We are supposed to rejoice in the month of Adar and especially on Purim. But what if you’re just not feeling it? I for one am not!
On every Shabbat and Jewish festivals we recite the Psalm in which King David says, “I was happy whenever people said to me, ‘Let’s journey to the House of G-d.’” What did King David mean by this?
The Midrash explains, the House of G-d refers to the Temple. But why would people make reference to a Temple that wasn’t built yet? Explains the Midrash, this refers to mean-spirited people who knew how much King David wanted to build the Temple, but G-d had denied him that opportunity because he was a man of war, and reserved the project for his son King Solomon. So they mockingly taunted him by saying, “Let’s go to the House of G-d.”
So why is he then happy? You would expect him to be hurt, upset, offended by these taunts. Yet, far from being angered, King David says, “I’m happy” – because whatever their malicious intent, at least this means that the Temple is on their minds which reflects, if nothing else, a subconscious yearning for it to be built – and that in itself will ensure that it gets built!” The instinctive response would have been a negative one. They expose a wound in his heart. But he saw the silver lining. He looked beneath the superficial exterior of the concern at hand and saw the implicit blessing within: Same reality, completely different perspective.
We tend to think that emotions are simply what we feel. We don’t choose our likes and dislikes, our resentments and joys. They catch us and hold us helpless in their grip. So we conclude that we can’t help feeling what we feel, and that we are at the mercy of external events.
But King David in this verse suggests something profoundly different: what we feel is largely determined by what we think, how we interpret external events, and how we react to them – this is something that is completely under our control.
We all have issues or concerns of sorts against which we have also have goodness and things to be grateful for. Yes, stuff happens, life doesn’t always go to plan. But to worry, to feel depressed has never helped anyone. Hence the tactic of looking to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Don’t worry Sam. Stay happy!
As a warden of a particular shul which shall remain nameless, I am keen to know if you have any innovative ideas to get people to come back into Synagogue. It’s amazing how people have just fallen out of routine and won’t return.
I am not sure why you feel the need to be anonymous. You are in the same boat as pretty much every other shul. However, I can share with you a scheme we launched in our Shul that is working a treat. Think air miles. The more one attends shul (there is a halachic registration process) the more discount they get on their membership. In addition, we’ve teamed up with local kosher shops and restaurants to offer them a discount, again based on their “prayer miles.” If one attends daily and Shabbat for a total of 35 weeks in the year, one gets platinum status which entitles them to a 50% discount on membership in the coming year, plus they get to choose the subject matter of my sermon for 3 Shabbatot. Hey it’s not a perfect formula but it works.
Are You All In?
In the opening of the story of the book of Esther we are given so much detail about King Achasverosh’s feast – the vessels and utensils, the materials and fabrics used. Who cares? Can’t we cut things short and finish quicker?
King Achashverosh threw an enormous party to celebrate his consolidation of power on the Persian throne. It is a drunken, decadent bacchanal that lasts for a full 180 days, followed by an after party for another seven days. Arguably, the only relevant detail of that party is that the mad king summoned his wife to come, she refuses and he ultimately does a Henry VIII on her.
But there’s an important lesson here. When Achashverosh throws a party, he goes all in. He would not settle for mediocrity. If he can have it over the top, he will have it just that way! If he can drink for 187 days, so be it. If he can give his people a memory of a life time, this is what he will do.
The invaluable lesson is this: Even this crazy king understood that in life you’ve got to give it all you got! Don’t do things by half measures. As they say in Latin: “Carpe Diem!” Life calls on us to live it to the fullest. Or as they say in modern jargon: “Go big or go home!”
He was a drunken dictator. If even he understood this, how much more so do we need to understand this! Invest yourself in all that you do! Show up to life and to love with every fibre of your being. Flex all of your soul and emotional muscles. Hold nothing back.
Have a joyous Purim!