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Q. Our house is very quiet – it’s just me, my husband, and our two kids – and on Purim, a holiday that’s supposed to be busy and happy, it feels depressing. I know to be grateful for what I have and that there are people who have it so much worse, but that doesn’t really work when I’m feeling down. Inviting guests or going to other people doesn’t help – it only magnifies the quiet for me.

A. I am sorry to hear that. It sounds like Purim (and possibly other holidays?) brings up a lot of hard feelings for you. Generally, we think Purim equals excitement and raucous fun, but it can bring up a lot of difficult emotions. You do not give details of your family, other than having two children, so we cannot ascertain why or which part of it feels depressing. Therefore, we will stick with a more general theme of having a difficult time during holidays as many people do. 

Adar has arrived!  Everyone is focused on the seemingly joyous holiday of Purim. However, for many people, for a variety of reasons and possibilities, Purim does not bring that sense of excitement. In fact, it may do quite the opposite. It may even exacerbate feelings of loss, family friction, or a myriad of other possibilities. 

 Holidays are a time when emotions are heightened, Purim especially, because it is such an exciting time for many families. It is also a very public holiday. You can see everyone outside running around with elaborate mishloach manos and costumes and looking as though they are having the best day. It is very hard to look around and not feel badly for whatever we are lacking. It is extremely normal. 

At the same time, if we are aware of the feelings that the holidays bring up, we can prepare in advance for potentially triggering scenarios, so we react more appropriately when they happen. Purim is a great opportunity to review emotions and to experiment with planning to cope in advance. This method will diffuse the intensity of our reactions. The best way to prepare yourself mentally is to review the emotions you experienced in past years, since you will probably feel similarly this Purim.

In Living Emunah, Rabbi David Ashear writes how every person gets a role to play, and that the role you have been assigned is determined by your current circumstances. Regardless of the situation, we should not complain but instead learn how to accept the role assigned to us. In the case of Purim, this means not getting stuck in bad feelings about your situation or looking at what other people have, such as big family parties or all the tzedakah limos pulling up in front of their homes. If we are able to remember our role and do it happily and to the best of our ability then we are doing exactly what Hashem wants from us and will get rewarded as such.

Here are some other ideas to make the Yom Tov special for you and not leave stuck with negative emotions. If you like cooking, you may enjoy making the Purim seudah extra special and serving different foods than usual. If you are creative, you can make a unique mishloach manos for someone special, such as a Rav or Rebbetzin, family member, or friend. Pick something that speaks to you. I know of some families that use Purim as an opportunity to finish the entire Sefer Tehillim. Opt out of feeling sorry for yourself. Part of being a believing Jew is knowing that Hashem wants best for us, so if your lot in life right now is to have a quiet home, figure out what you can do to optimize Yom Tov in the best way you can. Remember, I am more likely to experience simchah when I create optimal conditions for it to blossom. This is something I can do.

The word Purim literally means “lots” as in “drawing lots.” The name of the holiday is meant to remind us that of the fact that Haman used lots to determine the date that the Jews of Persia would be killed. There was no rhyme or reason to the choosing of this date: it was left to random chance. The fact that the tables were turned and that this became the date for Haman’s demise further reminds us of the unpredictability of life.

Purim reminds us that much in life seems to be a matter of chance. But we know there is no such thing as “random chance”. Hashem is in charge of everything and in His infinite wisdom decides what is best for us:  where we are born, who our parents are, the friends we meet, and what we look like. These are things that are either completely or mostly out of our control. We work hard to exert control in those areas that we can, but it is just as important to learn how to accept our blessings and focus on creating the best for ourselves. 

Hatzlacha and simchas Purim!


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