Lessons in Joy from the Month of Adar and the Holiday of Purim

“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)

Walk into Meir Panim’s After-School Youth Center in the Ofakei Or neighborhood of Sderot during the month of Adar, and you will be swept up by joyous singing and dancing.

On a recent visit, sixteen-year-old Rahel – who recently immigrated from Ethiopia – grabbed the microphone and sang out the ancient words coined by Jewish sages, “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simchah” – once Adar begins, we increase in happiness.

At Meir Panim, that slogan is taken very seriously. From the start of the month of Adar, all of us at Meir Panim are HAPPY!

What is the secret for so much happiness?

Simple.

Bring joy to others, and you will feel more joyful.

A close analysis of the commandments, customs, and cultural traditions surrounding the month of Adar and the holiday of Purim; coupled with our experiences at Meir Panim confirm the fact (over and over) that true joy presents from the act of giving.

Celebrate Purim

The joyous festival of Purim (Feast of Lots) celebrates God’s miraculous deliverance of the People of Israel from our enemies.

Purim is traditionally observed by fulfilling four specific commandments (mitzvot). These actions serve as a reminder of the importance of people recognizing the presence of God, in their life even when He is unseen (as God’s name never appears in the Purim story) and that God wants us to love and provide for one another other.

Purim is celebrated with four specific commandments – mitzvoth – all of which demonstrate the value of giving. The first commandment involves reading or listening to the recitation of the Book of Esther, which traditionally is read publicly. A second commandment requires individuals to create festive food packages and deliver them to friends or the needy. A third commandment mandates that charity is given to the poor.

The Talmud, a Jewish text, even states that “all who extend a hand (on Purim), we are to give (charity).” Therefore, the destitute very much look forward to Purim as a time to be helped.

Finally, there is a commandment to have a lavish holiday meal composed of delicacies from the festive food packages that were received.

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Purim at Meir Panim

Meir Panim has been busy preparing special programs bringing joy to young and old, who often don’t experience reasons to celebrate due to their daily struggle to get a hot, nutritious meal and make ends meet.

Children participating in our after-school enrichment programs will participate in a costume party where entertainment, games, and treats will be enjoyed by all.

Meir Panim regular soup kitchen patrons will receive two food packages, one to keep and one to give. Everyone needs to feel that they are givers as well as takers. Purim is the perfect time to encourage those from the periphery of society to think that their lives are part of the norm.

Benefits of Giving

Intuitively, we have all felt personal joy from giving joy.

Yes, it is fun to open a gift.  However, nothing compares to witnessing people unwrap a gift you selected, with such joy and amazement. You made them smile, that’s worth far more than a material item.

According to Mimi Rozmaryn, director of global development for Meir Panim,  “Meir Panim’s volunteers are often surprised by the amount of satisfaction derived from giving back to others. Innately most of us have a strong desire to help those less fortunate than us. After all, our community cannot grow, if others are left suffering.”

Scientific Research

Research collaborates the idea that we are happier giving gifts than receiving gifts.

Social psychologist Liz Dunn and her colleagues discovered that people’s sense of happiness is more significant when they spend relatively more on others than on themselves. The research established that even those with little money reported greater happiness when their proportion of spending on others, relative to the self, was higher.

Lending a hand on Purim (Meir Panim)

An additional study, conducted by Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, also proved that giving to others increases personal joy. Norton and his colleagues questioned over six hundred Americans about their income, personal spending habits and perceptions of personal happiness.

North and his colleagues concluded that regardless of income levels, those who spent money on others reported increased joy than those who spent money on themselves.

The Ancient Lesson of Purim

Although the Purim story happened more than two thousand years ago, we are commanded to remember the miracle that God did back then and continues to do for us every day.

At the start of the month of Adar, the preparations for the holiday begin, ushering in feelings of joy. Gift baskets for friends are purchased, Megillat Esther (Book of Esther) is rehearsed, and money is allotted for the poor.

“Purim is known as the holiday of ‘giving,’” explained Rozmaryn. “We give food and charity to those in need. Perhaps most importantly, Meir Panim strives to bring joy to those marginalized people who may not have many reasons to celebrate. When we do that, everyone benefits.”

This Purim, Be Happy!

Help Meir Panim bring new Purim spirit to children enrolled in our after-school enrichment programs, hungry families and impoverished Holocaust survivors relying on Purim meals from our soup kitchen.

Purim is an exceptionally opportune time to give to charity. Please donate to Meir Panim today and bring joy to those who need it most in Israel. Your support is appreciated by thousands of impoverished citizens throughout the country.

To donate to Meir Panim, please click here.

Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.