Purim – the happiest day of the year. From festive meals with ”spirited” l’chaims, to creative costumes…from upbeat music to lively dancing…there’s no happier, livelier day on the Jewish calendar. As the Megillah itself states, “For the Jews there was light (a reference to Torah), and simcha (rejoicing)…” Additionally, we recognize that no celebration can be complete without thinking of our fellow Jews, and thus we also send mishloach manos, gift baskets, to our friends, and we also distribute gifts to the poor. So, on Purim day, our happiness is complete, and we float through the celebrations on a high. But what happens after Purim? How do we feel when the parties and festivities become only memories? How can we maintain that Purim high, even after Purim is long gone?
Perhaps one of the keys to achieving this goal is found in the words of the Sages, as recorded in the Talmud: “When the month of Adar (the Hebrew month during which we celebrate Purim) arrives, we increase our joy.” Let us note that the sages used the term “increase,” as if to suggest that this happens in stages. Our joy and happiness should increase and grow, as if we were climbing a ladder, one rung at a time. But how does one climb the ladder of happiness?
The answer is a realization of what happiness truly is. Only after understanding what happiness really is can one work on achieving it. Happiness is the feeling we experience when we are at peace with ourselves and can honestly say we’re doing the best we can in any given situation. Happiness is a sense of inner satisfaction and fulfillment. As the saying goes, “Where is the city of happiness? In the state of mind!” When we have the proper mindset – that contentment depends on our inner state and not on external factors – we are well on our way to experiencing true happiness.
We see this lesson demonstrated in Megillas Esther, which is read on Purim. There are two places in the Megillah where we find the idea of happiness. The first one pertains to Haman, the evil prime minister who plots the destruction of the Jewish People. We are told how happy Haman is upon being promoted to second-in-command, answering only to King Achashveirosh. He has it all: power, fame, wealth… Life is great and Haman is happy. But then what happens? Haman realizes that one Jewish sage, Mordechai, refuses to pay honor and bow to him. All of a sudden, Haman’s happiness is out the window, and he exclaims that none of his success is worth anything unless Mordechai bows to him! What happened to happiness? Were Haman’s power, fame, or riches diminished? Certainly not. What happened was that Haman’s happiness was linked to external factors, and so as soon as something didn’t go his way, he was no longer happy.
Contrast this with the end of the Megillah, where the verse we mentioned at the outset is found. It states that for the Jews there was “light and happiness.” “And the Jews were happy and rejoiced.” Yes, they were celebrating and rejoicing because they were miraculously saved. But on a deeper level, they were happy because they found inner peace, satisfaction and purpose in life. They re-accepted the Torah.
This year, as we travel through the joyous month of Adar, and celebrate the festive holiday of Purim, let us give thought to the lessons of what true happiness is all about. Happiness is not about external successes and accomplishments, because ultimately those are dependent on Hashem blessing us to achieve those things. Rather true happiness is an internal state of mind; having a sense of clarity about the direction we’re taking; it’s about experiencing inner peace and a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction about all the activities that we are involved in.
May we merit to reconnect to Torah and its values, as the Jews did at the time of the Purim story, and may we merit true happiness all year long. L’chaim! Wishing you a great Shabbos and very happy Purim…and beyond.