Adar is a month of surprises and provides a wonderful template through which to view healing. Looking at the swollen buds on thetree, about which I have written in the past, I can’t help but fulfill the traditional mandate to “be happy, it’s Adar.” Not only do I delight in the rebirth of nature it signifies, but also I blush as I celebratethe tree’s sensual display of tumescence!
The tree is sexy, and it makes me smile. However in a time of so much financial uncertainty, Adar’s “happiness directive” may be counterintuitive. It is hard to “put on a happy face” when we know that so much is changing and our fears about what those changes may look like are hard to control.
On Purim, our holiday in the month of Adar, we read the Book of Esther. The story of Esther’s adventures as a Persian Queen is often discussed as a tale of miraculous reversals, where the opposite of what was expected comes to pass. A Jewish orphan girl became the King’s favorite wife. Mordecai rose to power in place of Haman. Haman was executed instead of Mordecai. And, the Jews who had been decreed for certain-death were saved and empowered to take on those who had been expected to destroy them.
The Aramaic word “adar” means “hidden” or “miracle.” which connects with the Hebrew name of the Biblical book’s eponymous heroine, Queen Esther. “Esther” means “hidden” and it is said that God is hidden in the Book of Esther, for the name of God does not appear in the pages. The story itself is full of court intrigue and secrets that are kept hidden to further the plot until the miraculous reversal appears.
Many of us, whose candles have begun to exceed the surface area on our birthday cakes,have lived with a set of assumptions concerning the prosperity of our country that are being called into question. Many of us are also in need of healing, whether it is the refuat ha guf the healing of the body or the refuat ha nefesh the healing of the soul- the two kinds of healing included in the Misheberach– our prayer for healing. Very often we meet our challenges with an illustrated script of just what that healing should look like. That script frequently describes a vision drawn from what we have known in the past.
But the month of Adar teaches us not to hold too tightly to our scripted expectations. Unexpected things do happen. We need to learn to acknowledge the mysterious nature of healing and the fact that healing comes from some place of soul beyond our understanding or control.
So often people come to me with no hope that their lot can improve, whether or not their ailment is of the body, soul, or pocketbook. It is my job to engage them to mystery. I try to arouse their curiosity and their hope, as I challenge them to allow their fixed images of what healing should look like to become blurry and open to the hidden miracle that can transform their experience of that which they face and allow something previously unseen and perhaps unimagined to emerge from the darkness, like an answer appearing from the black waters of the Magic 8 Ball I used to use as an oracle in my youth.
When someone approaches me with certainty that hopeless is forever their lot and peace and resolution are impossible, I often begin by surprising them with agreement. “ You may be right,” I say, which certainly gets their attention. Then I add, “Nothing in your life may have prepared you for what you are facing now.” I stop for what feels like a long minute and then I say, “However, since this is something you haven’t seen before, it may be that you don’t know everything there is to know about what may empower you to get through it.” I continue, “If you are willing to approach this challenge without preconceptions, searching for something that is currently hidden to you, a miracle may take place.”
As I have written elsewhere,
Healing comes from the place we do not yet know. If we are willing to admit that there may be things that we may not know, there is a possibility that the hidden miracle that lies in the unknown can reach out to us and carry us to a promised land of healing. Healing will not look the way you envision it from the land in which you currently stand, but if you can open yourself to the possibility of the unknown, there is a possibility of healing.(from“Spiritual Companionship & the Passages of Life.” Jewish Spiritual Direction edited by Barbara Breitman and Avrum Addison. Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006)
All those italicized words are windows. Each one of them can be opened if we have the courage to gaze into the unknown and look for what might be hidden there. One of my teachers, Rabbi Jonathan Omer Man, once said that among the Aramaic meanings of the word Adonaiis the word “sill” as in “window sill.” I like this sense of God- aka The Great Mystery as a place to rest our elbows as we gaze expectantly into the unknown hoping for a miracle.
In the meantime, we do what we can to help bring the change we want to see and cultivate the connection with patience and faith that comes from caring for our bodies, our souls, and our communities. Me? I will keep my eyes fixed on what is just beyond my window- the companion that has guided me through the ups and downs of many seasons, changes, and losses- my tree.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.