The Context of Purim

Purim and the month of Adar.

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Sense of the Month

According to the Sefer Yetzirah the 'sense' connected with Adar is laughter and merriment. There are two kinds of laughter. Nervous laughter expresses the feeling that life is meaningless or alienating. This reinforces depression and limited perception. Holy laughter, on the other hand, expresses the recognition that everything paradoxically makes sense. Both tragedy and comedy can pull the rug out from under our mind. When we respond to life with holy laughter, we can joyful release ourselves from limitation.

The word s'chok (laughter) has a numerical value of 414, the same as the term Or Ein Sof,  'Infinite Light.' This tells us that through holy laughter a person can rise above the world of form and perceive the Light of the Infinite One.

Astrological Sign of the Month

The zodiac influence for this month is Dagim, meaning 'fish' or Pisces. Fish are hidden from us. This reminds us of the hidden miracle of the Purim story.

The word dag as in fish alludes to da'aga, 'worry.' This shows us that as Adar progresses our spiritual practices should involve overcoming our tendency to worry. We worry because we feel uncertain. The way to overcome worry, then, is to find certainty and deeper to allow our uncertainties to elevate and free us and thus bring us joy.

Tribe of the Month

The tribe of Adar is Naftali. Yaakov blessed his son Naftali to be an "ayalah shelucha," a swift deer. Indeed, the tribe of Naftali inherited this trait of alacrity. Worry and doubt weigh you down physically, but to be ‘light on your feet’ is to embody an emotional and mental lightness or flexibility. These are the traits that allow us to tolerate paradox, while dancing joyfully through life.

Body Part of the Month

The body part corresponding to Adar is the tehol, spleen. According to the Talmud, this organ is connected with laughter. The Zohar, on the other hand, suggests that the spleen is connected with depression, atzvus. Reb Tzadok seems to reconcile these ideas: "Shallow laughter brings about depression." It’s interesting to note that many professional comedians have suffered from depression.

Deep, pure laughter comes through yirah, 'awe.' A surprising or incongruous shift in perception can produce a subtle sense of divine awe, a stopping of the mind…and perhaps a healthier spleen.

Time of the Year

Adar comes in the very beginning of Spring. During the Winter months, people spend more time indoors, and many become more introverted. They cover their bodies with many layers of clothing, and some tend to gain weight as well. When Spring comes and people come out of hiding, there may be relief, but there also can be a sense of self- doubt: 'Who am I? How do I appear to others?'

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Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Rabbi DovBer Pinson is the Rosh Yeshiva of the IYYUN Yeshiva, a Yeshiva for adults. He is also the founder of the IYYUN Center, a center for Jewish enrichment in Brooklyn, New York, and and is the author of more than ten books on Kabbalah and spirituality.