By Rabbi Ora Weiss
The Hebrew Month of Adar, beginning this year on February 26, has great weight and depth, much more so if one is aware and takes advantage of its powerful vertical energy, Source/God energy. There is a circularity to entering this energy. Each year we step in to start another year long circular journey around its vertical energy, potentially moving us toward greater wisdom. With each circle around Adar we have the opportunity to go deeper within the self to draw ever closer to our God-self.
At the same time, Adar invites us to do a review of the past year’s circle which is a review of honor: did we do our work in going deeper, in accessing more wisdom. Are we more able to give answers based in wisdom. Are we living with more responsibility for our growing wisdom, are we bringing it forward in our communication with others. We are able to look back upon each of the looping circles for each year of our lives that we circle Adar, and see what wisdom we have gained. Most often, that wisdom is gained through pain, trauma, sorrow. We can ask ourselves, what did we endure, what did we suffer that year and how did it shape us?
If we consciously connect to the energy of this circle throughout the year, we increase more readily in wisdom, in drawing closer to our core, our Source-self. That is perhaps the sense underlying the sages’ comment that “one who enters Adar increases in joy”1, because an increase in wisdom will increase joy.
An increase in wisdom, being in greater conscious connection with our Source-self, will finally allow us to “Serve God in Joy” (Ps. 100:2). Many of us have trouble accepting this dictate, in part because we feel like we’re giving up control to an outside agency. And we resist in part because sometimes that service is highly challenging, so we may think this can’t be how I am supposed to serve. But when we are aware of who we are, of what specific path we have chosen to serve2, then we are more able to fulfill this work in joy even if the path is difficult or painful. It is such a reassuring feeling to know that the mountain we choose to climb is actually our work in this world. And, even better, the wiser we grow, the more aware of who we are, we are more often able to receive our lessons in joy instead of pain.
How does one consciously embark upon this circular path of increasing wisdom? It starts by putting one’s ego aside, becoming silent and listening. Simple but very difficult for us humans, where ego most often runs the show. In a rather startling commentary, Rebbe Mordecai Yosef Leiner3 discusses why, for each step in building the Mishkan – the Tabernacle, or Sanctuary – it is written that it was done “just as God commanded”. But after the Mishkan was built, there was no such statement about the building of the courtyard surrounding the Mishkan.4 Leiner explains that after the Mishkan was completed, everything changed. Moshe could no longer hear clearly; God’s word was no longer as distinct and unmistakable.5
What had happened? The building of the Mishkan is a metaphor for the building of wisdom, the vertical energy, inside the self. When the meaning became confused, and Moshe, the rabbis, the people looked to the structure itself as holding the power, with the understanding that the power was outside of themselves, the power to connect with the vertical energy of Source was diminished. This is the understanding that each person was, and is, to become the Mishkan, each to build themself into a vessel for the vertical energy, for the divine flow. We are to embody the 13 Attributes of God.6
The Hasidic sage R. Menachem Nahum Twersky explained that to be in the divine flow and to receive wisdom we must become like a wilderness. To become like a wilderness, “one must beseech the Holy One of Blessing that ‘my spirit become like dust to all.’ ”7 This is the notion of ridding oneself of ego, to be able to sit in silence and listen to the timeless wisdom of the vertical energy, to the God-self.
The holiday of Purim which falls within Adar features a man who had mastered making himself into such a wilderness, in order to help save the Jewish people. The Book of Esther recounts the story of how Mordecai and Esther, two Jews, are able to reverse a decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jews in the land. It is often commented that although God is not mentioned in this Biblical book of Esther, the plot seems quite dependent on extreme coincidences, (one might say miracles). Why do we not hear about God in this book? Because this story is the example par excellence of one who was able to bring in the voice of God by being in the silence, without ego.
The story tells us that Esther, who had become the Queen without divulging her Jewish identity, is coached by Mordecai to go, unbidden, to the King to beseech him to change the decree. Such an unbidden appearance was forbidden and usually resulted in death, so Esther resisted. Mordecai proceeds to tell her that if she does not do this, someone else will save the Jews, while she and all in her father’s house will die. And, moreover “who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” (Esther, 4:14). Mordecai does not glorify himself by saying that he is engaging in prophesy, although clearly he is. And he does not claim the certainty of a prophet, but rather frames his wisdom with a humble “who knows” – that perhaps this is why she became queen, to serve in this way. And, of course, all is well for the Jews in the end of the story, as a result of Mordecai’s prophesy and Esther’s actions.
Mordecai exemplifies the non-egoic position, the strength that comes from relying on the wisdom of the vertical energy pouring through. He became like a wilderness, open to the Torah he needed in the moment. And so we were saved, in that story. There is an uphill road facing all of us this year on many fronts. If we learn from the story of Purim, if we draw down upon the energy of Adar, we can be partners in saving ourselves. I bless us all with the courage to review our past circles, and to commit to going forward on a conscious circle around Adar this next year. Be open to wisdom and connection with the well of Source within. May we all live in joy!
Rabbi Ora Weiss is the Rabbinic Advisory Board Co-Chair.
1 B. Taanit 29a
2 Each person has their own specific journey, specific work and tikkun (healing) to do in the world, that no one else can do. The Slonimer Rebbe, in Netivot Shalom, commentary on Lekh Lekha.
3 Mei Hashiloach, on Parshat Pekudei.
4 With each step of constructing the Mishkan, Torah says that “Just as God commanded, it was built”. (E.g. Exodus 39:5,7,21,26,29,32,42; Ex. 40:16,19, 21, 26,32.) But after the Mishkan was built, there was no such statement following completion of the courtyard enclosing the Mishkan, although this, too had been commanded. (Ex. 27:9-18; Ex. 40:33).
5 Mei Hashiloach, Commentary on Parshat Pekudei (Ex. 40:33).
6 R’ Menachem Nahum of Chernobyl, comments on God saying “Have them build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell within them” (Ex. 25:8). “To the extent that one clothes oneself in the Thirteen Attributes of God (Ex. 34:6-7) one is able to draw down the divine flow into oneself, as it is written (Ex. 25:8), ‘and I will dwell within them.’ “ In other words, make yourself into a Mishkan – a sanctuary by being that love that is God. Meor Anayim, Rosh HaShanah.
7 Meor Anayim, Commentary on Parshat Yitro. See also B. Eruvin 54a, “One who makes themselves like a wilderness, Torah is given to them as a gift.”