Rabbi Fishel's Blog

The power of Being Joyful

Daer Friends,

The Jewish calendar has many special days, weeks, and months. First, there is Shabbat. Then, there are the holidays, sometimes weeklong or even longer. Then there are months, full months dedicated to a specific theme which we are called upon to bring into our lives. One such example is the month in which we find ourselves: the Hebrew month of Adar.

Jewish law teaches: "When the month of Adar is upon us, we add in joy for the entire month."  You heard it right: an entire month dedicated to joy.

Why so long?

Because it takes an entire month to integrate joy into our lives. It's not an easy task.

I think you will agree with me that joy is not too easy to come by in these anxious times. We don’t often bump into people on the street who are oozing with joy and joie de vivre. There are some happy folks, sure, but they are not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Thank G-d not everyone is afflicted with this "Doomsday attitude," but far

too many people are tense, aggravated, irritated, fearful, annoyed, exasperated, pessimistic, angry, infuriated, and many other synonyms that all have one thing in common: they are joyless.  And is it any wonder? We don’t want to abandon our sensitivity to current affairs and become numb to news of disaster, but neither do we wish to become totally obsessed with it. With frightening events shown by the rise of anti-semitism and the horror of Colleyville, for which we are so thankful to G-d that our prayers were heard and the outcome was positive, it’s difficult if not impossible to remain unaffected by these headlines that could tip us overboard into a swirling abyss of misery.

I get it. It's tough out there. It's reasonable to be despondent.

But just because it is reasonable does not mean that it is wise, healthy, or even inevitable. You do not need me to tell you that having our headspace rented by negativity is neither wise nor healthy. It is hurting our mental health, our families, and our communities. It has real life consequences.

What's the alternative to frightening darkness and depleting heaviness?

We need energy that uplifts us, which defies gravity: We need joy! We can't afford to nurture anything that keeps our heads in the pillows and our hearts in the dumpsters. This is not about denial––burying our heads in the ground and closing our eyes to the issues. No, this is about choosing joy as the healthiest antidote to cope and flourish in these times. Judaism teaches us that Simcha (joy) can break through all barriers. Not only is it necessary for our mental and emotional wellbeing, it is lifesaving. It picks us up above the narrow and instinctive thinking and gives us a bird’s eye view. It helps us see things from an objective and healthy perspective and thus allows us to live a life of inner peace and mindfulness. In addition to the above, it’s a Mitzvah. Joy is a moral and religious pursuit. When people are living with joy, they are more empowered to face the struggles of life and fight them with bravery and optimism. A fighter who shows up with a good attitude has a much better chance of winning the championship than someone who just fought with his spouse.

In the fight to be our best selves (the most worthy battle of them all), we need to have an attitude that keeps us joyful so that we fight the good fight and live to our fullest potential, the way our Creator intended for us.

That is why I couldn’t be any happier than to be in the month dedicated to upping our dose of joy! And this year we are doubly blessed, since it’s a leap year for the Jewish calendar. The full explanation of Jewish leap years would fill an entire additional article, but suffice it to say that instead of adding an additional day, we add a whole extra month––two Adars! What could be better than an extra month of joy?!

Dear friends, let us all wish each other L’chaim––to life, love, and happiness, and may our lives be full of joy! We may have to consciously work at achieving it, but as an aspiring eternal optimist I am prepared to brave accusations of naïveté for having hope and faith that our future news will be filled with positivity and joy.

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

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