D’var Torah: Purim and the Keys to Happiness by Rabbi Ed Gelb
The other week, I heard a rabbi speak about joy. He pointed out that Jews say, “From when the month of Adar begins, our joy increases.” It also refers to joy at the end of the megillah. “For the Jews there was light and joy, happiness and celebration.” Joy, or happiness, can be elusive. The rabbi I heard mentioned that it was Haman’s inability to be happy with what he had that caused all the problems. First, his unhappiness caused problems for the Jews, and ultimately, his unhappiness caused his own downfall.
Haman seemed to have it all. He was second only to the king. He was incredibly respected and powerful. He had a wife and many children. Yet the fact that one Jew, Mordecai, didn’t bow down to him drove him crazy. He decided to destroy all the Jews to salve his own ego. You know the story: eventually, Queen Esther, who was a hidden Jew, was able to thwart Haman and bring about his demise.
What is the secret to happiness? It certainly isn’t power and it certainly isn’t things. Those things can be nice and even helpful, but they aren’t the keys to happiness. The first key is clearly the happiness that is described at the end of the megillah. The Jews were happy because they secured the basic needs of life and freedom. They were on the brink of being massacred and instead they ended up with their champion, Mordecai, as prime minister.
The second key to happiness is the relationships people build with one other. It is with these relationships that camp proves to be so important. Camp isn’t about material things or about power. It is about people living with each other, getting to know each other, sharing experiences, and building bonds that last a life time. The sheer joy our campers feel at being at camp is one of the greatest sights to behold.
As we celebrate Purim this year, I hope we all take the time to feel the joy of the wonderful family, friends and communities that we are a part of. Purim Sameach!