BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH
May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Adar upon us for goodness and for blessing.
May You give us long life,
a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.
“Be Happy – It’s Adar!”
Adar is the twelfth and last month of the biblical year, which begins in Nissan, the month of liberation from Egyptian slavery. The happy holiday of Purim, when the scroll of Esther is read in commemoration of God’s salvation of the Jews of Persia, always falls on 14th Adar. In a leap year it is celebrated in Adar Bet. The story of Esther speaks of God’s people who are in exile and the defeat of the enemy who plots to destroy them. It illustrates the historical threat of Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish people; and the timeless promise of God’s salvation and ultimate victory. Esther’s cry echoes the cry of her matriarch Rachel, who wept for her children who were in exile*, and God again hears from Heaven and brings deliverance. Faithful God and mighty Deliverer! A good reason to celebrate with a party, and to put up a sign to remind yourself, “Be Happy – it’s Adar!”
The month of Adar corresponds with the tribe of Naftali.* As recorded in Genesis 30:8, he was the second son born to Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah, Why did Rachel name him Naftali? And what is his tribe’s connection with the month of Adar?
The Blessings of Naftali
When Jacob assembled his sons to his deathbed, he blessed Naftali as follows: “Naftali is a hind let loose, who delivers – imri shafer – beautiful sayings” (Genesis 49:21).
The Midrash explains that the word shafer alludes to the word m’shaper, to perfect or to beautify, and to the word shofar. Interestingly, Proverbs 5:19 compares the Torah to a “beloved hind”. A possible reason for this is found in a verse in the Talmud, which states that just as a hind always remains beloved to her mate so too the Torah remains beloved to those who study it.*** The tribe of Naftali would obey and perfect, i.e., teach and clarify the words, or sayings, of the Torah that were given at Sinai with the sound of the shofar.
By comparing him to a hind, a female deer, let loose, we can surmise that a characteristic of the tribe would be alacrity – the ability to swiftly reach “high places” and to be fruitful in their undertakings. Indeed, once the Israelites were in the Land, the northern Galilee area allotted to Naftali proved to be extremely fertile and was the first to rapidly produce much fruit.
The Scriptures also describe how the tribe of Naftali were ready and able soldiers, quick to defend their nation. With alacrity this tribe, led by Barak ben Avinoam, joined the prophetess Deborah and fought to defeat Sisera and his mighty army (Judges 4:10).
When Moses blessed the tribe, he proclaimed, “Oh Naftali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 33:23). This was a blessed tribe indeed; those satisfied with their lot in life. They studied and shared Torah, produced an abundance of olives, fish, and fruits of the Land, and enjoyed the good favor of God and man.
It is not surprising to find that this is the area where Simon Peter and his brothers lived and which Yeshua loved. Here he performed many miracles and gave his discourse on blessings on the Mount of Beatitudes. The green, fruitful surrounding and the beauty of the fresh water Lake Kinneret glimmering below could not have stood in greater contrast to the dry, barren wilderness landscape of Mount Sinai. However, a dark spiritual shadow covered the land and the people were suffering under harsh Roman domination; their hearts yearned for Messiah and Redemption. Now, here in the Galilee stronghold of the Roman gentiles, they beheld the Light of the Torah Incarnate in their midst.
…And leaving Nazareth [Jesus] went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naftali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “In the land of Zebulun and the land of Naftali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned” (Matthew 4:13-16).
Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2).
IDF soldiers having fun!
Humor often puts things into perspective and in a world that sometimes makes no sense, often combines sorrow and laughter. In Adar we find a laughter which springs from joy.
As Rabbi Lubliner describes, in Sanctity of Laughter,
Humor is also a path to God. For to laugh at something is to recognize its limits, its boundaries. Humor shatters a variety of idols — be they our leaders, our enemies, our own foibles. Only God is absolute. All Jewish humor points to the fact that nothing else in this universe even comes close [to Him].
The message of Adar is not to wear a mask of joy to cover up your true feelings. Pain and suffering touches every life, but this month of Adar reminds us that joy is our birthright.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).
In the face of the ongoing historical threat and violence of Amalek, we can trust in the timeless promise of God’s salvation and ultimate victory.
As Queen Esther reminds us during this month of Adar, even when we cannot see Him God always is whispering to us: “I am with you, as I have been all along. I will always be here for you. Choose in faith to see Me in all circumstances, and let your heart be filled with joy and peace.”
~ Keren Hannah Pryor
* Jeremiah 31:15-17
** Pri Tzaddik, Rosh Chodesh Adar, quoting Shaarei Orah
*** Talmud Bavli, Eruvin 54b