This week ushered in the Jewish month of Adar. Adar A to be exact. It’s a leap year and in the Jewish calendar, being lunar based and not solar, we add a whole month and not just a day. So there are two Adars – A and B or Adar 1 and Adar 2.
The Rabbis in the Talmud mention משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה, “Once the month of Adar commences, we increase our Joy”. As we all know, the holiday most associated with Joy – Purim – is in Adar. We are really lucky this year as we get a double whammy of Joy.
We often talk about Happiness as appreciation for that which we have and a sense of gratitude for the good in our lives. Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l used to differentiate Joy from Happiness and say that Joy is associated with the anticipation of something good. Whereas Happiness is more of a state of mind and serenity over what is, its cousin, Joy is more of a burst of energy for what will be.
Think of the Joy that everyone feels upon hearing the news of the birth of a baby, or news of someone getting engaged. Let’s face it, kids are not always the most joyous things to raise, especially when they are up all night crying. And, dare I say, marriages are also not always bursting with Joy. The Joy of both of these occasions is about the life-changing potential in each. Whereas Happiness is about the present or the past state of affairs, Joy is about the future. Happiness is about the ongoing focus on the good in your life, Joy is the explosion of energy in a one-off extraordinary event.
Joy is crucial to our lives and pertains to everyone no matter what their situation or vocation. Rabbi Weinberg explains this in his class on Joy, part of the 48 Ways to Wisdom series (go to Aish.com for the full course) as follows:
A pro athlete, no matter how many times he steps up to the plate, still needs a thrill from the pitch, the swing, the fresh spring air, the cheering crowd. Otherwise his game is flat; he’s playing by rote.
Yes, even a highly paid athlete needs to have Joy in his job and even a Tom Brady can lose that sense and call it a day. I recall a few years ago when my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs were a dismal team, unlike the present exciting, successful club they are this year. It was a sad and pathetic spectacle back then, and at the time I emailed my brothers: “It is so obvious that they (the Leafs) just have no passion or care for the game.”
It is hard to imagine a hockey player losing his passion to play. Consider for a moment that here you have someone who is young, healthy, talented, fit and who is part of the chosen few living his dreams and getting paid gobs of money for it. He is playing for a storied franchise like the Leafs – at the epicenter of the hockey world – and he has lost his enthusiasm? Back then, Olli Jokinen, who was traded from the Panthers to the Leafs, noted this malaise and said:
The one thing I notice, being here two days, there’s a lot of negative energy around here. As a team, we have to find a way to bring positive energy. We can create that. As players, that’s our job. You have to have pride. Once you put the jersey on, you have to find a way to play for that logo, play for the city, play for your teammates, and play for yourself. You’ve got to find a way to bring your best every single day.
And this is the lesson of Adar and Purim and Joy. The Jewish people didn’t get despondent over their enemies’ threat when Haman, with the backing of the Persian government and Achashverosh, said he will destroy the Jewish people. They didn’t get down or depressed. They didn’t give up nor turn negative. They did whatever they had to do to save themselves from the evil that wanted to wipe them out.
They looked inward to improve themselves through teshuva/repentance and fasting. They worked their star player, Esther and she hopped over the boards and carried their team to victory much the way Sidney Crosby or Ovi might take over in the latter stages of a game. And finally, they went to war to defend themselves against their adversaries.
You have to find a way to play for that logo, play for the city, play for your teammates, and play for yourself. Is there any greater logo or team to play for than the Jewish people? It makes no difference how many losses we may be taking here and there, how many other teams want to beat and hurt us, how many petty politicians or artists wish to boycott our arena or country. The fact remains that we Jews are the most storied franchise in all of world history with the most Stanley Cups under our belt. Many star teams from great nations and cities have disappeared and are no longer, but we remain strong, solvent and winning. The Broad Street Bullies of Babylonia are not around. The Big Bad Roman Bruins are in ruins. The list goes on. But we continue to win with determination, success and victory.
It is a privilege to play for this team. It is an honour to play for this team. So when you wake up every morning, and you recite Modeh Ani and don your tzitzit, tefillin, kiss your mezuzah or any other Jewish logo/mitzvah during the course of your day, never lose the inherent Joy of being part of the best team on the world stage. And if you happen to find yourself depressed for some reason or another and the haters and ignoramuses like Whoopi Goldberg are starting to get to you, remember the words of that great sage Olli Jokinen: You have to find a way to play for that logo, play for the city, play for your teammates, and play for yourself. You’ve got to find a way to bring your best every single day.
Bring your best when you play for Am Yisrael, and bring it with Joy.
Jeremiah was a bull frog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him drink his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me
-Three Dog Night