We are in the middle of the Hebrew month of Adar, a month when we are commanded to be joyful. Commanded. It’s not a gentle suggestion or a request, it’s an obligation from G-d.
Some years it’s easy: between Purim, the spring thaw, and the general goodness of life, the mitzvah of Adar joy is as simple as the sunlight outside the window.
This is not one of those years.
My job search stretches to the three-month mark and while there are some interesting possibilities out there — and I have been keeping myself productive by doing small consulting or volunteering projects — this prolonged period of underemployment is affecting my confidence and sense of my place in the world. And while there is currently some sunlight outside my window, it mainly does an excellent job of illuminating the schmutzy remnants of the several feet of snow that have fallen this winter.
In addition, my various communities have been hit hard by tragedy recently. Since the beginning of Adar three weeks ago, I have attended four funerals and visited three houses of mourning. Two of the deceased were relatively young, and one of these young men was taken suddenly, leaving behind his wife and ten-year-old son.
I wander through my days, clinging to my children and my to-do list, barely listening to the chatter that surrounds, searching for some deeper connection that can carry me through the fog.
I find it where I always do: in community. Our custom of providing food for the bereaved is only the beginning. We have been watching each other’s children in order to enable each other to attend the mourners. We have been leading shiva minyanim and checking on each other more than usual and greeting each other with more kind looks and heartfelt hugs.
Adar may not be as joyful this year as in other years, but there is a muted joy in coping together.