This year I finally became eligible for Medicare.
I was anxious as the date approached and decided against a big celebration. As time has passed since that date I have found myself feeling increasingly confident and positive, even in the face of the ravages of the pandemic and the vicious deconstruction of our social fabric. Like many I had spent the past five years in varying states of fury and panic. I believed I had to march, protest, debate, and argue against policies and people who discriminated against vulnerable minorities. It was exhausting. I was sick and exhausted, and the violence against my people continued despite the efforts of millions like myself. And then I had my special birthday, and everything seemed to fall into place.
Did you know that when you reach your 65th birthday the government automatically signs you up for Medicare. I didn’t have to negotiate this huge piece of healthcare anymore! You are free to retire, and it happens that I will be leaving my beloved congregation when my contract expires in May. As a retired person I could let go of all the norishkeit working person must manage. I immediately gained hours of free time each week which I happily put toward studying the extra month of Adar and the Purim holiday it contains.
The Jewish calendar is a lunar/solar combination. An adjustment is made to synchronize the lunar counting of days with the solar cycle so that the holidays fall in their prescribed seasons. Seven times in 19 years the month of Adar is replaced by two months, Adar I and Adar II. Adar I is considered the additional month, so Purim is always celebrated in Adar II. Thus, a leap year in the Hebrew calendar includes 13 months. This year is such a year that includes two Adars. Why is this important?
Each month in the Jewish calendar represents a unique mystical component. Adar is the month of Transformation, as evidenced by the Purim story; Haman schemed to annihilate the Jews but he was the one destroyed. Mordechai and Esther ordained the commemoration of "the month that was transformed for them from sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity" (Esther 9:22). Certain disaster was averted, and one person – Esther –initiated the miracle. Hence the ruling, "when the month of Adar enters, increase in joy" (Taanit 26b). Adar transforms sorrow into joy, doubt into knowledge, certain disasters into amazing possibilities. Purim, with its upside-down nature and call to go beyond what we know and how we usually present ourselves to the world, is a time of joyfully molting and shedding the old for something new. With two Adars this year we can double the exuberant transformations we wish to bring into our lives and into a world that is desperately calling for them. The current Russian vicious aggression towards Ukraine is the latest situation we are called to transform. May our wisdom join with joy so our transformation results in a joyful peace for all.