"When the month of Av begins, we minimize joy... Rav Yehuda the son
of Shmuel the son of Shilat says in the name of Rav: Just as one is
required to minimize joy when the month of Av begins, so too when the
month of Adar begins, we increase joy." (T.B. Ta'anit 29a)
Rashi (ibid.) comments: (When Adar begins) These were times of
miracles for the Jews- Purim and Pesach.
The language of "JUST AS one is required to minimize joy...SO, TOO,
when the month of Adar enters, one increases joy" implies that the two
laws emanate from a similar construct. What factor is there that
requires minimization of joy during the month of Av, which is the same
factor which mandates an increase in joy during the month of Adar?
An additional difficulty is Rashi's inclusion of Pesach in the
discussion of increasing joy in the month of Adar, which is the month of
In telling about Haman's lottery to choose a date to destroy the
Jews, the Talmud (T.B. Megillah 13b) teaches:
"Since the lottery came out on the month of Adar Haman was very
happy. He said `My lottery fell in the month that Moshe died.' But he
didn't know that although on the seventh of Adar Moshe died, on the
seventh of Adar he was (also) born."
The implication is that Haman's joy was basically justified. The
month that Moshe died would have been most suitable for the destruction
of the Jews. His only miscalculation was that Moshe Rabbeinu was born on
the same day that he died. What made Adar a month so suitable for
Haman's decree? And why should the fact that both his birth and death
were on the same day have altered the equation so significantly? (The
precise implication of the Talmud's state is that even if he had been
born in Adar, that would not have been enough. It was the fact that
Moshe was born on the same DAY that he died that made the difference.)
The Mishna in Taanit (T.B. Ta'anit 26a-b) lists five tragedies that
occurred to the Jewish people on the 17th of Tammuz, and five others that
occurred on the 9th of Av. In each case, the tragedy of Av was the
conclusion of destruction that had its origins in the month of Tammuz.
The two major events in the Mishna will serve to illustrate this point.
The Exodus from Egypt was the beginning of a process that was to
take the Jews to Sinai to receive the Torah and on to the Land of Israel
to erect the Holy Temple, never to be exiled. On the 17th of Tammuz,
after receiving the Torah, the Jews committed cheit ha'egel, the sin of
the Golden Calf, and when Moshe came down from Sinai he broke the
Tablets. While their sin was a digression from the ideal plan, G-d was
prepared to forgive this sin and allow those who left Egypt to enter the
land of Israel and continue with the original process. (See Exodus
32:34; T.B. Sanhedrin 102a.) But the sin of the spies, with the refusal
of the Jewish people to enter the Land of Israel on the 9th of Av
terminated the process. It would have to be a different generation that
entered Israel. Until that time, despite ups and downs, the potential
still could have been realized. In the month of Av, the potential was
lost and the process terminated.
In Tammuz, the walls of the City of Jerusalem were breached,
beginning the process of the destruction of the Temple. Three weeks
later, in the month of Av, the destruction was completed. Until that
time, there was still hope that the Temple could be salvaged. Av was the
time that the end was reached, closing the door on actualizing any
potential that still existed.
The great joy associated with the birth of a baby is due to the
tremendous potential we envision. A baby is pure potential, and when
measured as such, every ability exists to its fullest. Every opportunity
appears possible, and this is a source of great joy.
But the actuality never lives up to the potential. This is a
reality of the finite world and is true everywhere: in physics, in human
relationships, and in something as mundane as a vacation. Our visions
and expectations are disappointed by reality.
So death brings sadness. Potential exists no more. The reality of
accomplishment always falls short of the immeasurable potential with
which the baby was born. Opportunities and potential that existed in
life are gone forever with death, and this is the source of our sadness.
We have reached the conclusion, and the point of termination is always a
An endpoint can be reached because a process is terminated. Or it
can be reached because a process has reached completion. A conclusion
can signify termination or it can signify completion In the latter
situation, the completed process can serve as the basis for a new process
to begin. (See Maharal Or Chadash and Netzach Yisrael.)
When Moshe Rabbeinu died, the process of receiving the Torah seemed
to have ended. With the destruction of the first Temple, due to the
nation's abandonment of that Torah, followed by the failure of G-d to
redeem the Jews from their exile according to the expected schedule the
time appeared ripe for the total destruction of the Jewish people. When
Haman's lottery fell in the month of Adar, the month of Moshe Rabbeinu's
death, he viewed it as a propitious sign. The termination of the Jewish
people was most suitable in the month that the process of receiving the
Torah, the Jewish life force, had ended. Adar, as the end of the year,
ld be the end of the Jewish people.
Yet the Rabbis teach us that he missed something. Where was Haman's
Moshe Rabbeinu was an exception to the norm. His death on the day
that he was born indicated that he actualized his potential to the
fullest. The reality matched the expectations. His death wasn't the
termination of actualizing potential, but was the fulfillment, the proper
conclusion, of that potential. It set the stage for a new beginning,
starting with an even higher level of potential. So the month of Moshe
Rabbeinu's death could signify the end. Or it could signify a new
On what would it depend?
The Ramban at the end of Parshath Bo (Exodus 13:16) explains that G-
d's divine intervention through supernatural miracles, particularly when
announced in advance by a prophet, refutes a number of fundamental
heresies. These miracles demonstrate that the world has a Creator, that
He knows and attends to what is happening, and He has the power to change
the natural order. When announced in advance by a prophet, these
miracles also demonstrate that He communicates with man through prophets,
thereby confirming our Torah, which was revealed through the mechanism of
The miracles of the exodus from Egypt, including the ten plagues and
culminating in the splitting of the Red Sea, were all miracles done for
Since, continues the Ramban, G-d does not perform such miracles in
each generation simply to convince every doubter or heretic, he commanded
us to make concrete memorials of these miracles (Mezuzot and Tefillin),
and to transmit to our children throughout the generations the fact of
these miracles. There were also many commandments focused on the Exodus
from Egypt, some with very strict punishments for their violation, to
perpetuate the testimony in every generation of these miracles, silencing
heretics who would deny G-d's existence.
Pesach miracles were unique in the clear and overt manifestation of
G-d's intervention in and control over every element of nature and
history. They were done in an undeniable way, for all the world to
There was a unique theological aspect to these miracles as well. To
be the beneficiary of Divine intervention normally requires great merit
on the part of man. Yet, we are taught that by the end of their exile in
Egypt, the Jews had descended spiritually to the forty-ninth level of
spiritual impurity . They were hardly worthy, based on their deeds, of
having miracles performed for them. Despite this, and with no human
input or activity whatsoever, spiritual or physical , the miracles were
performed and the Jews were redeemed exactly on schedule.
Through the period of the first Temple, G-d's presence continued to
be manifest, with daily miracles (Avot Ch. 5 Mishna 5) and ongoing
prophecy. With the destruction of the Temple, these miracles ceased,
never to return. During the Babylonian exile prophecy was on the wane,
and G-d's presence was becoming hidden.
This was the state of the Jewish people when Achashveirosh made his
feast to celebrate the apparent failure of G-d to redeem the Jewish
people on schedule. The Jews felt compelled to participate in the feast
(T.B. Megillah 12a) despite protests from Mordechai that it was
improper. Nine years later, the Jews were faced with a decree of total
annihilation. G-d sent no prophecy to tell them why it was happening or
how they should be saved. His face was hidden. How were they to know
what was happening to them?
Through the eyes of an observer, the events of the Purim story can
easily be interpreted as normal historical and political occurrences.
Vashti being executed; a new queen being appointed; Haman being promoted;
his hatred of Mordechai who wouldn't subjugate himself; the resulting
desire of Haman to destroy the Jews; his striking a deal with the King;
Esther revealing the plot and the consequences for her personally; the
King executing Haman for his treachery. Even the apparently less
significant events could be attributed to those interesting quirks and
coincidences of history. Bigtan and Teresh plotting to the kill the king
in the earshot of Mordechai; Achashveirosh having insomnia and
discovering that Mordechai had never been rewarded for his part in saving
the king's life, EXACTLY at the time that Haman was coming to convince
the king to have Mordechai executed; none of these events seem to point
conclusively to any Divine intervention in the natural running of the
The Jew bases his belief in G-d not on philosophy, but the
compelling and overt miracles of Pesach and Divine revelation at Sinai.
But if miracles aren't occurring, if G-d isn't communicating with man
prophetically, man's relationship with G-d is endangered.
It is significant that the name G-d does not appear even once in the
entire Megillah. The Purim miracles were G-d's hidden intervention in
and control of history. Performance of these miracles was dependent on
the moral and ethical activity of man. Everything was in place for the
decree of annihilation to be executed. Had the Jews not understood the
true source of the decree and repented properly, that decree would have
been carried out. Instead, G-d redirected and inverted each element of
potential destruction into an outcome of salvation. But it was done
behind the scenes, with the miracles being done within the natural order.
The miracles of Pesach begin the annual cycle of Holidays. The
miracles of Purim close the cycle. There is an evolution from G-d's
overt miraculous intervention, with man playing no role, to G-d's hidden
miraculous intervention, which are dependent on human actions (both
ethical and spiritual) to bring them about, and human insight to
As we are further removed from our observation of G-d's miraculous
intervention in nature, it becomes easier to attribute the natural
running of the world to historical forces, political forces, coincidence.
It has become the natural human reaction to look for forces outside the
Divine to explain what we observe. This parallels the development of our
calendar year. The spring month of Nisan and the holiday of Pesach are
beginnings, when G-d's creative and miraculous powers are manifest.
Adar, at the end of a dark winter, is the conclusion of the year. As
with any process, by the time one reaches the end, things have become
routine. One may not see G-d so clearly anymore. Man becomes
susceptible to the forces of Amalek, forces that belittle things of
significance and elevate the power of coincidence.
As a conclusion, the month of Adar is suitable for the destruction,
the conclusion, of Klal Yisrael. The death of Moshe was viewed by Haman
as the conclusion of a certain force in Klal Yisrael, the force that gave
them the Torah.
But every conclusion has the ability to be inverted (nehepach) to a
completion. And as such it can serve as a new beginning to greater
accomplishments. Moshe's birth on the day that he died showed that the
conclusion can serve as a new birth. The same force of conclusion which
dictates minimization of joy in Av, dictates maximization of joy in Adar,
for Adar was inverted from termination to completion.
The source of great joy in Adar is the recognition that the miracles
of Purim had their origin at Pesach. The manifest presence of G-d in the
miracles of Pesach serves as the foundation of our recognition of His
hidden intervention in the miracles of Purim. The conclusion of prophecy
and overt miracles that preceded the time of Purim could have been a
termination point in our relationship with G-d. But through the
struggles and efforts of the Jewish people at recognizing G-d, even when
He was hidden, it became a new beginning.
Originally, the Jews had received the Torah as a result of their
clear observation of Divine miracles and prophecy. There is an element
of coercion in such an experience. As the Rabbis teach us (Shabbat 88a)
Purim led to a renewed commitment to Torah observance, one done through
their completely independent recognition of the Divine power and G-d's
love for the Jewish people. If no relationship is seen between the
hidden intervention of G-d (Purim) and the overt miraculous control of
nature (Pesach), then G-d remains hidden (Hester). Our own efforts at
discovering the hidden relationship that exists between G-d and the
Jewish people deepen that relationship, leading to the special joy of
Adar and Purim.