Rosh Hodesh Adar | ראש חודש אדר
Blessing for the Month of Adar
This week marks the tenth yahrzeit of Rabbi David Hartman, zichrono livracha.
In his memory, I’d like to share a reflection I wrote ten years ago, shortly after he died, on what I learned from David Hartman—through one of his students and one of my teachers, Rabbi James Ponet—about Purim as a holiday of friendship, about the ways in which Purim’s central mitzvot obligate us to care for each other as a religious response to living in an unredeemed world...
Van Halen, Brown M&Ms, & Parashat Terumah
Have you heard the mashal (parable) about Van Halen and the brown M&M’s?
For those who haven’t:
In 1982, Van Halen World Tour included a 53-page typewritten rider to their touring contract. In addition to stipulating that promoters provide the group with “herring in sour cream,” (not the subject of this post, but definitely worth thinking more about), and four cases of “Schlitz Malt Liquor beer (16 ounce cans),” the rider’s “Munchies” section famously included this caveat:
“M&M’s (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)”
In the rock community, there’s a makhloket (disagreement) about this infamous caveat. Did Van Halen’s prohibition on brown M&Ms represent the entitlement and excess of rock and fame? Or, was it an ingenious and useful litmus, allowing Van Halen to quickly verify whether or not its promoters read and took care to fulfill all of the obligations in its rider (many of which had higher stakes for their performance than the munchies section)?
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Mishenihnas adar marbim besimha, we learn that when Adar enters, joy increases. This feeling is ever so present during the holiday of Purim. We dress in silly costumes, partake in a festive meal, and have a chance to be joyous overall. Even though we are supposed to increase the joy in the world, we are still aware of the sorrows that happened in our past and present. Yet, our rabbis teach that at this time, we should still increase joy. The great poet Mary Oliver seems aligned with the rabbis in her poem, "Don’t Hesitate." She begins,
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”
And she ends:
“Don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
This poignant line encompasses all we need to know about increasing joy this Purim season. Even with the endless suffering in the world, joy is not meant to be pushed aside like a crumb. We should never undervalue joy or moments of happiness. Don’t deprive yourself of little bits of crumbs of joy. Share it with others. Be silly, laugh out loud, and surround yourself with the delights of this season. Chag Purim Sameach, Happy Purim!
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