Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Month of Adar
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Rosh Hodesh Adar in Educational Institutions

The Month of Adar has become uncontrollable, anti-educational and destructive in many schools. Some educators have tries to stop the chaos, but a better way is to channel all the energy into something positive...


Rabbi Elisha Aviner

From the first day of Adar, discipline disintegrates in many educational institutions. Rosh Hodesh Adar has turned into a day of wild behavior, with periodic waves of fooling around continuing until Purim. Insolence, ridicule, destruction of property and misconduct are common occurrences in Yeshiva high schools, Ulpanot and religious high schools. Tremendous amounts of energy are invested in planning the "crowning" of the Rabbi or Rebbitzin of Purim. Large sums of money are wasted for this, from the purchasing of materials to expenditures for music. Senselessness is piled upon senselessness until "senseless senselessness" is created. What a shame!
Many educators are unhappy about the current state of affairs. They try to restrain, to limit, to reduce, and to minimize the damage. Some succeed and others fail in this effort. Many educators face difficulty taking a stand against the "glorious tradition" of shattering the frameworks during the month of Adar. They find it nearly impossible to stop the rowdiness on Rosh Hodesh Adar, the inflated and vain coronation of the Purim Rabbi, the pointlessness and the utter futility. Therefore, the only solution remaining that somewhat helps defuse some of the pitfalls is scheduling the yearly trips (typically several days long) for the beginning of Adar.
The truth is that the best thing would be to phase out all of the aforementioned silliness. There is no justification in wasting spiritual energies and money for non-educational (or anti-educational) purposes. The Talmud emphasizes (Shabbat 88a) that the month of Adar is the month in which the Jews "once again received it (the Torah) in the days of Achashverosh." There is no reason that Adar shouldn't be a month of spiritual growth, of intensive learning and of joy of the Mitzvot. But everyone who understands something about education knows that the situation cannot be changed overnight. Therefore the first and most important task at hand is to prevent the misuse of spiritual energies and to direct them to positive and constructive directions.
Our sages have already deliberated over this point, how can happiness be channeled toward positive means of expressions. Certainly, the ideal way is "Simcha (joy) of Mitzva," about which the Book of Ecclesiastes (8:15) says, "I praised joyfulness." But not everyone is capable of directing his Simcha to the realm of Mitzvot and learning Torah.
The guidance which is universally applicable is that of the Rambam. Twice the Rambam cautions us that a person who delights himself on the Festivals or on Purim and doesn't include others in his celebration does not fully fulfill the Mitzvah of rejoicing (which is obligatory on these special days). The Rambam writes (in the laws of Yom Tov 6:18) that if one doesn't incorporate in his Simcha "the poor and the despondent, then this is not the Simcha of Mitzva but the Simcha of his stomach." In the laws of Megillah 2:17, the Rambam adds, "There is no great or splendid Simcha besides making happy the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts, and he who makes these unfortunates happy resembles the Shechina (divine presence), as is written, "to revitalize the spirits of the demoralized, and to give life to the hearts of the downtrodden."
"With the onset of Adar (we must) increase in Simcha" must be interpreted as a directive to make the hearts of the downtrodden happy - the poor, the sick, the needy, people without families, and all those suffering from distress. In short, we have to proclaim the month of Adar as the month of Chesed (kindness). All the energies - to be directed toward Chesed. All the expenditures - for Chesed. All the ingenious plans and sophisticated intrigues - for Chesed. Incentives, activities and creative thinking - for Chesed. Students should get together and brainstorm how to coordinate successful Chesed projects. The administration of the schools will give them financial and logistical support. True, many schools already have Chesed projects in the month of Adar (for example distributing Mishloach Manot in hospitals) but these comprise a minor part of the "Adar experience," they are not the main focus of the month. The Chesed operations will doubtless be at the expense of the regular learning framework, maybe even more than this is true today, but the energies will go toward positive and constructive directions, and not anarchic and destructive ones.
If we stand firm and persevere about this, then we will succeed in creating a new tradition as to the nature of the month of Adar in the educational institutions. If a broad enough coalition forms of principals and educators in elementary and high schools, it can lead a process which will result in an educational revolution in several years. And from then, the month of Adar will cease to be dreaded by educators, but will be a month which itself is educational: the month of Chesed!
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