Monday, March 06, 2023

Simcha Isn’t Easy for Everyone

by Mendel Singer - Guest Contributor

Purim is certainly a happy chag. Great story of redemption during golus, kids in adorable costumes, festive meal with friends or family, lots of tasty food and nosh going around. What’s not to be happy about?

Actually, there’s plenty to not be happy about – for many. Like all holidays, it is challenging for many. Some people are lonely. Some are depressed. Some can’t help focusing on the extra place at the table due to having lost someone (literally or figuratively). 

Some people’s challenges are so overwhelming that they can’t be put aside for the day. And let’s face it – if it’s a family gathering, there are often challenges and stresses.  For these people, seeing others be so happy may make things worse. And having someone come over and say “Why the frown? Be happy – it’s Purim!” is definitely not helpful. For those of us who are happy on Purim, know that you are blessed and be sensitive to other people who might not be as fortunate to be in the same place you are.

I used to take simcha for granted. I’m basically a very happy person. But I came to notice how hard it is for some.  At a wedding for a very young kallah I could see an older single struggle and cringe as heard for the 10,000th time “Soon by you!”. 

For chagim single people may be anxious about what invitations will come…or not – and whether the invitations are sincere or out of pity.  And for people who are depressed, sometimes you can see it on people’s faces – if you really look. How many look that hard? Sometimes the only way to notice something’s wrong is if we notice the people who aren’t there, e.g. at shul, a simcha, a gathering.

Mishloach manos is supposed to increase good feelings between people. It can be a powerful gift. Consider putting in a special note to someone you suspect could use a lift. And if your wishes of “Chag sameach” don’t seem to be hitting home with someone, respect that. Maybe a warm handhold. And remember, being able to be happy is reason alone to be b’simcha.

Wishing you all a truly happy Purim!

Mendel E. Singer, PhD MPH; Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education; Director, MS Biomedical and Health Informatics; Director, MS Biostatistics Dept. of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences; Case School of Medicine