They are some of the most energizing words in our faith: "When Adar begins, we increase in joy." And since Adar begins this coming week, there is no time like the present to wrap up all your last-ditch efforts at negativity, pessimism, morbidity and bad moods. Because once we hit the month of Adar, the month of Purim, each day has to be happier than the one before it.
Sorry, those are the rules!
Leaving aside the question of how it's possible to be happy on demand, let's ask a different question. Why indeed is it a sacred duty to maintain a cheerful disposition? Can't a person be religious without being in a good mood? Isn't piety usually associated with a solemn countenance anyway?
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman in his remarkable book, Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, paraphrases the Lubavitcher Rebbe and writes:
Depression is not a crime. But it plummets a person into an abyss deeper than any crime could reach.
Depression is a ploy instigated by the self-destructive elements within all of us. Once depressed, a person could do anything.
Fight depression as a blood sworn enemy. Run from it as you would run from death itself.
He is not speaking of clinical depression, G-d forbid, which required careful medical attention, but rather a general weariness of spirit, a surrender to negativity, and an immersion in the bittersweet waters of despair. And that is Public Enemy Number One. (Or two, or three, but you get the idea.)
And contrast that with this:
There are many kinds of barriers: Those from within and those from without. Barriers between people. Barriers that prevent you from doing good things. Barriers of your own mind and your own hesitations. There are the barriers that exist simply because you are a limited being.
And joy breaks through all barriers.
And that is the key: Joy bursts through, it knows no obstacle. If life is a bicycle ride, joy is the air in the tires. It keeps you in the seat and prevents you from being jarred or even thrown by every rock or bump in the road.
Everyone wants joy. I have yet to meet a person who found real joy annoying or upsetting. (Needless to say, artificial and forced smiles are not welcome.) And the power it possesses changes not just the day of its bearer but also of all those around him or her. It gives them hope, optimism, vision, comfort; it restores faith and revives dormant spirits; it infuses people with energy they forgot they have and confronts them with their lost urgency and desire for life. And obviously then, it can save lives.
Joy has this immense power because joy is a divine element. Where there is faith, there must be joy. A lack of joy is a lapse of faith. And deep in the heart of every man, woman and child, there lies a bottomless wellspring of goodness called the soul. And joy is to the soul like a magnet to steel. It stirs it, reawakens it and provokes it.
So if not for your own sake, do it for Calabasas. Take all the effort you invest in business, recreation, relationships, community and family. Withdraw 50 percent of that effort and invest it in maintaining joy: a happy, vibrant and peaceful self. So now everything in your life gets about 10% of your effort and joy gets 50 percent. And then watch as everything blossoms brilliantly. Your work, your friendships, your health, your faith, everything is exponentially improved by joy.
It is far easier said than done; but it can be done, and (therefore) it must be done.
Remember, you may not receive medals for being happy all the time, but to everyone around you, you are their beloved champion.