I’m fasting today, but I’ll be feasting tonight.

Today is the 7th of Adar, the anniversary of both the birth and passing of Moses, the leader of the Exodus and the greatest Jew to have ever lived.

G‑d Himself, in all His glory, was the one to bury Moses, and thus the day has come to be associated with the observances and customs of traditional Jewish funerals. In many communities, the chevrah kadisha, the JewishI'll be feasting tonight burial society, of which I am a member, observes a solemn fast and then joins together this evening for a festive meal.

The chevrah kadisha is entrusted with preparing our brothers and sisters for their final journey in this world, lovingly purifying the bodies of the departed and then assisting in the burial. It’s a weighty responsibility, as well as a tremendous honor.

During Minchah, afternoon prayers, the chevrah kadisha recites penitential prayers and holds a special fast-day Torah reading. We pray that our efforts throughout the year to render assistance to the deceased should prove acceptable in G‑d’s eyes, and that our holy work brings our departed brethren the honor that is their due.

And then we party.

We put on a splendid meal for ourselves and sit back and relax. We are treated to a selection of fine whiskeys, while the good mood and graveyard humor flow freely. Members of different synagogues and communities, who’ve only ever met in the somber surrounds of the taharah shtiebel (facility where the dead are prepared for burial), become fast friends. The volubility and enjoyment level rise as the night progresses.

Tonight is our night.

The sudden switching of gears can prove somewhat disconcerting. It’s a strange and abrupt adjustment—from solemnity to enjoyment, from sobriety to joy. It almost reminds me of Purim itself, where the festive day is immediately preceded by the fast of Esther.

There is, in fact, a direct correlation between 7 Adar and Purim. The Midrash relates that the entire Purim story was predicated on a misunderstanding about the meaning of 7 Adar. When the evil villain Haman threw his infamous pur (lottery) to determine an appropriate date for his planned massacre, the lot fell on the month of Adar. Knowing that Moses had passed away on 7 Adar, Haman rejoiced, because he considered this a propitious month for his destructive plot. Little did Haman know, however, that Moses’s birthday was the exact same day, and, rather than proving an unlucky month for the Jews, the birth of our leader presaged a time of good fortune for our people.

Purim was a time of “v’nahafoch hu,” revolutionary and unexpected change of fortune. With the wave of a scepter, we went from an impending holocaust to an incredible salvation. The seeds of Haman’s eventual destruction and our national reawakening had been sown months before with Esther’s ascension to the throne, and it took just a few moments to effect the pre-arranged, radicalYou're worried about the present? transformation of fate.

This, then, is the traditional Jewish response to tragedy and threat: confidence that good will always conquer evil, that justice will ultimately prevail. Moses died on this day? Don’t forget that he was also born. You’re worried about the present? Remember the glorious past and look forward to a promising future.

We are a people that can switch gears effortlessly from sadness to joy, from repentance to positivity. We can fast all day and feast all night. We have a great G‑d, and we are assured that he is always looking out for His people.

Dedicated to my brothers and sisters throughout the world, members of various chevrah kadishas, who serve G‑d’s people in their times of sorrow and look forward to a time when our services will no longer be necessary.

Editor's Note: Note that this was written in an ordinary year. When 7 Adar is on Friday, the feasting and fasting are delayed, so as not to interfere with Shabbat preparation.