This is the beginning of the month of Adar. There is a Jewish saying about this month that tells us, “When Adar comes in, joy increases.”
The Talmud says, “Just as joy is decreased at the beginning of the month of Av, joy increases at the beginning of the month of Adar” (b.Ta’anit 29a). Why is Adar so strongly associated with increasing feelings of joy?
One source of joy during this month is the remembrance of thwarting the plans of the wicked Haman to exterminate the Jewish people. We celebrate his defeat during the festival of Purim which falls on the fourteenth day of Adar, and in Jerusalem, the frivolity continues on the fifteenth.
Another traditional reason for the joy of Adar is that this is remembered as being the month that Moses, our teacher, was born. Judaism holds that his birth was on the seventh of Adar of the year 2368. One hundred and twenty years later he died on the same day. Because he was a tzaddik, his years were complete. Many pious Jews fast on this day.
Our world today is in turmoil. In addition to terrorism, baseless hatred seems to be at an all-time high! Where do we find a source for increasing joy when there is so much that inspires increasing negative feelings?
The Bible teaches us that joy comes from God. Like wisdom, joy begins with the fear of HaShem. The ancient Jewish book of wisdom known as Sirach says, “The fear of the Lord delights the heart, and gives gladness and joy and long life” (Sirach 1:12). How does joy come from fear? The fear of God could also be understood as respect for him as the one who rewards and punishes everyone for their deeds. Judaism tells us that this is one of the foundations of faith. We are told in Scripture that the payment for sin is death. The Torah also clearly states that the wages of obedience is life. Therefore, we find a source of our joy in the Torah. Psalm 119:24 tells us that his statutes are our delight.
In addition to finding our joy in God’s word, we also find it in the hope of Messiah. Obedience to his teachings fills us with joy: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). Moreover, we ought to rejoice as we surround ourselves with other like-minded disciples who encourage each other to perform the good deeds that HaShem has prescribed from long ago that we should do.
When we view the world with eyes that look forward to the beauty and bounty of the world under the rule of King Messiah when he returns, our hearts should be filled with hope. Our Master teaches that we should rejoice in the hope of his coming. He says, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). The Master made this statement as an encouragement to those who are excluded, reviled, and spurned for upholding the reputation of Messiah. We don’t find our joy in being persecuted. We find our joy in spite of, and in the midst of persecution.
So in what day do we rejoice if not the day of persecution? We rejoice in “that day.” Zechariah and each of the other prophets uses the words “that day” (bayom hahu) to refer to the coming of the Messiah and the inauguration of the final redemption. He uses it in one of the most well-known verses to observant Jews who pray it multiple times every day, “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth; on that day the LORD shall be one and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
In light of this understanding we can interpret Yeshua’s words as, “Rejoice (as your hope is assured) in that day, and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven” It should also be said that heaven is a circumlocution for God’s name. The reward isn’t waiting for us to die and go to heaven to receive it. Our reward is great and HaShem is keeping it in his possession until it is time to bestow it upon us! We await Messiah every day who will bring with him the repayment that is due us for our faithfulness.
The book of Esther states that “the Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor” (Esther 8:16). What was the source of their joy? They rejoiced in the word of the king and in his command. The decree that stood against them declaring their inevitable deaths was not abolished, but it was overridden. In spite of the decree, they would live due to the mercy of the king. We have the same hope in King Messiah. His words bring us light and gladness and joy, and through his faithfulness, the decree against us has been overridden.
May your joy increase and may God give you something to be even more joyful about this month!