“To be or not to be” is not always the question. Sometimes the question is how to be? Should we be happy, or should we be sad? Should we be at war, or should we be at peace? Should we feel hate, or should we love?
While our intuition may tell us that experiencing these varied emotions should be as random as a roulette wheel, Judaism teaches otherwise. King Solomon advised there is a time for everything under the sun, including a time for joy and a time for pain. As we are commanded to increase our happiness in the month of Adar, we are likewise directed to reduce it in the month of Av. Moreover, as we have one special day for just for drinking and levity, Purim, we have another set aside to just for mourning, Tisha B’Av.
So it’s even. It’s perfectly balanced. It’s like the yin/yang equation. Except, there is just one question that still lingers. Why build it into the cycle of Jewish life? Why legislate feelings, when to smile and when to cry? Would it not be sufficient if it simply came on its own?
The Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “meaning” as “implication of a hidden significance”. In other words the meaning of a given word, or phrase, or event, or even of life itself, requires a search for that which is underneath the surface, that which is hidden. Perhaps then Purim is not a day to just feel joy, but rather to uncover the deeper meaning of joy. Similarly Tisha B’Av may not be just a day to simply mourn the terrible tragedies that have befallen our nation, but rather to uncover the deeper meaning of why tragedy occurs. If the underlying purpose of Judaism is to give meaning to every moment of life, it would then make perfect sense to insure that we uncover the hidden significance of both joy and pain by devoting special days for experiencing them and hopefully uncovering their true meaning.
Which brings me to another disagreement I have with Shakespeare. Macbeth describes human existence as “… a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
This Tisha B’Av as I watched video testimony after testimony of holocaust survivors, I was struck by the opposite thought. While each survivor had a different story, from different parts of Europe, and suffered in different ways, their message was the same. There was no talk of depression, revenge, or hatred. There was only talk of rebirth, and renewal, of faith and of hope, of children and grandchildren, and of the true meaning of life. And that true meaning is appreciating the goodness, the bounty, and the gift from above that lies in every breath we take.
Evan W. Klestzick, Esq. is a Senior Partner at McDonnell & Adels, PLLC, specializing in insurance law. He has been a guest lecturer at Manhattan College as well as CLE courses podcasts on the topic of insurance fraud. He is a resident of Far Rockaway.