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From the Rabbi - Mar 21, 2024

Rabbi Chaitovsky

This Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat on which we read about Amalek and his attack on the Israelites right after they crossed the Reed Sea. We always read about Amalek on the Shabbat preceding Purim because Haman, the guy we love to hate in the Book of Esther, traces his lineage to Amalek. Our victory over Haman is a victory over Amalek. Sadly, the spirit of Amalek, if not the DNA, lives on today. May we emerge victorious and whole from our never-ending battles with Amalekites all around us.

That said, Purim, which will start on Saturday night right after Shabbat, is undoubtedly the “happiest” celebration on our calendar. After all, the story is a celebration of our improbable, last minute, salvation from a relentless enemy. According to Rabbi Eitiel Goldwicht, there is more to the holiday. Done right, Purim helps us cultivate important “happiness habits” that reveal the true meaning of being happy. The secret, he says, is in the four special mitzvot of Purim.

1. Mishloach Manot – giving food to the friends. The recipient is not necessarily poor or needy, but more probably a friend or even a loved one. The first happiness habit is seeking to build relationships with others, connecting with and looking out for others, and having others care for us in return.

2. Matanot Le’evyonim – charity to those in need. Neuroscience research indicates that when we do things for others in need, the areas in the brain associated with pleasure and satisfaction light up. We all start out in life as receivers. Receiving makes every baby, toddler, child, and adult, happy. We must also develop in ourselves – and in our children – the habit of giving. It will provide a basis for a deeper happiness.

3. Reading Megillat Esther. The megillah can be seen as a long “gratitude journal” in which the miracles leading to our people’s survival are acknowledged. People who keep a “gratitude journal” often feel more optimistic and experience greater satisfaction in their lives. Making an attitude of gratitude a daily habit can have amazing impact.

4. The Festive Purim Meal – Seudah. The meal provides a moment in which we are truly mindful of who we are and what we have. People who practice mindfulness, the moment by moment awareness of thoughts, feelings and the circumstances around us, have stronger immune systems and are likely to feel greater happiness in life.
Four mitzvot + four special habits = one happy Purim and one, potentially happier life! Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach…and, as always. I’ll see you in shul!

Thu, April 18 2024 10 Nisan 5784