Finding happiness in Adar amid all the chaos in Israel

Science and Health

The world is kind of chaotic at the moment. And yet… it’s Adar, the month of joy!

We’re here to offer you lots of ideas, a mix of lighthearted suggestions and deeper reflections for calming your nerves, cheering you up, and helping you cope with the incessant flow of bad news.

We truly hope that at least some of these perspectives bring you happiness in a dark time.

Suggestions for the mind

  • 1. Reread your favorite books – not just from adulthood. Take a walk down memory lane and rediscover your favorite children’s and young adult books.
  • 2. Read a new book. Ask friends to loan you their favorites.
4. BASK IN the increased sunlight. (credit: Laura Pratt/Unsplash)
  • 3. Casually throw some more unusual vocabulary into conversation. Some ideas: “brouhaha,” “indubitably,” “betwixt,” “indefatigable” and “canoodle.”
  • 4. The days are getting longer – look forward to and notice the increased light.
  • 5. Go birdwatching. Laugh at funny bird names, such as hottentot buttonquail and tinkling cisticola. Marvel as a peacock expands its feathers.
  • 6. Google images you find relaxing/uplifting, be it fields of peonies, a beach scene or a well-organized laundry room.
  • 7. Look at old photos. In actual albums. Admire who you used to be and who you are now.
  • 8. Take a social media break. Delete social media apps from your phone, and don’t log into any social media sites for a week.
  • 9. Employ your imagination to create a full-color scene of a beautiful future – for yourself, for those you love, for Israel.
  • 10. Binge-watch something on Netflix. Consider a deliberate viewing of something truly lowbrow, to appreciate it for its escapism.
  • 11. Plan something you’d love to do. Drill down in your research. Even if it isn’t doable in your current life, the anticipation alone brings pleasure.
  • 12. When all else fails… laugh. In 1979, Norman Cousins published Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient. This book was the catalyst for the Healing Through Humor movement in the United States. Cousins was dealing with a severe autoimmune disease for which there was no cure. He discovered that watching comedy clips and funny movies that made him laugh decreased his pain considerably. Watch comedy. Start with Sebastian Maniscalco’s five-minute bit called Doorbell – trust me on this one.

Suggestions for the body

  • 13. Purchase a kiddie pool for the coming warm days. Soak your feet or sit your swimsuit-clad self in it, with your favorite beverage.
  • 14. Stop to smell the flowers, literally – particularly the night-blooming jasmine – and admire the fruit trees that grow so freely.
  • 15. Wear a bright T-shirt; bonus: with a slogan.
  • 16. Engage in arts & crafts: crayons, glitter, googly eyes – go wild!
  • 17. Create art. If you have some genuine artistic skill or talent, pick up some raw clay, paints or whatever your medium is and lose yourself in the creative process. Or try a medium you’ve never worked with before.
  • 18. Do a silly dance for no reason at all.
  • 19. Stroll through your neighborhood and breathe in the fresh air. Amble wherever the mood strikes.
  • 20. Pet a fluffy rabbit, a wide-eyed kitten or a rambunctious puppy.
  • 21. Go to the gym or find another way to move your body and release some endorphins. YouTube has some effective, easy-to-follow videos; try Yoga with Adriene or Fitness Blender (for all types of exercise).
  • 22. Learn and practice tapping, also called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It’s not hard to learn the basics [of this mind-body method]. It’s a proven stress reliever.
  • 23. Take an honest-to-goodness bubble bath.
  • 24. Smile, even if you’re alone in a room. When we smile, our brains release the “feel good” neurotransmitter known as dopamine.
  • 25. Take a power nap. Twenty to 30 minutes of shut-eye can re-energize you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • 26. Breathe slowly and deeply. Filling your body with oxygen can reduce stress. Breathe in for five. Breathe out for five. Repeat until you feel more centered.
  • 27. Do some professional body maintenance: have your teeth whitened; get a manicure, facial or a new haircut; or book a salon treatment you’ve never tried before.
  • 28. Give yourself a foot massage by rolling a porcupine-style massage ball (or a firm tennis ball) under your feet for several minutes, one foot at a time.
  • 29. Put your whole body in water. Until the weather warms up, find an indoor pool, a jacuzzi or a hot tub to immerse yourself in.
  • 30. Take a barefoot walk on the beach or just sit in a beach chair and put some sand between your toes.
  • 31. Buy, rent, borrow or create a costume that reflects your alter ego. Or your nemesis. Or your truest, deepest self.

Suggestions for the spirit

  • 32. Remember that this too shall pass.
  • 33. Express gratitude for 100 things in your immediate field of vision. Don’t forget to include your body parts and organs that work as they should, possessions that bring you joy, and tools that help you do your work. You can also express gratitude for challenges from which you have been spared.
  • 34. Learn a hassidic niggun (a wordless melody) and sing it over and over. Let it put you in a meditative head space.
  • 35. Remember and applaud yourself for a time when you stood up for what you believed was right and good. Tell the story to others.
  • 36. Attend a Torah class at whatever level is right for you (or a non-religion-related class that speaks to you).
  • 37. Create and repeatedly air a play list of music that is joyful to you. Mine includes Dr. Hook singing “You Make My Pants Want To Get Up And Dance.” Just the title of the song brings joy.
  • 38. At the end of each day, jot down five things that went right.
  • 39. Read Psalm 100. It’s all about gratitude.
  • 40. Visit an art gallery. Admire the talent on display.
  • 41. Stargaze. Remind yourself that the stars were here long before the chaos began and will still be here when it is ancient history.
  • 42. Unplug from your phone for at least an hour a day. Freeing yourself from the barrage of texts, bad news and other people’s expectations can be liberating.
  • 43. Think back to times in your life when really terrible things happened and recall how they got resolved. Remind yourself that hard times never last forever.

Suggestions for the home

  • 44. Buy colorful fruit and arrange it in a decorative bowl that will hit your eyes every time you step into the kitchen.
  • 45. Decluttering, especially when done in small intervals, can be a very soothing activity. Pick one category or one small location in your home and get rid of things there that don’t serve you. Clear out the moldy vegetables and leftovers in your fridge. Give away the clothes your kids have outgrown. Clear out your wallet, purse, backpack. It doesn’t have to be an enormous undertaking to make an impact.
  • 46. Procure that piece of art you really like for your living room.
  • 47. Polish your silver, vacuum up a mess or wipe down mold. These are small cleaning jobs that offer an instant sense of accomplishment.
  • 48. Buy a plant or take a cutting from a plant you admire and root the stems. Speak kind words to it and watch it respond with new growth.
  • 49. Sort your books by dominant color on the spine, then organize them according to the colors of the rainbow. (Disregard this idea if you are a librarian.)

“Hazelnut oat milk in my java gets me up out of bed – I look forward to that first sip every morning.”

Erica Schachne

Suggestions for food

  • 50. Look forward to your cuppa. As Magazine editor Erica Schachne notes, “Hazelnut oat milk in my java gets me up out of bed – I look forward to that first sip every morning.”
  • 51. Go to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and order a flavor you’ve never tried before.Eat popsicles until your lips and tongue turn red or blue or purple.
  • 52. Pi/Pie Day (March 14) is almost here. Splash out with a slice of apple, pecan or strawberry rhubarb pie.
  • 53. Help your brain release some serotonin. Eat chocolate. Eat it slowly. Let it melt in your mouth.
  • 54. Eat a vegetable. Brag about it to everyone around you. “Look! I had a yellow pepper. I can feel the vitamins seeping into my skin.”
  • 55. Eat clean food, or dial down the amount of processed food in your day. Start with a single dietary change, and observe any difference it makes in how you feel.
  • 56. Visit a wine shop and ask for guidance on buying an excellent (yet affordable) bottle. Buy a beautiful wine glass or use one you already own. Sip a glass of your wine while sitting outdoors during sunset.
  • 57. Use an heirloom recipe and bake something sweet that you loved when you were a child. Or search for a new recipe online you want to try. Or just watch cooking shows.

Suggestions for relationships

  • 58. Do something nice for a stranger.
  • 59. Call someone near and dear to just say, ”I love you.”
  • 60. Smile at every single person on the bus. Thank the driver as you get off.
  • 61. Spend time with people who nurture you, the ones who make you feel like your best self.
  • 62. Organize a game night and play board games and/or word games with a group.
  • 63. Congratulate someone on something they’ve done that you noticed. Men are said to rarely get compliments – note a haircut or new shirt.
  • 64. Compliment three people a day.
  • 65. Collect clever or funny WhatsApp stickers and use them liberally in your messages to make others smile.
  • 66. Give someone a small gift. For no reason.
  • 67. Hug someone who won’t have you arrested for it.
  • 68. Thank a worker who has a thankless job.
  • 69. Schedule a family photo shoot in a lovely location.
  • 70. Make time for a DMC (deep, meaningful conversation) with someone who gets you.
  • 71. Sincerely validate someone else’s opinion.
  • 72. Get some friends, neighbors and strangers together and create a mini-Kuloolam: a social experiment group activity where people learn a song at the same time and then sing it together.

41. STARGAZE. PICTURED: Golan Heights meteor shower. (credit: MICHAL GILADI/FLASH90)

Additional reflections

Eliyokim Cohen, Netanya

A quick glance at Jewish history shows that at no point in our over 3,300-year existence as a people has anything ever come easy. 

The current turmoil in Israel and around the Diaspora in terror attacks, talks of civil war, a massive spike in antisemitism and the world’s blatant hatred of both our country and our people shouldn’t be so alarming. It’s a repeating pattern that we have seen since we received the holy Torah on Mount Sinai. 

There’s nothing more important than Jewish unity, but that needs to be in the prism of Torah observance, a devotion to Hashem (God) and a love of our country. Only in that realm have we ever been successful as a people. 

Adar is here; it’s a time of miracles, when we re-accepted the Torah out of pure love for perhaps the biggest and most miraculous event in Jewish history – the saving of our entire people at the hands of Haman. 

Don’t focus on the issues that everyone is using, to try to take the focus off of what is really important during this month – being proud to be Jewish, loving our fellow Jews, and clinging to the Torah Hashem gave us in the land He gave us as well.

We increase our joy in Adar. Anything less is a total waste of the power of this month and all the miraculous potential it contains!

Chaya Bluma Gadenyan, Ma’aleh Adumim

Certainly, it’s challenging when we hear that once again tragedy has struck our people. Even for those of us who have developed a relationship with God and trust that He is running the world for the best, it seems very difficult to reach the level of happiness that we’d like to during Adar. 

There are two ways I’ve found over my 30+ years of living in our wonderful country, coping with this situation. Both of them center on our thoughts, [since] choosing how we think directly influences our feelings.

The first relates to Megillat Esther itself. Though we are commanded to read it all in a single session, the events actually took place over the course of several years. The people of Shushan and the entire Persian empire were saved through a progressive unfolding of events. It was a lengthy process during that time. Certainly, some people were understandably concerned that maybe they weren’t going to be saved.

In retrospect, we see clearly that everything that happened, down to the smallest detail, was specially directed by divine providence. Similarly, in our time, even the most painful occurrences comprise part of what, hopefully speedily in our day, will result in the ultimate redemption.

Second, we need to harness our ability to simultaneously feel more than one emotion. We’re complex human beings. We can feel sorrow, anger or fear about recent events, as well as gratitude and happiness that we merit living in our promised land. In fact, while we mourn the loss of yet another precious Jewish soul (may God avenge their blood), we can also prepare ourselves for the joy of celebrating Purim. 

Rini Gonsher, Efrat

I try to remain calm and happy all the time. My mother was a nervous person, so I have spent my entire adult life trying to be serene. When the news upsets me, as it has done often in recent weeks, I try to focus on my present. 

If there is nothing I can do to help improve the situation, then I try to zero in on myself. I will seek out my husband for comfort and hug on the sofa while we both read, preferably with my cat on my lap. My husband and my cat are very soothing and therapeutic for me.

If something in my personal life is bothering me, I try to rectify the situation. Kol hakavod if I am successful; but if I don’t succeed, then I focus on my happy places, which are the delightful faces of my 15 precious grandchildren. I find that mindfulness always works to clear and ease my mind, and restores peace and joy to my psyche.

Shifra Chana Hendrie, Safed

The Lubavitcher Rebbe told us many times to open our eyes and see how Moshiach and geula (redemption) are happening in real-time.

The more you learn what the Torah has to say about these times, the more you will recognize prophecy unfolding before your eyes. It’s also important to understand that there are different versions of how things will play out, from the very challenging to the amazing and miraculous. A lot of that depends upon our consciousness and what we do. Our consciousness changes reality.

Adar is the month of transformation. In Adar, our mazel is healthy, which means that the source of the soul, the source of creation, is flowing strongly down into creation, waiting to be revealed. The Rebbe said that we assist this process by doing everything possible throughout every day of this month to make ourselves happy, and others happy – not just spiritually but in every possible (healthy) way.

Joy helps us step out of the world of fear and into the world of divine love and freedom, here and now. Over 30 years ago, the Rebbe said that we are in yemot hamoshiach (the days of the Messiah) literally. 

God is waiting to bring us a divine world of good. We only need to open our eyes and see it unfolding.

Rabbi Gershon Vogel, Safed

Know that our worry creates negativity. Our fear creates negativity. Whenever we fear, whenever we worry, those negative thoughts actually create negative occurrences. The same thing as with positive thoughts. Positive thoughts create as well. Therefore, we always have to have positive thoughts. 

Nobody wanted to lose one Jew. People had to bury two children more than once this past month. It’s horrible. But we should always be hoping in Hashem and always have positivity.

My father, who was in the worst of the death camps over a period of five years, used to make jokes during the Holocaust. People said, “How did you make jokes in this hell?” He said, “Because I want to help them. We want to outlive this exile. We want to outlive all the people who are trying to kill us. That’s what we want to do. And we’re going to be positive and we will make jokes; we’re going to live on and we’re going to show how we love our brothers.”

The more our trust in God diminishes, the more fear and worry come up; and the more we work on our trust, the more fear and worry diminish. 

We must have hope, no matter what, even if doesn’t make any sense and it all looks horrible in our eyes. The Jewish existence doesn’t make any sense. We shouldn’t have survived pogroms, the Crusades, let alone the Holocaust. It’s all up to Hashem. 

When something happens, how can we look at that and say that that’s good? It looks so not good in our eyes. The answer is – we don’t see everything with the proper, pure eyes. We’re perceiving it in a physical way, as opposed to a spiritual way, and therefore we can’t accept it. We must therefore trust in Hashem that it truly is good, and always ask Him to show us the good without exception and with total clarity.