The new Jewish month of Adar began yesterday, ushering in the joyous holidays of Purim and Passover. In this spirit the Sages of the Talmud have said “When Adar arrives, we increase in happiness.”
We don’t think of happiness, true happiness, as something to be legislated. You either are happy or you aren’t. How can we follow the directive of the Talmud to be happy if we happen to be feeling miserable? We might try to change our mood by listening to music, but does such distraction really make us happy? An interesting detail from this week’s Torah portion can help us understand this.
The skin of an exotic animal called the Tachash was used as the covering for the Mishkan, a portable Temple used by the Jewish people before the permanent construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki zt”l, classical medieval commentator on the Torah), says this animal existed at the time of the Mishkan, but has become extinct. Rashi goes on to explain that the translation of Tachash in Aramaic, the language of the Talmud and a popular language among people in Talmudic times, is Sosgona. Aramaic had many words taken from the Hebrew language, and Rashi writes that “Sosgona” is a contraction of the words “Sos” and “Givana”, “Happy” and “Colors.” The Tachash animal took pride, as it were, in its unique hide that displayed a variety of colors.
Besides the aesthetic qualities of having the multicolored Tachash adorn the Mishkan, it also carried symbolic qualities for the house of worship. The classical, mystical work of the Zohar compares the Jewish people to the Tachash. In service of G-d they rejoice in the many varieties of circumstances they encounter through life. There are times of success, times of sadness, times of excitement, and times of tragedy. Serving G-d challenges us to find a positive perspective in all of these times and rejoice in the richness of color that life in this world brings. (Based on Rav Meilech Beiderman & Sefer Divrei Yisrael)
In this time of joy, may we all merit to find meaning and value in all of our experiences, and rejoice in the upcoming holidays of Purim, Passover, and beyond. May we truly see an increase in happiness!