Joy is a Powerful Driver

Friday, 9 February, 2024 - 12:45 pm

The first of the four sections of the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) is called Orach Chayim (the Path of Life). It deals with the daily life of a Jew and then proceeds to go through the calendar cycle, with all the special days contained therein.

The very first law authored by the Rama (the Ashkenazi authority who wrote glosses on the Code) begins with a quote from Psalms 16, “I place G‑d before me constantly.” This teaches that from the moment we awaken, the awareness that we are constantly in the presence of the Divine influences how we go about our day.

The last set of laws deals with the month of Adar I (in a Jewish leap year). He instructs us that on Purim Katan (the 14th of Adar I), though it is not the actual day of Purim (which is held in Adar II), nevertheless we should mark the day with a slight increase in celebration. He then concludes with a quote from Proverbs 15, “One who is glad of heart, celebrates constantly.”

The common denominator is the term “constantly” in both verses. Constant awareness of being in Hashem’s presence and constant joy. In Hebrew the word is Tamid. The same term is used to describe the daily offerings in the Temple that we brought on the altar, the first offering each morning and the last offering each afternoon. The two “Tamids” are the bookends of a day in the life of a Jew. Similarly, in Orach Chayim (the Path of Life) the two “Tamids” are the bookends of Jewish life, Reverence for G-d and joy.

The first one makes sense. Constant awareness of being in Hashem’s presence is the driver for all that we are supposed to be about. But joy? Why is joy so integral to Jewish life? Judaism does not view joy (only) as a response to positive circumstances. Rather, Judaism views joy as a generator of positive circumstances. Joy and a positive attitude help shape and mold positive outcomes.

The Talmud states, “When Adar enters, we increase in joy.” This year we have two Adars. That is double the joy. Twice the power to influence and shape positive outcomes. May our collective joy shape the positive outcome for our world, bringing us the blessing of peace and security for our brethren in Israel and the joy of Redemption for the whole world.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov! Be Happy!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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