Adar, Purim, Miracles, Happiness, and Passover
By Menachem Levisohn
The month of Adar is not special only because it hosts the holiday of Purim, but rather it has a joyous characteristic of its own. The rabbis taught that when the month of Adar comes in simcha (joy) increases. It is not just Purim that is a happy day, but the entire month that is full of simcha.
Now we should understand that a Jew must be happy the entire year, not just on Purim or during the month of Adar. The Torah brings punishment upon a Jew for not serving G-d with simcha, as it is written "
that you did not serve G-d with simcha and a happy heart" (Deut. 28:47) or the Palmist who exhorts "
serve G-d with simcha" (Psalm 100:2). Therefore if simcha is an integral part of service to G-d, what is the simcha of Adar?
Rashi, the classical commentator explains that when Adar comes in joy increases because it is the time of the miracles of (both) Purim and of Passover (Talmud Taanit 29a). We must therefore understand what is the connection between the two holidays?
The connection between Passover and Purim:
When we compare the two holidays we can see that there are several points that stand out in comparison. Both months have miracles in them. But let us see the differences between the two miracles.
The miracle of Passover was indeed a conglomeration of several gigantic miracles from the ten plagues through to the exodus from Egypt via the splitting of the Red Sea. The revelations of G-d were absolutely apparent to all, from the simplest person to the greatest. It was a time of many miracles that were beyond the realm of nature and in fact shattered the laws of nature. In contrast, the miracle of Purim did not manifest itself in a manner that was apparent to many, unless they considered and analyzed the events that transpired at that time.
The miracle of Passover, culminating with splitting the Red Sea and drowning the Egyptians clearly revealed G-d's total control of life and active participation and intervention in the world to the point of disrupting the laws of nature. The water of the Red Sea stood like a wall on both sides as the Jews crossed through the dry sea bed (which should have been wet!). It was only after they safely emerged on the other side that the pursuing army of Pharaoh was drowned. The oppressor was completed defeated, destroyed and made irrelevant as nature itself changed to accommodate the will of G-d.
Purim, in comparison, was different. Nature was not changed; rather change was brought about through nature. King Achasverous was not killed, but changed from our enemy to our friend. We did not exit Persia, we remained there as his citizens. It was a miracle that was brought forth within the laws of nature, its revelation relied on our understanding and analyzing of the situation to see how it changed 'miraculously'.
Yet although the miracle of Passover was greater and there is certainly a mitzvah to be happy on Passover, it does not compare to the greater joy and happiness that is felt on Purim even though the miracle of Passover was ever so much greater.
The reason is interesting:
The awesomeness of the open miracles of Passover were too lofty for us to enjoy. They not just terrified the Egyptians, but they put us into an extreme state of awe and trepidation. We were so frightened from them that we were unable to be in a state of joy.
Purim's miracles, on the other hand, were not overbearing to us. Like the Exodus from Egypt, we knew that we were in a state of danger, but unlike the Exodus, it was the Jews who took the initiative and participated in our own redemption. All of the Jews in Persia fasted to change the evil decree and it worked! Our senses were working and we perceived our own success, we were alive and delighted!
Passover on the other hand, we were not in charge of our fate. We were pawns in a drama that G-d was playing with the Egyptians and we lived through it as an anxious and horrified people.
What is the connection between the miracles and simcha?
Now simcha and miracles have something in common - both shatter barriers. When a person is in a state of joy, he is capable of achieving more than when he is depressed. He can go beyond the limitations that are imposed upon him - such as liking a person he normally dislikes or doing a project that he did not want to do.
Miracles are like that too, they shatter the existing barriers. The miracle of Passover shattered the Egyptian's hold on the Jews and totally destroyed any barrier that existed either from them or made by us. The miracle of Purim, while working with in the laws of nature, also broke though existing barriers and while it did not destroy our enemies, they were changed to a state of being our friends instead of being our enemies.
We see that each type of miracle has a certain advantage. The Passover miracle brings unbelievable changes in nature, obvious revelation of G-dliness and puts everyone under tremendous fear, whereas the Purim miracle is one that is almost imperceptible unless we employ active contemplation, yet it is the type of miracle that we can enjoy.
Why do we need two types of miracles?
The future miracle that we are all waiting for, when our long exile will end and the Third Temple will finally be rebuilt will have the best qualities of both of these two types of miracles. First, our enemies will not be destroyed but will become our friends; all nations will give up their false beliefs and turn whole heartedly to G-d. Revelation of G-d in this world will be greater than that revealed during the Egyptian Exodus and yet our joy will increase to unlimited proportions even to the point that the miracle of Passover will seem small in comparison.
from the Febuary 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine