Joy in Times of Sorrow: Finding Light in the Midst of War

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

When [the month of] Adar arrives, we increase our joy (Taanit 29a)

The Mishnah in Taanit states, “When Adar arrives, we  increase our joy.” It is unclear whether this refers to the first or second Adar in a leap year. To which Adar does this refer?  The Mishnah in Megillah 6 states, “There is no difference between the first and second Adar except for the reading of the Megillah and gifts to the poor.” The Mishnah only excludes the reading of the Megillah and gifts to the poor from the first Adar, and implies that all other practices of the second Adar also apply to the first. This is actually the source for eating a meal on Purim Katan. So is there a commandment to be happy in the first Adar as well? Rabbi Yaakov Emden (She’elot Ya’avetz Part 2, Siman 88) writes explicitly that there is no obligation to be happy in the first Adar: “In a leap year, joy is only practiced in the second Adar.” The approach of the Chatam Sofer is less clear. In a responsum written in  a year with a first Adar (Siman 163), the Chatam Sofer wrote that in the face of miracles, the second Adar is the main Adar and the first Adar is like the second Shevat. However, in a responsum not related to Purim (p. 20) written during the period of the first Adar, he signed the letter: “First  day of the month of Adar the first אדר הראשון, in which we increase joy.” Even if we do not support the obligation of joy in the first Adar, it is certainly possible to be happy, as the Rama  in his comments on the Shulchan Aruch says about Purim Katan.

The Rama brings different opinions and writes: “Some say that one is obligated to increase feasting and joy on the 14th of the first Adar, but this is not the custom. Nevertheless, one should increase “a little” in feasting in order to fulfill the opinion of the strict ones, and a good heart is always a feast.”

When Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin entered the presence of his rabbi, the Vilna Gaon, to seek his parting blessing, Rabbi Elijah responded with an expression used in the Shabbat Musaf service: “May you be blessed with שני תמידים כהלכתם (two ‘alwayses’ according to halakha).” Thus, Rabbi Chaim took his leave of the Gaon.

The students who were present at that time did not understand the Gaon’s intention. And when they asked Rabbi Chaim for an explanation, he explained to them: It is simple. The Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) chose to open his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch with the verse “שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד” (I have set the Lord  (תמיד) always before me) (Tehilim 16:8) and to conclude his work in the Orach Chaim section (377:1) with the verse “וטוב לב משתה תמיד” (A good heart is a perpetual (תמיד) feast (Mishlei 15:15). And this is what the Vilna Gaon meant in his blessing, that these two תמידים  “alwayses” – שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד” (I have set the Lord always before me) and “וטוב לב משתה תמיד” (a good heart is always a feast) – should always be practiced according to halakha (Jewish law). שני תמידים כהלכתם

The way of life of a Jew should be based on these two “תמידים”, the belief in the Holy One, Blessed be He, which stems from “שויתי ה'”, and the joy (which is “טוב לב” – according to the interpretation of the Ibn Ezra) which the Jew should always be in.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav strengthens the second “תמיד” – “and a good heart is always a feast”, saying: “It is a great commandment to always be happy and to overcome sadness and melancholy with all one’s might, because all the illnesses (diseases) that come to a person all come from the corruption of joy” (Likutei Moharan, Second Edition, Sign 24). Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav says that there is a great commandment to be happy “always”, not just in the month of Adar!

The words of the Gemara in Taanit (22a) are beautiful to conclude with, and their translation is as follows: “Rabbi Broka, while walking in the market with the prophet Elijah, asked him if he saw anyone among the people who was worthy of the World to Come… In the meantime, two people entered the market, and Elijah said about them, ‘These are the sons of the World to Come.’ Rabbi Broka went to them and asked about their deeds. They told him, “We are happy people and we make others happy. And if we see two people who are quarreling, we take the trouble to make peace.”

 הרבי ר’ בונם זצ”ל  הסביר  הפסוק “כי בשמחה תצאו” (ישעיה נה,יב) – כי על ידי שמחה יכולין בסייעתא דשמיה לצאת מן כל מיני דחקות וצרות.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim on the verse: For you shall go out with joy – (Yeshayahu 55:12) explains that joy helps us to get out of troubles. And how fortunate we are that this year we have both Adar I and Adar II.

Even though war steals our young and leaves many hurt and lost, this double Adar reminds us of joy’s power. Joy isn’t ignoring pain, but honoring life’s preciousness despite it. Kind acts like helping the wounded and familiess showing open hearts keep hope alive, like embers glowing in the dark.

Let’s carry the memory of those lost in our hearts, honoring their fight for life. Their sacrifice should inspire us.  

This double Adar is a symbol of resilience – even in darkness, joy and hope can’t be crushed. Let it inspire us to act with courage, compassion, and unwavering belief in a brighter tomorrow, for ourselves and future generations.

Why hold onto joy in these difficult times? Because it’s a defiant act of resistance against despair. It shows that darkness cannot extinguish the human spirit, the capacity to find light even in the face of tragedy. Joy fuels our compassion, allowing us to reach out to those suffering with open hearts and helping hands. It ignites hope, reminding us that even amidst the storm, brighter days lie ahead.

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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