Adar I 5771
Practice Makes Perfect
by Rabbi Michael Green
As a child, you invariably hear the schoolyard chant: “first is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the polka dotted dress!” One common interpretation of this rhyme is that the first person isn’t in a desired position. Rather, the song reveals that it’s better to be in second place.
Likewise, at this time of year we sing: “Meshenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha, when the month of Adar begins happiness is increased.” Indeed, in years such as ours, in which there is a first and a second Adar, our Sages conclude that the second Adar is the best! Accordingly, we celebrate Purim and increase happiness—in the second Adar—not the first.
In light of the above, one might assume that the first month of Adar, is rather meaningless, as it merely acts to align the lunar and solar calendars. Hence, what can we do to not allow this entire month to lay fallow?
I believe the answer lies in the following analogy:
High school students typically dread studying for the SAT exam.
Because for many, it requires countless hours of studying, preparation, stress, and so on and so forth. Fortunately, one doesn’t need to simply cram and show up on the day of the SAT test. Instead, a person can take a PSAT, a Practice SAT. The PSAT helps alleviate anxiety and shows a person which area(s) they need to improve upon to raise their score. By taking the PSAT, one furthers their ability to achieve the ultimate level of success on the real SAT.
Believe it or not the “J” in “Judaism” stands for Joy! Indeed, the legendary Chassidic Master, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov famously taught, “It is a mitzvah to be constantly happy!” Moreover, the Talmud expects us to be able to snap our fingers and actually increase our happiness in the second month of Adar!
And yet, let’s be honest.
The Western world, in which we are a part of, was founded upon the axiom of: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To that end, many of us seem to live a life chasing happiness—instead of living in a constant state of joy.
And so, how can we show Hashem in the second month of Adar that we are increasing our simcha, our happiness, if we haven’t even truly found happiness?
The answer is that we can use this first month of Adar as our spiritual PSAT. However, this PSAT stands for: Practicing Simcha All the Time! Sure, there will be periods in which this month seems like a difficult exercise in futility. That said, by the time the second Adar rolls around, we will have prepared and practiced, and by extension, will be empowered to confidently demonstrate to Hashem—and the world—our ability to be SAT: Simcha All the Time!
Rabbi Green is the Overseas Director of Bnot Torah/Sharfman’s where he is beloved for his powerful and enlightening approach to clarifying Jewish issues relevant to our daily lives. To that end, he responds to important life questions for JewishAnswers.org, and has been quoted by MSNBC.com to Mishpacha Magazine. His most recent writing is found on his website, www.rabbimichaelgreen.com, as well as in an anthology titled, Twitter Torah: Thoughts on the Hebrew Bible in 140 Characters or Less. His first book, 5 Ways to Increase Your Spirituality: Ancient Wisdom to Enhance Your Daily Life, was recognized by the Forbes Book Club. His forthcoming work, 9 Spiritual Months: A Treasury of Jewish Insights for Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond, has already received advance praise and approbation. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he resides in the Ramat Eshkol section of Yerushalayim, with his wife and children.