I saw this image on Facebook earlier this week and it got me thinking about happiness. Since the beginning of the month of Adar (ok technically since the beginning of the first month of Adar – see my earlier post about the complexities of the Jewish leap year), we have been talking about and trying to increase our happiness. And, it’s not as easy as the chart indicates.
In recent years, an entire school of psychology has arisen that is dedicated to happiness. Positive psychology looks at human functioning, not from a deficit model that we use to describe mental illness, but rather trying to figure out how do we live more fulfilling and meaningful lives. It’s a long way from Dr. Freud blaming your mother for all of your woes.
While the month of Adar focuses on happiness, it is the holiday of Purim that brings this into focus. Costumes and candy aside, Purim is not the Jewish version of Halloween. And it is more than just the stereotypical Jewish holiday (we were in trouble, we were saved, let’s eat as the Bible Players adroitly summarized this past weekend). Purim is the Jewish version of positive psychology.
Each of the mitzvot that we engage in over Purim are designed to increase our happiness. Mishloach manot, giving gifts of food to friends, and matanot l’evyonim, giving gifts to the poor, reflect that when we do things for others we feel better about ourselves. Listening to the megillah? Who doesn’t feel better after hearing a dramatic story with a positive ending?
And, of course, the often quoted requirement to become so drunk that you cannot distinguish between Mordechai and Haman falls into this as well. While we can debate to what level one should actually partake, we connect alcohol to celebrations and connecting with friends, and these help promote happiness.
So this weekend, take time to invest in your happiness and celebrate Purim! Enjoy the fun-filled Mishloach Manot bags that will come home today too!
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach,
Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School