Each year, as we approach the month of Adar, we focus on the expression “Mishenichnas Adar, Marbim B’Simcha” (When the month of Adar arrives, we increase our joy). As 5776 is a leap year and there are two months of Adar, the focus of the phrase relates to the second Adar or Adar Sheini.
The inference is that we should be more joyous during the month of Adar. However, upon more detailed inspection, we discover that we don’t really do anything differently during the month of Adar. We continue to say Tachanun (prayers of supplication), as well as other prayers that would be omitted on other “happy” days. We don’t add anything to our daily liturgy or daily practices that would show our “added joy”.
We also find that this expression is not found in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) or just about any other source of Jewish custom. So where does this mantra come from?
The source of “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha” is in the Gemara (Tractate Ta’anit), commenting on the words of the Mishnah that “Mishenichnas Av Mima’atin B’Simcha” (When the month of Av [in which Tisha B’Av is commemorated] arrives we should reduce our joy).
The Gemara comments that just as when Av arrives, we reduce our joy, so too when Adar arrives we should increase our joy. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) goes further to explain that the reason given for increasing joy in Adar is because these were days of “miracles”, specifically referring to Purim and Pesach.
Why does Rashi add Pesach to the reason for increased jubilation in Adar when it clearly took place in Nisan?
We are told that Rashi adds Pesach into the “celebrations” in order to show us that Purim isn’t an isolated festival. Rather, it initiates a season of redemption, beginning with Adar (Purim) and running through Nisan (Pesach). So perhaps the reason why we are commanded to be joyous is because we are commencing a period of redemption – the exact opposite of Av when we are beginning a period of exile.
This is the season of hope and deliverance, a season of joy and redemption.
We also remember that Adar was not always a joyous month. When Haman wanted to find out which month would be the most vulnerable for the Jews, he cast lots to choose the month and day. The lot fell upon the month of Adar.
When Haman’s plot was foiled, Adar was transformed for the Jews from a month of grief and mourning to one of rejoicing and festivity; the happiness was all the greater. And so, the month of Adar has become the very symbol of joy to us.
This is also an ideal time for us to seek out our own personal redemption, identifying with the struggle of Purim and the path to the redemption.
The month of Adar (Sheini) has just begun, and we look forward to the joy of Purim, and then to the redemption of our people.
May it be a month of joy, happiness, and a true celebration of “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha”!