It’s been a very joyous month of Adar in Jerusalem. This week the streets have been filled with clowns, soccer fans, fairies, super heroes, ferocious tigers and cuddly crocodiles. Outrageous hats, face paint and glitter are the norm. This is the national holiday of joy, and Israelis need no encouragement to be happy and party. The streets feel light with a continuous song in the air welcoming this month that is the harbinger of happiness. It’s swept away the bitter cold grip of winter with a shining, warm sun, literally and figuratively. There is nothing like happiness and joy to break barriers as absolute strangers find themselves smiling at each other and sharing their childrens’ costumes on their phones.

Purim is not one day here; it’s an entire week at the schools of street parades, carnivals, dress up parties and Purim markets. It’s the festival of children, and as my son’s kindergarten teacher said, ‘We are all children on Purim.’ And she walks the talk, dressed up as a fire woman and parading down Emek Refaim with her gaggle of nursery school kids, dressed up in their masks and princess dresses, skipping and singing along. They greeted and sang to everyone they meet, from the blind man’s Labrador, to the local grocery shop (where they march through the aisles), to the relaxed couples sipping their cappuccino’s on Emek, to the Pizza shop, where they ordered their lunch, and then went on, as a final stop, to the Saba of the Gan’s home ( his teacher’s father)to sing and dress up with him. The children had the best Purim parade, with no music, no accompanying school, which they usually have and no balloons or police, as they had last year. They simply were happy and made everyone else happy as only three and four year olds can.

And that’s what this month has been about, being simply happy. Yes, there is a whole story of Purim, which is why we are happy. The Jews were saved from annihilation. Jewish survival is a fabulous reason to celebrate. However there’s more than that to the injunction to be happy. Simple joy is a concept we struggle with as we go along our daily lives, which has its hard moments, like sick kids vomiting in the night. (For those who have not yet been plagued, there is a horrid stomach bug going around Jerusalem.) I’m learning that I need to get beyond my preoccupation with what I think is important; assignments, essays, work dead lines, fancy Shabbat meals, burnt dinners, picture perfect homes and clean walls (that four year olds have not penned their master pieces on.)

I look at the happy Jerusalemites around me. I know that many are struggling to pay the bills, exhausted as they balance their numerous jobs, their children, or are looking for that special someone and are lonely. Everyone has their sad story, and that story has been put on pause this month, as we are all swept up in the energy of being happy because this is the time to be happy. Because this is what we choose to be, as we wish everyone a Happy Purim.

In a way I wish Jerusalem could always be this way. Simply happy. Able to forget its horror stories, and ghosts of winter and embrace happiness, joy, connection and giving which the month of Adar brings. The harsh edge of city living, as everyone vies for space would permanently disappear and we could all smile at each other and in that moment be happy as we connect on that basic human level. Realizing that at the end of the day that’s all that really matters. As three and four year olds already know and understand, and the rest of us have simply forgotten, and need the month of Adar to remind us. Happiness is a state of being, a choice, indeed the road worth taking.

This seems to me the reason why the Rabbis teach that “Yom Kippur is a day like Purim”, a day approximating Purim, because it’s not the fasting and sacrifices that God ultimately wants, as Isaiah (Chapter 1) candidly points out, rather it’s our smiles, joy and connection in our everyday lives with ourselves and each other, which naturally leads to social justice and enduring happiness and peace. No one says it’s easy, sometimes the best things are the hardest, but it’s definitely something to aim for, one smile at a time, beyond this happy month into many happy, happy months.