This article is made possible by a grant from NEXT and Natan.

How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives

nina hamantaschen

It’s the month of Adar, my friends, the month when Purim occurs. According to the Talmud, “When Adar enters, joy increases.” So are we supposed to simply hope that Adar will be our happiest time of the year because one particularly fun holiday falls during the month?

No! As far as I see it, Purim, and therefore Adar, reminds us not to wait for something good to happen. Rather, we should be like Queen Esther, who made the brave choice to reveal Haman’s plans and to ask for her husband’s help in saving her people. (No small request as King Ahasuerus did not know until that point that he had a Jewish wife.) Likewise, we need to do our part to make the good happen for ourselves and for others.

If the Hebrew month of Adar is about increasing our joy, why not begin by increasing the joy in something significant like our Jewish heritage? Perhaps some of us are stuck in a decades-old narrative about bad memories of Hebrew school. Perhaps some are newer to Judaism and feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do. Perhaps for others certain religious observances have become rote.

I propose that for rest of Adar we focus on the joy that Judaism brings to our lives or the joy it can bring if we make some room. With that exact purpose in mind, I asked the following question on Facebook with the hopes that I would personally find one new Jewish way to add joy to the month.

What is something specifically Jewish you do that brings you joy? Perhaps think along these lines: If you didn’t do this particular action each day, week, or year you would feel something was missing, or that life would not be as good.

I asked about consistent actions because as Annie Dillard said so poignantly in her beautiful memoir The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

If Judaism feels like nothing but a drag for whatever reason, I say it’s time to try a new way of experiencing it. Switch it up. Analyze what is not feeding your soul and pick up another piece of our tradition to see if it gives you the lift you’re looking for. Perhaps this new “lift” happens daily, weekly, or monthly. Added together over the years, these joyful moments will make an impact on your life.

I received 56 answers to my question on Facebook, and I’m sharing the ones that were repeated most frequently. I’m also sharing the ones that stood out as a bit more simple to add to a daily, weekly, or monthly routine.

Making challah (I got several answers about challah!)

Lighting candles on Friday nights. 

Participating in Shabbat dinners 

Blessing the kids on Friday nights

Reciting the Shema each night with kids (This was probably the most common answer.)

Studying Torah (And just to clarify, studying ‘Torah’ is a euphemism for exploring the wisdom contained in the Jewish moral and ethical codes of conduct that most find make them happier people.)

Learning Hebrew 

Celebrating holidays with extended family and friends (Passover was mentioned the most.)

Singing Jewish songs and prayers (Oseh Shalom, Shavuah tov)

Saying the Shehecheyanu prayer to mark a new moment or special occasion and make it Jewish 

Lighting the yahrzeit candles to remember the past

Hosting holiday and Shabbat meals for family and for friends with no family in town 

Appreciating the tiny moments with a blessing, like when you see a rainbow

I have several of those on my own list, but one “Jewish joy” I’ve never tried is saying the Shema with my kids at night. Considering how many people provided that particular answer, I am definitely going to add it to our routine. Bryan likes the idea, too!

There are many ways to get a taste of the joy of Judaism or to find an entirely new way to experience our traditions. What about you? Is there anything you want to do to make Judaism more joyful in Adar?Please share them in the comments.

Happy Purim!

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About Nina Badzin @NinaBadzin

Nina Badzin is a Minneapolis-based essayist, short story writer, and a mother of four. You can also find her blogging regularly at http://ninabadzin.com. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NinaBadzinBlog. Twitter: @NinaBadzin

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