How Can We Have Simcha This Year On Purim?
Rabbi Andrew Shaw
Chief Executive, Mizrachi UK
What a difference a year makes.
This time last year we were excitedly making plans for Purim 5780.
Seudah invitations were sent out, Purim parties were planned and packed megillah readings were organized.
However, I never heard Megillah on Purim day or attended the Purim Seudah – I was in bed with a temperature of 39.5 degrees, as was my son.
Three days later the government advised that anyone with a new continuous cough or a fever should self-isolate for seven days, and then it began – lockdown, closure of shuls, closure of schools – the beginning of a new reality.
We will all be wearing masks this Purim.
So, how will we be able to have ‘simcha’? Surely that is the essence of Purim.
I think to find an answer, we need to understand what ‘simcha’ is and what it is not.
We all know the phrase ‘Mitzvah Gdola L’hiyot B simcha Tamid’, It is a great Mitzvah to always be b simcha. It is from R’ Nachman of Breslov, but surely it can’t mean always!
I should be b simcha when a loved one dies?! When I am mourning on Tisha B Av?! When I am comforting the suffering – there too is simcha?!
The answer is that we tend to think of simcha as happiness or joy, and yes, the predominant display of simcha relates very much to those times. However, according to R’ Nachman, true simcha relates to our fulfilment of the Divine Will. If what I am doing at this exact moment is what Hashem desires, then even if tears are streaming down my face – I am b’simcha.
On Purim we are very much supposed to be b’simcha and the way we are commanded to express that simcha is to fulfil the mitzvot of Purim – hearing the megillah twice in shul, attending a lively Purim Seudah, to give matanot l’evyonim and to give and receive mishloach manot.
This year many are unable to hear megillah, may have to have Seudah alone or with just the family and cannot distribute mishloach manot to more than one or two people. So much of the simcha seemingly has been removed. Where will be the driving round the streets in fancy dress, going in and out of houses, drowning Haman’s names out with hisses and boos and having loads of people round for seudah?
Not this year – so where is the simcha?
R Nachman would tell you very clearly – this Purim that is not the simcha that Hashem requires. Due to the Pandemic our simcha is from hearing the megillah in a socially distanced safe manner, with no booing for Haman. Our simcha is having a small seudah just for the family and our simcha is giving just that one shlach manot.
And therein lies our challenge – this year we have to work to create the simcha.
However, underlying all of this is our knowledge that unlike last year, when Purim hailed the beginning of this dreadful pandemic, we hope and pray that this Purim signals the beginning of the end of the nightmare and with vaccines being distributed, we can truly hope that there will soon be Ora v’simcha, v’sasson vikar.