The Month of Adar
According to Sefer Yetzirah, each month of the Jewish year has attributes that correspond to
• a letter of the Hebrew alphabet,
• a zodiac sign,
• one of the twelve tribes of Israel,
• a sense, and
• a part of the body that correspond to it.
Adar is the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar.
Adar is the month of good fortune. There is a saying: Mishenichnas Adar marbim besimcha. “When Adar enters, our joy increases” (Ta’anit 29a).
The only holiday in Adar (excluding, of course, Shabbat) is Purim. The name of the holiday has to do with how Haman decided the day on which he would slaughter the Jews. And every year we celebrate the turning of the tables on the hatred and ego and evil the Haman represents. We increase joy. “When Adar enters we increase in joy.” We end the Jewish year in joy. We begin the Jewish year in joy. Pesah, the first holiday of the year celebrates freedom and rebirth and abundance. Purim celebrates relief and release from fear and xenophobia. And in our joy we put moderation aside and don the giddy excess of oppression ended. “Joy breaks through all barriers.” The joyous time at the end of the year is wedged into the beginning of the next year.
There is a disagreement regarding the origin of the letter Kuf. Some say that, as the name implies it was a picture of a monkey. Others say that the picture was of a face. I wonder if that was why my father’s nickname for me was ‘monkey face’. I am sure that he was blessing me that I should live for 100 years for Kuf has the numerical value of one hundred. Or maybe he used it as a humorous form of endearment. Kuf becomes the symbol of laughter in the month of Adar. In accordance with the idiom “as a monkey in the face of man,” the kuf also symbolizes masquerade. And on Purim we hide behind masks and we are not alone. In the Purim story of Megilat Esther, we do not find G mentioned even once. G hides in the story of Purim requiring us to seek G. In this cosmic game of hide and seek we grow from the game. On Purim we reach a higher level as we seek the existential hiddeness of G in our lives.
Mazal: dagim (Pisces-fish).
There is a story told of Rabbi Akiba who was teaching Torah in direct defiance of the Roman rulers. When approached by one Papus Ben Yehuda and criticized him, Rabbi Akiba responded: “I will give you a parable: A fox was once walking alongside a river in which fish were frantically scurrying from one place to another. When he asked them for the cause of their flight they explained that they were escaping fishermen who were trying to catch and kill them. The fox suggested that they would be safe from danger if they joined him in his den. To which the fish replied: ‘If we are so endangered in our natural habitat, what chance would we have outside our natural space!?!?!’
“We Jews,” concluded Rabbi Akiva, “are like the fish in the story, for Torah is to us what water is to the fish. If while we are learning Torah, of which it is written; ‘It is your life and length of days,’ we are in danger, what chance do we have for survival if we abandon it?”
In Kabbalah, the name Naftali is read (as two words): nofet li, “sweetness to me.” The mitzvah on Purim is to reach a high level of joy as our sages have said (and been misinterpreted by so many): “one is obligated on Purim to become ‘sweet’, until he is unable to tell the difference between the words; ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai.'” In Gematria those two phrases each equal 502. In the days of Mashiah, evil will fall away and the concept of differentiation between good and evil will lose all meaning. Life will be simple and sweet.
Sense: laughter (tzchok).
Laughter is the best medicine we are taught. Sarah was barren for ninety years. When she is informed that she will give birth, she laughs. The word for being fruitful, as in ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is Pru a metathesis of Pur the singular of Purim. Purim is a time for us to become pregnant with laughter and joy.
Part of the body: spleen (techol).
Our sages have written; “the spleen laughs.” A paradox at best since for millennia the spleen was considered the seat of the ‘black humor,’ the source of depression and despair. We could simply say that ‘black humor’ refers to the types of jokes that we share on Purim. And to that end “black humor” in Hebrew is “marah shechorah”. Metahesize the letters and it spells “hirhur sameach” “a happy thought!” And maybe that is the great lesson of Purim. We turn a frown upside down.