Over Shabbat, my husband shared a great insight into the phrase MisheNichnas Adar marbim b'simcha, which is generally translated as, "When Adar begins, we increase in joy." This means that, at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar, which is the month in which the festive holiday of Purim falls, we should begin to feel especially happy.
However, now that I've had a few months of Hebrew ulpan under my belt, I can see that the grammar of this Hebrew phrase does not support the common translation.
Rather, MisheNichnas Adar can be understood to refer to one in whom the spirit of Adar enters, as in, "Whoever lets the spirit of Adar enter him or herself in a deep way will experience an increase in happiness." It seems, in this translation, to be more active than passive.
This was all well and good until an hour before Shabbat when I learned about the dramatic earthquake off the northeastern coast of Japan, and the subsequent tsunami. As I write, the death toll is over 800 but will probably grow as search and rescue efforts continue.
A few weeks ago, we went to see the movie Hereafter, which opens with a dramatic tsunami scene, filmed from the point of view of one of the main characters. The scene replayed again and again in my mind and made the news from Japan all the more vivid.
Then, after Shabbat, we learned of the horrid terrorist stabbing of five members of the Fogel family who were living in Itamar, a settlement in the Shomron, after having been thrown out of their homes in Gush Katif.
Close to a thousand dead in Japan.
Five dead in Itamar.
What does it all mean?
The flooding in Australia in January, the earthquake in New Zealand in February and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan all remind me of the verse from Tehillim (98:7), "The sea and all its fullness will roar, as will the inhabited land and those who dwell therein." This line is sung during the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service, the one service for which I most often make it to shul.
What does it all mean?
I can't know for sure. But I can know this.
I absolutely believe that it all comes from the Hand of Gd. Every incident, from the brutal slaying of five members of a holy family in Israel that makes me want to vomit in grief, to the dramatic natural disasters that are happening month by month around the world, to the political uprisings in the countries that surround my home in Israel, is bringing us closer to the Redemption.
I felt a peculiar discomfort last night as I searched my Facebook News Feed for links to the two big stories that bookended our Shabbat. Nearly all my Israeli Facebook friends had a comment about the terrorist murders in Itamar. But other Jewish friends, either because they had not yet heard or because it simply didn't hit so close to home, had Facebook statuses that told a different story - a vacation, a new purchase, a nice dinner out or local weather updates.
When I let the spirit of Adar enter me, I am not supposed to be sad. So I rejoice, not in the ceaseless tragedies which hurt because I am human, but in the knowledge that Hashem runs the world and that, with all this, He is moving Jewish history forward.
I am unspeakably grateful to be living in Israel during these dramatic times. That's my Adar.