The Jewish month of Adar begins on Tuesday evening! This means that Purim is coming and, therefore, it’s time to be surrounded by joy. But, given everything going on in the world today, it’s sure hard to imagine feeling joyful.

The rabbis of the Talmud teach that when Adar begins next week, joy increases. Obviously, the highlight of the month is Purim, which is Monday evening, March 9. On Purim we celebrate our ancestors’ ability to stop Haman from annihilating us. But, the rabbis explain that the joy associated with Adar is not limited to Purim alone. We’re taught that the entire month is filled with joy because during Adar the Jewish people actively changed their destiny, transforming what seemed like their inevitable destruction at the hands of Haman into a celebration of life and Jewish power. Given the fortunate events of Adar, the rabbis teach us that this upcoming Jewish month is a favorable time for our people. Some say that Adar is the time to tackle challenging tasks and hope that the “luck” of Adar rubs off and benefits us.

If only the joy of Adar rubbed off that easily! Experts teach us that joy is contagious. When you surround yourself with it, you’re more likely to experience it. Now, experiencing joy doesn’t guarantee that you’ll experience good luck, but it will lift your spirits. Unfortunately, most folks are oblivious to the joy of Adar. It won’t just come knocking on our doors. We need to be aware of the joy and surround ourselves with it – even if we might not be feeling it – in order for it to have any positive effect on our lives. Once we do appreciate it, feel it, live it, it’s hard to not be lifted up by it. I can’t guarantee that it will bring luck, but I can guarantee that the joy of Adar will make you happy. And in this day and age, why turn down something that makes you smile?

The fact is, most Jews stay away from the joy of Adar. This is because while being written in the “Book of Life” during the High Holidays is something most Jews pay close attention to, the joy of Adar is not on most Jews’ radar screens. Purim is not a holiday that is observed by most of us and, as a result, the joy of the holiday is wasted. Too often, we become High Holiday Jews and limit our synagogue experience to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services that are long, formal, solemn and filled with heavy themes like guilt, repentance and sin – plus, we can’t eat on Yom Kippur! Unfortunately, High Holiday Jews fail to recognize that joy, happiness and laughter are also integral to who we are.

As synagogue attendance declines throughout the Jewish world, I believe it’s essential to turn “High Holiday Jews” on to things like the intense joy, side-splitting laughter, great food/drink, and a focus on Jewish pride that define Purim and the month of Adar. By focusing solely upon the intense themes of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we run the risk of denying ourselves so many of the uplifting, celebratory, and pleasurable aspects of our tradition. During these challenging times, why do this to ourselves? Why not expose ourselves to joy?

At Ramat Shalom, Purim festivities start on Sunday, March 8 at 11:00am with our Family Purim Carnival, Shpiel and Megillah Reading. Adult festivities commence on Monday evening, March 9 at 6:30PM. We’ll gather together for a night of stand-up featuring my own mother, Betsy Jacobs, who performs regularly at the SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando. She’ll get us all involved and laughing. We’ll also read the Megillah, enjoy some drinks and eat some hamantaschen. Costumes are strongly encouraged. Babysitting is available on March 9, but you must call the office at 954-472-3600 to RSVP.

Whether or not you consider yourself a High Holiday Jew, do yourself a favor: come and experience the other side of Judaism – if not at Ramat Shalom – at a synagogue near you. What’s the worst thing that happens? You actually enjoy yourself? You laugh in the synagogue? Chas v’cholileh! You’ll be better off because of it. Go get yourself a costume and join us.

Be happy, Adar is coming!

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