When Adar Enters we Increase in Joy…
Or so the sages say. The month of Adar is thought to be one of the most joyous months on the Jewish calendar and is full of celebration. This year is no exception and in fact, the season of our joy and celebration has doubled!
Double Joy | Adar 1 and Adar 2
The Jewish calendar, which aligns with the moon’s phases, starts a new month with each crescent moon. Since the lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year used by the Gregorian calendar, a *13th month is added seven times every 19 years to synchronize the lunar calendar with the seasons, creating a “leap year.”
Unlike the Gregorian calendar where a single day is added using this method an entire month simply called “Adar 1” is added! Therefore, the leap year is known as a shanah me’uberet (“pregnant year” or “enlarged year”) since it is temporarily longer, larger, and more full than the standard cycle.
*Adar 1 is considered to be the “extra month or 13th month” therefore Purim is celebrated in Adar 2.
Expectation and Joy
This structure made me think about the power of expectation that is gifted when you are pregnant. When you are expecting to welcome a new life your whole world is bubbling over with excitement laced with nervousness. There are lurking unknowns and hopes that sometimes feel like baby butterflies but overall I would describe the feeling as one of great expectation.
This feeling of anticipation is experienced by every member of the family in a different way. It is not just the father and mother but also the siblings and the grandparents and all whose lives are going to be touched by the gift of a new life full of promise. Their hearts are full of expectation albeit tinged with a bit of hesitancy of how their lives are about to change.
So if we liken Adar 1 to this experience we would do well to embrace the expectation of this season and trust the Lord to deliver the gift He has deposited within us in His time. We would do well to embrace the bundle of sometimes conflicting emotions associated with expectation and continue walking out the assignment ahead of us and taking the next step of obedience towards the promise.
Expectation. Joy. Hesitancy. You can feel all of these at the same time as you are embarking into the unknown. In the month of Adar 1 do not let the nervousness associated with the unknown steal the joy of this season and the upcoming one.
Naphtali – Cheerful Messenger
The month of Adar is associated with the tribe of Naphtali which is known as “the connected tribe.”
When Naphtali was born, albeit through Rachel’s maidservant, he further connected Rachel to Leah in that they were both matriarchs of the Jewish people.
When Joseph blessed Naphtali he said:
“Naphtali is a deer let loose;
He uses beautiful words.”
-Gen 49:21 (KJV)
Naphtali was regarded as a swift messenger and while the rabbis debate the meaning of this verbiage some say that he was Jacob’s trusted messenger–not only swift but serving in joy. They teach that the kings of northern Israel would send hinds (deer) to those in southern Israel with a message tied between their horns. Set free they would race back to their southern natural habitat with correspondence attached; hence Naphtali being compared to a hind as one who carried messages in brisk cheerfulness.
Some rabbis maintain that Naphtali being graced with beautiful words is likely a reference to the Torah and the heart of study even more so than the messages he might have carried on behalf of others.
Regardless, Naphtali is remembered as a dedicated messenger of hope. He was eager, swift, and carried out his missions demonstrating a commitment to help others.
The allotment of Naphtali’s inheritance in the Galilee region was some of the most fertile and productive land in all of Canaan.
The soil was prime for vegetation which supported farmers and shepherds alike. Naphtali’s allotment was well watered by the Jordan River, hidden springs from Mt. Herman, and the Sea of Galilee. Meaning that this tribe often experienced the first of the harvests in the land of Israel and because of this, it was believed that their land “heralded good times” for the people of Israel.
The first-fruits often came forth from Naphtali’s fertile and quick-producing soil thereby not only satisfying the needs of its inhabitants but also creating a material blessing for a spiritual purpose.
Like Napthali who built relationships and served others by receiving and giving messages, the region around the Sea of Galilee both gives and receives water from the north and passes it on to other places. This creates a flow of life based on a pattern of inflow and outflow unlike a body of water like the “Dead Sea” which receives but never gives.
There is life in serving with joy and in giving to others. There is life in living generously.
Rich. Happy. Satisfied.
Moses’ blessing reflects that Naphtali was not only blessed but he was also satisfied.
Of Naphtali he said:
“You, Naphtali, satisfied with favor
and full of blessing from Adonai,
take possession of the sea and the south.”
Isaac Ararbanel, a Portuguese Jewish statesmen said:
“Some people are rich and are happy with their lot, which is the best combination. Others are rich and are not happy with their lot. Another group of people is not rich, but is happy with its lot. Then there are people who are not rich, and are unhappy with their lot, which is the worst combination possible.”
Naphtali was satisfied, full, favored, and connected.
He was connected to others as a messenger of hope and according to Jewish scholars he remained connected to God by turning to Him in prayer.
Prayer and Connection
In Hebrew, the tribe of Naphtali shares the same letters albeit in a different order of the word: tefillin (phylacteries).
You might be familiar with *tefillin which are black leather boxes that contain parchments of scripture and are worn by Orthodox Jewish men strapped on their head and their arm. In this community, this tradition is thought to be a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which says:
4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; 5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. 6 These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; 7 and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, 9 and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.
It is believed that this “mitzvah” (instruction) serves as a sign on your arm, a reminder between your eyes, and that God’s instruction would be in your mouth therefore impacting your actions, your thoughts, and your speech.
This tradition is a symbolic action of binding oneself to the Word and the Word binding itself to you. It represents connection, attachment, fastening, and focus.
Likewise, the Hebrew word for prayer “tefillah” shares the same letters as the Hebrew word for fastened or connected with the first two letters reversed. The rabbis teach that this is because prayer fastens us to our Creator; it is through prayer that our spirits reconnect. And it is believed that Naphtali models this concept as one who served to “connect.”
*The scriptures inside the phlyatrics are: Exodus 13:1–10, 11–16; Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21.
The Power of Your Words to Create
When the world was created it was spoken into existence with the breath of Hashem. The first recorded words were: “Yehi, Ohr”–let there be light. He used words to form the heavens and earth and shape all we know.
The fabric of creation was spoken into existence.
God said: “Let there be…”. And there was. He fashioned us with words. And then God invited Adam to participate and use his voice to be part of the creative process.
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. -Gen 2:19-20
Therefore, it is believed that words and letters of the Hebrew alphabet are charged with creative power perhaps even more than we consciously realize, and as such are symbolic and often carry deeper meaning than face value. Because of this, words with shared letters are thought to be connected or rooted together.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
-Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)
Deborah and Barak from Naphtali
Deborah was the fourth judge of Israel, a military leader, a prophetess, a wife, a “Mother in Israel,” and the only female judge recorded in the Bible.
As a prophetess, she brought messages from God to the people. And as a judge she brought justice.
After 20 years of oppression from Jabin the king of Canaan the Israelites “again cried out to the Lord” after doing evil in His sight yet another time. Deborah summoned Barak, from the tribe of Naphtali to lead the battle against the Canaanites.
According to Judges 4 Deborah cuts straight to the case and declares God’s plan to Barak from the tribe of Naphtali:
“Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor, take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulon; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand?’” -Judges 4:6-8
Barak agreed to go to battle but only if Deborah went with him. Perhaps, this desire was rooted in the fact that Deborah heard from God and was His messenger–she was the connection point.
Barak summoned the men of Naphtali and Zebulon and the children of Israel ultimately won the battle against the Canaanites. According to Jewish tradition, Zebulun was a seafaring merchant tribe that provided for the tribe of Issacar enabling them to study Torah, embrace God’s message, and have an understanding of the times.
Both Naphtali and Zebulon demonstrated giving generously and serving others with joy. They had to remain focused on physical responsibilities and yet their physical work promoted a spiritual connection through serving others. This is a great reminder that the mundane can be transformed into holy when our heart is positioned to advance the Kingdom. Obedience is holy unto the Lord even when that obedience might seem rote and mundane. Like the tribes of Napthali and Zebulon our physical pursuits can serve the greater good of serving our Father and our “people” if we remain connected to His heart.
Connected through Joy
The months of Adar are times marked for an outpouring of joy and laughter that comes quite naturally to those who serve others, remain content, and are connected to God and their purpose. And this year (2024) we get a double portion!
In Adar 2 we will jump into the story of Purim where we will see that when God intervenes the plans of the wicked–no matter how daunting– fail. Just like what was demonstrated with Deborah and Barak from Naphtali. And this is a cause to rejoice in the faithfulness of God and embrace true joy with expectation!
The Expectation Connection
Expectation positions us to hear God’s voice and see His hand at work in our lives; in the same way fear, despair, and hope-deferred is often deafening and blinding when we perceive through our circumstances versus the truth of the Word. We have to position our hearts to listen and hear before we can carry His message to our own heart, family, friends, neighbors, or nations. His words are filled with the same creative power of Genesis and in our own way each of us has been called to be messengers of hope like we see demonstrated through Naphtali.
We are not only imager bearers but also message carriers.
Yeshua came as the ultimate reflection of our Father in both word and deed. He came carrying a message of love, repentance, salvation, restoration, and hope.
Yeshua is our connection to the Father and He is not only the Word but also the Father’s Messenger.
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
-Malachi 3:1 (NJV)
Yeshua came carrying the Good News and the message of the Covenant just as John the Baptist came speaking words to prepare the way. Jesus remained faithful to the message He had been entrusted with continuing to teach “until the day He was taken up” (Acts 1:1-3) and charged His disciples with the responsibility to continue to do the same:
“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” – Luke 9:1-2
Likewise, we carry a message deep in our hearts that may not always be reflected in our words and our actions. Do our words, which also carry creative power, reflect that which He has done in us with the power of joy and expectation or are they idle words that seed the atmosphere with fear and doubt?
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
In this month of Adar 1, which is a “bonus month” of joy and expectation, our prayer is that we daily come before the Lord with listening hearts and live our lives as messengers of hope connecting others to the heart of the Father in joy. May the overflow of our guarded hearts reflect the transformed lives we have received and may our words expand the Kingdom and unlock Kingdom destinies! May we carry His covenant message wherever our voices are heard.
Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences. -Prov 4:23
“For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart.” -Luke 6:45