As I reflect back on the month of Adar at The Toronto Heschel School, I am reminded of this famous quote from the Talmud, which many of us know today as a song:

מִשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אֲדָר מַרְבִּין בְּשִׂמְחָה.

When the month of Adar begins, one increases rejoicing.

(Talmud Ta’anit 29a)

This quote from the Talmud certainly rang true at The Toronto Heschel School the entire month!  The month of Adar began with the JK students in costume, going from class to class, bringing happiness and singing the song מִשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אֲדָר מַרְבִּין בְּשִׂמְחָה. They were in costume and good cheer and kicked off a month of fun and celebration. The month continued with a fantastic Spirit Week – Purim Edition, sponsored by the Junior High Tarbut Committee. On Monday, it was “Villain vs. Hero Day” (in honour of Haman vs Mordechai) so the students dressed up as their favorite villains and heroes. Tuesday was “Twin Day” (in honour of Bigtan and Teresh) so the students came dressed the same as a friend or friends from school.  Wednesday was “Jersey Day” (in honour of ‘running like Vashti’) so the students dressed in their favourite sports jersey from their favourite sports team. Thursday was “Crazy Hair Day” (in honour of ‘crazy’ Achashverosh), which was self-explanatory. Friday was “Fancy Day” (in honour of the beautiful Esther), and everyone looked so beautiful.

On the day of Purim itself, everything at school was upside down, both literally and figuratively, as it should be on Purim Day! The students were once again in costumes and the school was resplendent in beautiful colours and wonderful characters from the many beautiful Queen Esthers to more contemporary ones, including members from the band “KISS!” The Megillah was read by our amazing Grade 8 students and the Purim story was told and performed by our incredible faculty and staff. As the day continued, the students participated in a variety of Purim activities, which included making Mishloach Manot for the poor and using the day as an opportunity not only to celebrate, but also to think about others. Finally, our Grade 7 students led the rest of the Junior High students as well as the students from Grade 5 in an exercise to determine who was the real hero of the Purim story! The students were divided into teams, and each team argued their case clearly, logically, and convincingly. It was great to see Heschel learning at its best as the activity was fun, engaging and creative.

According to the Tanach, Queen Esther was born with the name הֲדַסָּה‎ Hadassah (“Myrtle”). Her name was changed to Esther to hide her identity upon becoming Queen of Persia. The three letter root of Esther in Hebrew is s-t-r (סתר‎), which means “hide” or “conceal”. The passive infinitive is (לְהִסָּ֫תֶר‎), which means “to be hidden”. I can say with certainty that nothing was “hidden” when it came to our Purim celebrations at The Toronto Heschel School! We celebrated loudly, with enthusiasm, and a sense of pride! 

The idea of מִשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אֲדָר מַרְבִּין בְּשִׂמְחָה is not only relegated to Purim; as our Purim festivities subsided, our attention moved immediately to Pesach in earnest! And Pesach is also a time to rejoice and celebrate our freedom! So the joy continues to increase at The Toronto Heschel School!

Chag Kasher VeSameach! May your Passover be a celebration of freedom, joy and happiness!  

Moreh Alan