Some thoughts on Adar 5780

Rabbi Yosef Pavlov

משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה    When the month of Adar begins,  we increase joy.

How do we understand the events of this past month? The world has changed very quickly and nothing is the same as it was a month ago.

In order to put the events into context, we need to understand what Purim is about and why the Midrash says that during the time of the Mashiach, all holidays except Purim will be changed. This change will reflect the miracles that happen during the period before the Mashiach. The exception is Purim that will remain the same.

Another question: Purim is a holiday that appears to celebrate the story of an event that occurred in Persia/Iran many thousand years ago. But very little of the things we do on Purim seem to have a relationship with the events of the story. On Purim we do not remember/commemorate the events of the holiday, but we do strange things like getting drunk and giving things away. What is the connection?


The story of the crucial events in the Megillah took place on Pesach, not in Adar, when we celebrate it.  And in reality, the story of Purim does not end with Mordechai becoming Minister of Persia. It continues until eighteen years later, when Esther and Achashverosh’ son allows the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.

 Yet we don’t hear about that in the Megillah. We hear of the evil intended and reversed. We do not hear about the future, about the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.

Jewish holidays are not just a commemoration of past events, but are a recognition of Hashem’s control of events, His plan, and the cycle of the year and life. Each month has a Koach, a characteristic that defines the time of the year and allows and requires the events of the month to be put into a context that helps us understand what is happening today.

The cycle of the year can be divided into two parts; 6 months of action (from Nisan to Elul) and 6 months of reflection and planning (from Tishrei to Adar). The last month of each group closes that period and is a transition to the next period and cycle. The month of Adar is the end of a time of reflection and the transition to the time of action starting in Nissan.

The story of Purim is about a change/transition of the Jewish people and in their relationship with Hashem.  What changes is the way in which Hashem interacts with us. It is a change from open miracles to hidden action of Hashem (Hester Astir es Panai – I will hide My face)

The story takes place at a time in world history that the world order is changing.  Purim occurred during the time of empire change, which will lead to the Greek and the Roman world order. This is a time of very great fear and concern. How can we understand this fear? How can we get through the crisis and the changes that Adar represent?

The rabbis give us a general rule about Adar. This rule that is crucial to understanding everything that has happened during the year (after all Adar closes off the year) and to starting of the next year/cycle.  משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה    When Adar begins, joy increases.

 What is Simcha? Are there degrees of Simcha, and if so, how does one go from level to level? We can use the mitzvot of Purim as markers for the definition. True Simcha is the recognition that we are not in charge. We cannot change things, we are not and cannot be in control of everything.

 But beside knowing this and being released of responsibility for history, we also need to know that what happens is for the best. As the Rabbis say everything that happens – happens for the best.

 In the darkest moments in Shushan, when the Jews where looking at the total destruction of their world and even of their lives, they turned to Hashem. But not only were the Jews spared, they are put on the path to rebuilding the Temple and a new existence. This is the essence of Adar, ונהפוכו, everything is reversed. Things are not as they seem.

But on Purim and during Adar, we are not merely passive recipients of Hashem’s destiny for us. Each individual is not exempt from caring and action. We are given the Mitzvot to give to others, to care about them, and to try and help them.

Purim 5780 has changed the world. Yes, the virus started before Adar, just as the decree of Haman started before Purim. Yes, the path that the world will travel is not yet clear, just as the changes that Were effected in Paras where not clear on that first Purim. But that the world has changed is clear. We will try to go back to the old world, but I do not believe that is possible. What has changed??

The world pre covid-19 was a world full of self-interest. A world defined by wealth. A world in which vacations, individual pleasures, individual value systems and opinions, etc. defined us. A world that has rejected a value system that defined something as right or wrong. A world of hundreds, thousands, or millions of “friends/followers”, but nobody to share with. A world where the most significant other is a co-worker. A world where those I disagree with can do no good.

That world is gone forever. Clearly cruises are out. Who wants to take a vacation that may become a nightmare? The way we buy things, the kinds of jobs that will be available, how education works are all irrevocably changed.

The change in wealth distribution due to the crash of the markets and the change in job availability, can only increase the demands and the need for a form of financial protection and redistribution that will be different from the past.

But these changes are only the first effects of covid-19. The social consequences may be greater. What is a persons’ purpose in life, if success is no longer defined by money? How does one show how smart or important or great one is when the standards have changed? What is important. How do you define yourself or others?

I do not know the answer to these questions. I do not know if Covid-19 can be contained or defeated. I do not know if a virus-20 is around the corner. I do know that the world has changed. I do believe that the need for a change existed. The world could not continue on the path that it was on. Hashem, in His great kindness, has made a course correction.

ונהפכו - everything is different. Not with the “hand of Hashem”, not even with the “finger of Hashem”, but with the hidden actions of Hashem. He has affected such a great and needed change in such a kind way.

 This is the definition of משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה    This recognition and understanding that the events are from Hashem and are for the good, is the simcha of Adar. This is the Holiday of Purim, a holiday of transition, a holiday of change. This is why the Holiday of Purim remains during the time of the Mashiach. Hashem’s hidden hand, his moving us forward, those things that appear bad are actual good and kind, this is Purim. This is Adar. This is our new world.

We should remember that we celebrate Purim not just with the understanding that we do not know the what, why, and how of this world, but also with giving.  This is a time of individual effort to grow and change.  And just like Adar signals us to live in joy, to share with others. we also need to change and grow from the changes caused by corvid-19.

For Hashem has changed the world not just for others. He has changed the world for me. He has turned the world upside down so that “I” can grow and change. Each “I” needs to do their part.

The process of the changes that are needed for the coming of the Mashiach are not easy. We should merit to see his coming and to understand all of the steps along the way in good health, under Hashem’s protection.

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