Seasons of the Moon I remember a photograph on the cover of a book. A photograph of a road. A very long, very straight road, the kind that you find in the heartland of America. A road that never seems to have any cars on it. The road goes up and down a little. The perspective is very compressed by the long telephoto lens. This road must go on forever.

When you move in a straight line, every step in that line is a product of the one that precedes it. every step carries the sum of where you've come from and its ultimate goal; every step demands the next step in that same line. unless opposed by some outside force, a straight line must, by its very nature, go on forever.

What happens when the line leaves its straight path and wanders? A line that twists and turns must eventually falter and end. Its own deviance spells its eventual demise, for something that deviates to the side has lost its connection to what preceded it. It is no longer an expression of a continuum. every move, every second in a line that isn't straight is disconnected from that which has gone before and from that which is to come. It expresses neither history nor purpose. It is a cold frozen moment alone among another million frozen moments. When the line meanders and twists, nothing connects to anything else. The world is random, without purpose. no beginning. And no end.

The Talmud tells us that "Yaakov, our father, didn't die" (Ta'anit 5b). It is for this reason that he was given the title Yeshurun - "the Straight One." That which is totally straight doesn't stop. It doesn't die. It connects to that which is beyond. It goes on forever. "When Adar comes in, we increase in simcha" (Ta'anit 29a).

What is happiness? We are all familiar with it. But what is it? What is its essence? In the Talmud, there is a measurement known as a tefach same'ach (Sukka 7a). A tefach is a handsbreadth, about ten centimeters. Same'ach means happy. how can a measurement be happy? A laughing slide rule? A smiling tape measure? A tefach same'ach is a large tefach. It's a tefach - plus a little more. Why did the Rabbis of the Talmud choose the term happy to describe a measurement that was slightly on the large side? Couldn't they have called it a "maxi" tefach or a "generous" tefach? Why a "happy" tefach?

The tefach same'ach is a tefach that connects, extending to that which is beyond itself. It's still a tefach. It stays within its boundaries, but it reaches out and beyond. This is the essence of all simcha: to perceive the self becoming more. expanding our horizons without abandoning our borders.

nothing can be sadder than when we see ourselves confined within ourselves, defined solely by our physical parameters, that we are who we are and no more. When our definition of ourselves ends with our fingertips - that's the essence of sadness. But when we perceive ourselves as being connected, reaching to that which is beyond ourselves, that point of connecting who we are to what is beyond is the epitome of happiness. The feeling that we can touch the most distant echo of the Ein Sof - the endless - is the essence of happiness. happiness itself.

When we broaden our existence - for example, by getting married or by having children - the feeling we experience is happiness. for these are ways that we go beyond ourselves while still staying who we are.

The story of Purim is like the plot line of a thriller. A roller coaster of sudden reversal. Twisting ways. You have to discern the straight line; the unseen hand guiding events from Above, overturning the twisting ways of haman, the Amaleki.

The letters of Amalek spell me'ukal, which means "twisting," "meandering." Amalek is the force that skews the straight line, turning it aside. Amalek is the force that wants to take order, history, and purpose and turn them into a million frozen random moments. his is the power that tries to break the connection between cause and effect, between here and beyond. his is the voice that says, "Is there Anyone out there?"

The gematria of Amalek is the same as safek, "doubt." existential doubt means where I've come from is irrelevant and where I'm going is uncertain. All I know is now. The moment. The essence of happiness is that things are important and I have a connection to them. Things can only be important if there is a connection between cause and effect. Relevance is a measure of connection. In a world of random events, nothing has importance. nothing has relevance. nothing has significance. nothing is going anywhere.

When Adar comes in, we increase our happiness. for this is the month when we can detect that faintest whisper of that straight line that leads to forever. At the time of Purim, in this month of Adar, events were turned from "sadness to simcha and from bereavement to Yom Tov." In this month, we celebrate the victory of Yeshurun - the Straight One - the line that goes on and on.

Yaakov, our father, did not die. he is the Straight One, the one who connects the beginning to the end. The Jewish people carve a straight line through the history books and out of this world to that which is above and beyond.

To the extent that we embody that straight line, we are Yeshurun, the straight one. The happy one.

That's the essence of happiness.

More articles available at Ohr Somayach's website.