Humor is such a powerful tool. It can be used to do the worst things possible, like making a good, kosher, modest woman into a Sotah. (Sotah 7a) And it can do the best possible thing, like getting people interested in learning Torah. (Shabbat 30b) The Baal HaTanya (Chapter 7) writes how when we use humor to be more productive in serving G-d, to get us into better spirits to be able to serve G-d properly, that it is like bringing a Korban! For it is taking something human and making it holy.
I found that many of the best comedians are or were Jewish. R Shimshon R Hirsch writes that from early on, we see that Jews have the ability to tap into humor. The first time we find humor in history by the Jewish People is in the satirical comment at Yam Suf, when the Jews asked Moshe, Aren’t there any graves in Egypt, that G-d needed to take us out to let us die in the desert? R Hirsch teaches that humor comes from the purity of the Jews, even when they are in a state of panic. Humor somehow helps us overcome situations of panic. We need to tap into the ability to find humor, if we are to be the best we can be. As parents, as spouses, as siblings, as mentors and as Jews.
Did you ever wonder why Adar is before Nissan? Nissan is the first of months. Adar is the last of months. We even see how Adar has in it the 4 Parashiot that lead into Nissan, clearly showing that Adar is an intro to Nissan. What merit does Adar have that it brings about the renewal and freedom of Nissan? It seems that the miracle of Adar is the miracle where things turned around in a split second. And just when it looked as if things couldn’t get any worse, we discovered that things couldn’t get any better. Adar is the month of happiness, the month of irony. Nissan is the month of freedom. Of renewal. The only way you can become free in life is if you are able to find some light in the darkness, some meaning to the suffering, something good in the bad. Only if one is able to find laughter in life, can one celebrate life, and achieve a true renewal.
To find humor in life, to find the irony in life, you have to be looking for it, being in the present, or it slips right by. Last week I got into a car accident. I was on my way to teach at 9 am in “stop and go” traffic, and a car on the side of the road had a leak. I turned my head for a split second to see how he was fairing, and the car in front of me hit the brakes. I did not see it. BAM, BAM! I hit the next car, and that driver hit the car in front of him. B’’H everyone is OK, and my insurance will be covering the 40,000+ shekels in damage. But all that was a split second. I told my friend how this accident happened, in a blink of an eye, and that it really left me in somewhat of a trauma, setting me off schedule. I am still shaking from flashbacks.
And then he told me the most beautiful concept. There is a cliché that is used amongst the Jewish people. ישועת ה’ כהרף עין, G-d’s salvation comes in a wink. The origin of this cliché is the Midrash Lekach Tov (אסתר פרק ד) on Megillat Esther, when Achashverosh couldn’t sleep the night before the second party, and it was the beginning of the salvation for the Jewish People. Why is the metaphor a wink? Why not like the “snap of a finger”? Because when we need a Yeshuah, when we need salvation, sometimes we need to close our eyes and see things from our mind’s eye. Conceptually. If we want to deal with the painful and hard parts of life, we need to stop over-imposing, using our eyes and others senses; we need to stop exaggerating the hardships in life, and instead perceive things as is with no exaggeration, in almost an abstract way, as if we were looking at the hardships with our eyes closed. My friend told me that if I wanted to get over the trauma, I needed to close my eyes on the accident, and “conceptualize” it. Make the experience distant. (This idea was originally said by Rav Tzvi Hersh of Liska)
It looked like things were horrible, at that moment. But I said, I have got to find G-d in the scene, somewhere. I rolled into Toyota in Givat Shaul, to see how much the damage amounted to in my car, and to see if I was still under the coverage of the VIP I had with them. The VIP in that Toyota is that you pay 320 shekels and you get all different types of benefits for a year. One of them is in case of an accident, they cover more than half of the deductible (1,600 shekels from 3,000 shekels) if the damage is over 7,000 shekel. The fellow who received me looked up my account, and he almost dropped his iPad. The last day of the VIP was the day of the accident!!!