“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12, JPS 1917 Tanach
Expectations in life are often deferred until a later time than one may have hoped. This may be true for prayer, as well as whatever personal goals in life that one may have in mind. It is also true for the holiday of Purim, when there is a “leap year” in the Hebrew calendar. Because Passover is always to be celebrated in the Spring, an extra month is added to the Hebrew calendar seven times within a nineteen year period. Otherwise, Pesach (Passover) would end up being in the winter. Another explanation given is that because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, a month is added according to the specific calculations, so that it will correspond to the solar calendar. During a leap year, the extra month of Adar Sheini (Adar Two) is added, before the month of Nissan.
During a leap year, the question may be asked, “So when do we celebrate Purim – the first month of Adar or the second month of Adar?” The answer given is that we celebrate Purim during the second month of Adar, about a month before Pesach as usual. So, at the beginning of the first month of Adar, that is on Rosh Chodesh Adar 1, the expectation of Purim which is usually celebrated on the fourteenth of the month may be in our thoughts. Yet, during a leap year, the holiday is not celebrated until six weeks later.
Therefore, two weeks after Rosh Chodesh Adar 1, when Purim would normally be celebrated, instead we recognize the day as Purim Katan (Small Purim). On this day (14 Adar 1), it is considered praiseworthy, although not obligatory, to increase one’s sense of joy with a festive meal, and, perhaps, a little bit of wine. At least, this small amount of joy that we bring into our lives, may offset the unfulfilled expectation of the greater joy felt on the actual holiday of Purim. Additionally, Purim Katan would be a good time to think about the miracles in our lives and begin preparing for Purim – thirty days ahead of time – by reading about the significance of Purim, along with its observances.
Incidentally, the day before the holiday of Purim is called Esther Taanim, the fast of Esther. Although we do not fast on the day before Purim Katan, traditionally, some exceptionally devout people will at least skip snacks between meals. Ultimately, we should reflect upon the essential truth that true and lasting joy is not dependent upon festive meals, nor the consumption of alcohol. Tru joy results from serving G-d, in whatever capacity we are able. The more devotion, the greater joy, in the sense of a feeling of contentedness that accompanies our overall fulfillment of purpose, for the sake of one’s soul.
“He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15: 15, JPS 1917 Tanach