Adar- Having the Last Laugh

By: Mrs. Shalvie Friedman

(Current MMY Teacher)

The month of Adar is a month of “שמחה ומשתה” for the Jewish people. But more than just a time of frivolity, this is a month where we can truly overcome the symbolic paradigm of עמלק, the enemy of עם ישראל as a people, and each of us- its members, as individuals. 

The Sefer Yetzira explains how each month in the year is connected to a specific letter in the aleph bet as well as a uniqueKoach or expression in the human body. These both serve to teach us of the month's deeper meaning. The Sefer Yetzira tells us that the letter for Adar is the letter "ק", and the Koach in the body is laughter. What is the significance of these allusions?

The letter "ק" is the only Hebrew letter that extends beyond the bottom of a line and into the line beneath it. Rav Tzadok explains how the letter "ק" is the letter which symbolizes גשמיות- physicality and superficiality. This is the drive of עמלק- the nation that is עמל- it toils- to reveal and to expose the "ק"- only that which is material. That is why the midrash tells us that Amalek scoffs at מצוות like ברית מילה and kicks the סוכה- they proclaim “how can you see Hashem and קדושה in the physical world?! Rather- embrace the pleasures of this world and leave spirituality behind.”

The month of Adar is a month in which we can change that entire paradigm. In the same way that Hashem’s name is hidden in מגילת אסתר, we know that Hashem Himself is hidden in עולם הזה. Unlike the רוחניות and קדושה that we attain on Yom kiPURIM through fasting and disengaging from material pleasures, on Purim itself- the more elevated of the two- we eat and drink and give gifts and use these actions as a tool to find a part of our spiritual selves, which can only be found through such this-worldly activities. The letter "ק" (Kof) is also the Hebrew word for monkey. The work of Adar is to choose to see the whole world as an imitation of Hashem instead of just seeing the monkey at face value.

Laughter is a strange thing. In Bereishit (17:17) we see that Avraham laughs when Hashem tells Him after his ברית that Sara will bear a child. The Ramban explains that laughter is a natural response to experiencing the unexpected. When there is a twist in the tale- a joke is born.

In 2014, BBC news ran an article in which they explained why it is that people laugh when tickled.

"Evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists believe that we laugh when we are tickled because the part of the brain that tells us to laugh when we experience a light touch, the hypothalamus, is also the same part that tells us to expect a painful sensation."  

Studies show that when we are tickled, messages are sent to our brains to expect aggression, and yet, we do not perceive pain- we experience affection. (This is perhaps why we do NOT laugh when tickled by a stranger- we do not experience the unexpected affection of a loved one- only an invasion of our personal space- much the same thing as the anticipated aggression.) That surprise experience of affection triggers the laughter response.

The month of Adar is a month of ״ונהפוך הוא״- A total paradigm shift. Haman planned to wipe out the entire Jewish nation in one day- and that day turned into a day of celebration and defeat of the Jewish enemy. But we laugh in Adar not just because we were going to be destroyed and instead we merited salvation. We laugh in Adar, the last month of the Jewish year- because after 11 months of gaining deep growth in the spiritual realms of our life- we now see how that growth CAN and MUST be expressed in our physical lives too. In our eyes, the גשמיות goes through its own metamorphosis- its own ונהפוך הוא- and becomes our רוחניות

May we be זוכה through our עבודת השם to reach the day about which David Hamelech has told us: 

"אז ימלא שחוק פינו"(Tehillim 126) - the day the we realize that our entire perception of our lives and of this world was really a joke- and with Hashem’s twist in the tale we will see Him in simply everything.So this Purim, let our laughter be our weapon.  Let it be the laughter of wonder at the miracles of Hashem.