I awoke recently in the night and saw the enormous icicles hanging down from our bedroom windows limned by moonlight. All I could think in my sleep-muddled state was that we were surrounded by an icicle forest! But the moonlight shining on our icicles has been decreasing. Right now the moon is waning away to nothing. And once it reaches nothing, it will begin its monthly rebirth.
It's been too cold in New England for outdoor stargazing, but if I had been outdoors the last few nights I would have seen increasing numbers of stars. When the moon is big, she drowns out some of the complexity of the night sky. But when the moon wanes, more stars become visible to the naked eye -- tiny pinpricks of light which don't add up to the moon's brilliance, but they're beautiful nevertheless.
In Jewish tradition, every new moon heralds a new month. When the moon begins to grow again in a few days, we'll enter into the month of Adar. "When Adar enters, joy increases," goes the saying -- this is the month which contains Purim, our joyful festival in which we celebrate not only our people's survival in the face of a terrible tyrant (what else is new) but also life's topsy-turviness in general.
I've been thinking about what kind of joy I'd like to see increase as Adar rolls in. I have friends and loved ones who've undergone surgery recently; I hope that Adar will bring them healing. I know that people are grieving recent terror attacks (on Jews in Copenhagen; on Muslims in Chapel Hill); I hope that Adar will bring them comfort. For me -- I'm hoping that Adar will bring early stirrings of spring.
I'm not expecting warmth, not here -- right now this is a land of giant snowdrifts and six-foot icicles. But every day there is just a little bit more daylight. And in two more weeks when we reach Purim, the secular calendar will flip over to March, and that always feels good too. Meanwhile, the best joy instructor I know is our five-year-old son. Maybe this is a good time of year for me to learn from him.
Rosh Chodesh Adar will arrive on Thursday. For more on the meanings of Adar, try my 2013 post Happy Adar!