don’t think that Moshe was born this way. Rather, he worked at it to the point where on the top of Mount Sinai he assumed this new role of mashpia. That’s why he was up there for 40 days and 40 nights. Why that specific amount of time? Says the Sfat Emet that this is the length of time it takes for an embryo to develop into its first form; Moshe literally received a new form after those 40 days, and this new form was based purely on giving and sharing the sanctity of Hashem to others. That’s why it says, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe” (Devarim 33:4), literally, “The Torah that Moshe commanded us.” The acronym of “tzivah lanu Moshe” spells the word “Tzelem,” or image. This means that Moshe received his new image, and that image imbues all of us today with sanctity.

The Sfat Emet points out that numerically, Moshe Rabbeinu equals 613, the total of all the mitzvot in the Torah. This means that Moshe spreads the Torah’s sanctity into our 365 sinews and 248 limbs. We can now re-read the verse “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, morasha kihilat Ya’akov (Devarim 33:4).” In pshat this translates as “Moshe commanded us the Torah; it is an inheritance to the congregations of Ya’akov.” But according to the Sfat Emet, there is a deeper layer; Moshe Rabbeinu not only commanded us the Torah, he’s also responsible for the power of inheritance. Only Moshe had the ability to spread the sanctity of the Torah.

Based on this theme, we can understand a different idea in Pirke Avot (4,4), where we are charged to be exceedingly humble. One could ask, “How? I thought only Moshe was capable of such humility, as it says ‘Moshe is the most humble of all people. (Bamidbar 12:3)’” The answer is that since we all have that piece of Moshe inside us, we all have access to that level of humility. Based on all this, we can proceed on to a real eyebrow-raiser!

When it says, “And nobody knows the burial place of Moshe,” (Devarim 34:6) the reason is, according to the Meor Einayim, because there is no burial place of Moshe, because Moshe is “buried” in each and every one of us. Moshe, as it were, came down into you and I. Thus, when Hashem says to Moshe “Leich reid”(Shemot 32:7) or go down, this is synonymous with the way in which Hashem comes down to us, as we saw above hinted to in the word Adar. Just like the One comes down to dwell amongst us, so it is with Moshe.

Subsequently, we have a deeper insight into the Gemora quoted above that discussed Haman’s joy with the planned annihilation of the Jews during Adar. Haman knew that Moshe died in Adar, and because of this he mistakenly thought that the Jews no longer had the ability to spread the sanctity of Hashem or the Torah. But the Gemora tells us that little did Haman know that even though Moshe died on the 7th of Adar, nevertheless he also was born on the 7th of Adar. The Gemora does not only tell us that 120 years prior to his death was he born (the conventional understanding), but it also teaches that right after he died he was immediately born again into the Bnei Yisrael. This means that we still maintain the power to spread sanctity, and thus are not subject to the impure motives of Haman and his followers.

This is the function of Adar: to imbue sanctity into every dor, or generation (another take on the word Adar). We can now appreciate why we begin to increase joy from the beginning of the Month of Adar, instead of the 14th or 15th. It is now, at the beginning of the month, that Hashem begins to descend into our world. The high level of closeness to Hashem we experience in Adar is truly a reason to be filled with simcha from the beginning of the month.

My blessing to all is that we devote ourselves wholly and completely to Torah, and by doing so take a piece of the Divine into every aspect of our lives. Through that we should uplift every facet of our existence. As we wait for the current events to pan out, may we truly have reason to be happy this Adar by witnessing G-d coming down to dwell amongst us in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen.

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