Just recently, I read a story about a six-year-old, Levi, helping others experience joy. This thoughtful young child placed a “joy box” in his front yard as a place for neighbors and other passersby to leave their wishes. Once a month the family reviews the wishes in the box to see if there are any that they can accomplish or provide to the wishers. Levi wants to spread this concept to communities around the country so that more people can truly experience joy and happiness. This is a tremendous lesson to all of us, especially as Purim approaches.
Purim and the surrounding month is a joyful time of year. In fact, as a child, I remember being taught a classic Purim song, which included the words "when the Hebrew month of Adar arrives we should increase our joy" (mishenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha). We would sing it at school daily, and the entire month was filled with dancing, celebration, and excitement. Toward the end of elementary school, I remember asking why there was so much joy in the Hebrew month of Adar; we have holidays throughout the year and none of them were given this designation. A teacher shared one explanation with me: When Haman, the villain of the Purim story, went to find Mordechai, the hero, and share his evil decree, Mordechai was in the midst of teaching Torah to thousands of children. They were excited by what they were learning and, even at this harsh and scary moment, an encounter with evil, they maintained their joy of learning.
This story is not in the Purim story we read on the holiday; it is a midrash, a rabbinic tale. According to the midrash, Mordechai was one of the heads of the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical supreme court. In addition to his many responsibilities, he made time daily to teach the children of the community. This was a lesson to everyone around him and all of us, a lesson about the extreme importance of the education of children in order to preserve our history and build a strong foundation for the future. In addition, we learn the value of children as teachers to all of us: their strong beliefs and willingness to try to succeed, and their happiness and joy when they do. Just look at Levi and his "joy box," for example.
As the director of camps here at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, I have the pleasure of experiencing and watching growth, education, and sheer happiness on a regular basis: a camper going down the zipline for the first time, a staff member thoughtfully executing a new program, or a parent excitedly watching their child swim across the pool independently for the first time. These are all moments of jubilation. I am lucky to be able to experience the true value of learning and increasing joy from my campers each summer.
Wishing you all a chag sameach and many moments of joy from those around you!
Director of Camps
Treats + Resources
Purim Family Sing-Along
Sun, Mar 8, 10–11 am, $12/$15
Family Hamantaschen Workshop
Sun, Mar 8, 10–11:30 am,
$45/$55 for one adult and one child;
$20 each additional adult or child
13th Annual LGBTQ Community Purim Ball
Mon, Mar 9, 7–11 pm, $30
A Virtual Purim Carnival for Russian-Speaking Families!
Sun, Mar 15, 11 am–1 pm, Free