COUNTDOWN…to What? Part I

The special parshah that we will be reading this week iy”H, parshas Shekalim, discusses collecting one half-shekel from each member of B’nei Yisrael who is to be counted in a census. This is so that we can count the half-shekels, rather than count the B’nei Yisrael themselves. Various limudim teach how we derive from here the yearly obligation to give a half-shekel to the Mishkan, and later to the Beis Hamikdash, with which to purchase the public korbanos. This is actually the reason why we read this parshah this coming Shabbos, since the ‘year’ vis a vis korbanos starts in Nissan. Thus, thirty days earlier, we are to start collecting those half-shekels. However, we will be addressing the aspect of the half-shekel collection being a means that enabled the ‘indirect’ census of B’nei Yisrael.  The nature of how counting half-shekels instead of people averts counting the people themselves is not as clear as it might seem.

Rashi at the beginning of the parshah (Shemos 30:12) explains that in order to avoid ayin hara, which can affect things that are counted (we will explain this concept in detail later), B’nei Yisrael gave the half-shekels, and it was the half-shekels which were counted, rather than B’nei Yisrael. Thus, any ayin hara would be avoided.

However, if that is the case, why does the passuk refer to the giving of the half-shekel as a ‘kofer-nefesh’ —atonement for one’s soul? That would seem to imply that a reason for a potential punishment had existed, and that the donation of monies towards a special cause —in this case, the Mishkan— would be, as we would say, ‘ah kapparah.’ But why should that be the case, if the whole problem was preempted by the giving and counting of the half-shekels instead of the people. Yet Rashi explains the words (ibid. 15) “to atone for your souls”— ‘so that you not be punished because of the count.’ Didn’t Rashi say just three pesukim earlier that the half-shekels were to be counted and not the people in order to avoid the whole problem?

The Gemara (Yoma 22b) discusses a lottery system employed in the Beis Hamikdash to determine which kohanim would serve in that day’s avodah (sacrificial services) and what task each of these kohanim would perform. For each role in the avodah, the eligible kohanim would stand in a circle and stretch out one or two fingers, which were then counted until a pre-determined number was reached. The kohein by whose finger the count ended ‘won’ the lottery for that part of the service. The Gemara asks, why count the fingers? (This method had given rise to several concerns of subterfuge.) Why not just count the kohanim themselves? The Gemara answers that since it is prohibited to count B’nei Yisrael, those in charge of the avodah had to count the fingers, rather than the kohanim. The Gemara then cites a passuk in Hoshei’a (2:1) as the scriptural source of the prohibition. The Maharsha (ad loc.) wonders why the Gemara does not bring the pesukim of parshas Shekalim, where the Torah itself states that we must not count B’nei Yisrael directly!

The Chasam Sofer offers the following explanation. There is another aspect of the Gemara in Yoma that seems a bit strange. After all, they were not actually counting the number of the kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash! They were not interested in how many or how few there were. It was only a means to conduct the ‘lottery.’ What kind of prohibited ‘counting’ is that?

The Chasam Sofer suggests that there are two distinct, separate issues involved. One is to know and clarify the sum total of B’nei Yisrael. The second is the act of counting them, one by one. True, in the Beis Hamikdash there was no intent to ascertain the amount of kohanim present at any time. Nonetheless, the process of the lottery necessitated a counting of the Kohanim —one, two, three, four… That too is forbidden, and thus required that the outstretched fingers be counted instead. This is why the Gemara there needs to cite the passuk in Hoshei’a, because the pesukim of parshas Shekalim teach us only that we are not to clarify the number, the sum total, of B’nei Yisrael. Only the passuk in Hoshei’a, which states that B’nei Yisrael ‘cannot be counted’ teaches us that the act of directly ‘counting’ Jews is forbidden in and of itself, no matter what we are trying to determine.

This can resolve the difficulty in understanding the seemingly contradictory explanations of Rashi in Ki Sisa/Shekalim. Why was there a need for the half-shekels if there was a kofer nefesh? And why was there a need for kofer nefesh if all they were counting was the half-shekels? Now, the answer is clear. The act of counting B’nei Yisrael is prohibited; thus, the need to count by way of the half-shekel. However, one would still know the exact sum total of B’nei Yisrael by counting the half-shekels! This was the problem that the kofer nefesh was coming to avert; the ayin hara inherent in obtaining the total count of B’nei Yisrael.

We can now delve somewhat deeper to understand the rationale of these two issues —the act of counting, and knowing the total count of B’nei Yisrael.

Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher, in his commentary on Chumash, gives two explanations of the problem with counting B’nei Yisrael. In his introduction to parshas Ki Sisa, he explains that in our lives, we are constantly surrounded by hidden miracles —nissim nistarim. In general, Hashem conducts the world according to a set pattern, which we call teva (nature). When there is a greater need that necessitates His going beyond that set pattern, this is what is called ness (miracle). However, there are still two types of ness. One type does not proclaim itself loudly, for no ‘laws’ of nature are violated. Everything happens in a ‘normal’ manner. Yet fortuitously, coincidentally, ‘luckily,’ someone is in the right place at the right time —and the yeshuah (salvation) comes a la Purim. We can also point to the victory of the few over the many on Chanukah —where no natural laws were violated. Or, for instance, the way you landed that job or made that shidduch. Rabbeinu Bachya says the nissim nistarim are constantly happening —precisely because they remain nissim nistarim. Once an open miracle is “required”, a splitting of the sea, a burning of a small amount of oil for eight days —that will not happen in our period of history, for that is too open a manifestation of Hashem’s reality for us to merit.

Rabbeinu Bachya continues: The Gemara in Bava Metzia (42a) speaks of Hashem’s blessing increasing one’s possessions  and states that once something  is counted, it is no longer subject to that special berachah, because “Berachah  is only to be found in something that is hidden from the  eye (i.e., uncounted).” Rabbeinu Bachya takes this to mean that counting produce creates a situation where now it would require  a ness niglah  to increase it —and that’s not happening, or at least not to us. Berachah happens to something ‘hidden from the eye’ —when we can still experience it as a ness nistar. So too, says Rabbeinu Bachya, we  want to avoid counting B’nei Yisrael, since we want to experience Hashem’s berachah, which will only manifest itself as a ness nistar.

To be continued…

Seeing Double —Still Two Adars After all these Weeks!

How does one determine one’s bar (or bas) mitzvah date if one is born in Adar of a ‘regular’ year, when the year where he (or she) will reach the age of being obligated in mitzvos is a year with two Adars?

The Gemara that deals with the question of whether Purim is to be celebrated in Adar I or Adar II states that even according to the opinion that Purim is celebrated in Adar II, the fourteenth and fifteenth of the first Adar are both forbidden to be days of fasting, and no eulogies are to be said on them. Tosafos understand that this opinion maintains that there is no obligation to feast and make merry on those days in Adar I according to this opinion; rather, one must only avoid overt signs of sadness. Yet this raises the obvious question of how one can differentiate between the two types of “celebrating” these days in Adar I! The Vilna Gaon (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 568:7) suggests the following differentiation: The prohibition against fasting and eulogies on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar I is not based on the Megillah’s mandate that these days are to be days of partying and feasting. Rather, the prohibitions’ origins lie in that these days are included in what is known as ‘Megillas Taanis,’ —a chronicle of Rabbinic Holidays on which fasting and eulogies are forbidden because of the miracles that occurred on those days. These dates, the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar are indeed listed in Megillas Taanis. The Gra then explains that any laws that are involved in celebrating Purim are observed, according to this opinion, during the second Adar. However, with regards to laws that are engendered by a calendar date, we indeed follow the date. Thus, any day that has the date of the fourteenth or fifteenth of ‘Adar,’ —whether it is Adar I or Adar II— is subject to the prohibitions on fasting and eulogies as per Megillas TaanisMegillas Taanis deals with dates —not with Purim. If the date is in Adar, well then, Adar is Adar, and there are two of them! (The Gra points out that the Gemara in Megillah makes it clear that were it not for a special derashah from a passuk, Purim itself would be celebrated in both Adars!)

The Gra’s explanation was actually written to explain the law regarding yahrtzeits. The issue of setting the date of yahrzeit in a year with two Adars for someone who passed away in a year when there is only one month of Adar is the subject of a three-way dispute amongst the Poskim. The Shulchan Aruch rules that, in such a case, one commemorates the yahrzeit in Adar II (as is the case with deciding when to celebrate Purim). Rema maintains that one observes the yahrzeit in Adar I. The basis of this ruling is a Gemara in Nedarim, which states that when dating legal documents, one simply writes ‘Adar’ (with no additives) in Adar I, and ‘Adar II’ in the second Adar. The Gra, in addressing the Rema’s opinion, states that the terminology used when dating a document is not conclusive proof in these matters. There, the decisive factor is merely how people generally refer to the month, which has no inherent legal status. (Apparently, in Rema’s experience, people referred to Adar I as Adar, and to Adar II as Adar II.) The Gra thus goes on to say that, in his opinion, since the question of a yahrzeit deals with a date —the commemoration of the yahrzeit should be in both Adars. Since we dealing with a calendared date, and the date is Adar —Adar is Adar, even if there are two of them! Thus, the Gra holds that the fourteenth and fifteenth of both Adars are days when fasting and eulogizing are prohibited, as per Megillas Taanis. In contrast, feasting and partying are dependent on Purim —of which there is only one! (We then have the argument in the Gemara as to in which Adar we should celebrate Purim, and the conclusion is that it is the second one).

Here is another approach. The Yerushalmi in Masechess Megillah states that the primary Adar is indeed the second one. The first Adar is the ‘extra’ month, inserted, as we have learned, so that the lunar ‘year’ can catch up with the solar one. Therefore, writes the Yerushalmi, a lamb born in Adar of a regular year is not to be considered a year old yet (and thus disqualified from certain korbanos), if the following year has two Adars, until the second Adar —which is the only true Adar. Many point to this Yerushalmi to explain the ruling of the Rema that a child born in a regular year in Adar becomes bar mitzvah in Adar II.

Thus we can say that, if it is a question of age —based on the Yerushalmi the age is only reached on the date of birth,  which regarding Adar is only the second Adar, for in the first Adar we are merely ‘catching up’ to the solar year.

Regarding the calendar date (e.g., a yahrzeit) —Shulchan Aruch rules that the commemoration should be  in the second Adar, Rema rules that it is held in the first, and the Gra rules—both! When it comes to dating a document, which apparently is determined by the way people refer to the month, Adar would be the first Adar.

It is interesting, is it not, that one’s age is so directly determined by one’s birthday. Meaning that a boy who was born, say, 16 Adar I celebrates his birthday on 16 Adar (if his bar mitzvah year has only one Adar. That’s fine —but isn’t he at least  as old  as the child born, say, three weeks later, seven Adar Two, who becomes bar mitzvah nine days earlier, 13 years later on 7 Adar? How can it be that we make the first child wait another nine days —isn’t it a question of age? He is at least as old —and older— than the second child is! We see that age is, legally at least, a function of how many birthdays one has passed. That is a chiddush —think about it!

Happy Shushan Purim Kattan! Just What Are We Supposed to Be Doing Today (or yesterday…or tomorrow)?

Depending on when you are reading this, you either have a chance to prepare properly for Purim Kattan (Friday) or to find out if there is anything that you should be doing on Shabbos, having missed Friday’s celebrations.

Celebrations? Were there celebrations on the 14th of Adar Rishon? What is Purim Kattan, anyway? Just a day (or two) on which we do not say Tachanun, Av Harachamim, Tzidkascha Tzedek? (Not that I’m complaining…)

Shushan Purim Kattan? What is that all about? What is its meaning?

As usual, we will start with a Gemara. The Gemara in Megillah (6b) discusses what to do when two Adars intrude upon Purim. I remember singing a Yiddish song as a young child that featured a line that said something to the effect of, “I wish that Purim would come more than once a year.” Well, the Gemara learns from a passuk that Purim can indeed occur only once a year. (Although, as we will see, this is said only regarding reading the Megillah and matanos laevyonim, and probably applies to mishloach manos as well.)

Accordingly, there is a difference of opinion there as to which Adar is the month that gets to ‘host’ Purim. One tanna maintains that Purim should be observed in the first Adar, following the rule that ‘Ein ma’avirin al hamitzvos’ (‘One does not allow a mitzvah [in this case, Purim] to pass by, because one never knows what the morrow may bring). The other tanna holds that we should celebrate Purim in the second Adar, reasoning that it is a more perfect way to celebrate — one geulah (Purim) coming in tandem  with another one (Pesach).

Of these two opinions, the second requires a bit more of an explanation. Why, asks the Chasam Sofer, does the second tanna maintain such an opinion, despite its apparent incongruence with the established rule of ma’avirin?’ This view seemingly trumps doing a mitzvah in its optimal fashion. Why does the second tanna hold what he holds?

The Chasam Sofer answers this with a fascinating chiddush. The celebration of Purim is really a Torah obligation! As he points out, the Gemara elsewhere in Masechess Megillah states, “If we celebrate the Exodus by Torah Law, where we ‘merely’ escaped from slavery to freedom, certainly we should celebrate an ‘exodus’ from certain death to life itself!” Thus, says Chasam Sofer, the obligation to celebrate the salvation of Purim is a Torah obligation.

That Gemara discussing the question of in which Adar we should celebrate Purim makes an enigmatic remark. It says that everyone agrees that the days of “Purim” — the 14th and 15th of Adar, on Adar I or Adar II — are both prohibited from being fast days and are days on which eulogies are not said. The Chasam Sofer says that this fits perfectly with the idea that he developed. Ein ma’avirin indeed calls upon us to celebrate Purim at the first opportunity, namely, the 14th of the first Adar. For that, however, a minor commemoration of the miracle suffices; there is no need for a full-blown celebration, with Megillah reading and matanos laevyonim. Thus, the rule of ein ma’avirin is fulfilled in the first Adar, in observance of the Torah imperative as derived from a kal vachomer by refraining from fasting and eulogies. The sheleimus hamitzvah (ideal observance of the mitzvah) will be achieved in the manner suggested by the second opinion cited above, putting geulah next to geulah by waiting for Adar II.

The Gemara states that eulogies and fasting are forbidden in both Adars. Megillah reading and gifts to the poor are the subject of machlokes there. We have now seen the Chasam Sofer’s explanation of the variant opinions.

What is left to debate is the mitzvah of feasting and partying on Purim. The prohibitions against fasting and eulogies are derived from the fact that the Megillah speaks of an imperative of joy and feasting. The Gemara derives from the passuk that simchah teaches that it is forbidden to eulogize, and feasting teaches that it is forbidden to fast. Therefore, it follows that if fasting and eulogies are forbidden, partying and a seudah are imperatives! This is actually the subject of a dispute amongst the Rishonim. In fact, it is a three-way machlokes! Moreover, it is a machlokes-within -a-machlokes.

Tosafos maintain that there is no need to party in the first Adar. Tosafos hold that these days have the status of certain days listed in Megillas Ta’anis on which manifestations of sadness are prohibited (fasting, eulogies). But that is all that we must do (or rather, refrain from doing). Any display of simchah beyond that is unnecessary.

Ran maintains that since these principles are derived from the words ‘simchah and mishteh,’ it is only logical that we should actively party. (Tosafos do not want to spoil the party, but they hold that Purim Kattan cannot be more intense than other “minor” Yamim Tovim.) But why are there no mishloach manos? The Tzitz Eliezer is not sure!

Some say that Ran implies that partying on Purim Kattan is limited to the day of the 14th of Adar Rishon, while others learn that we get to party on the 15th as well. The Ran’s implication that we do “not [celebrate on the] 15th” requires some understanding. Some explain that this refers only to people who usually celebrate the 14th of Adar as Purim (i.e., residents of cities without walls), while residents of walled cities, who normally celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar, should celebrate Shushan Purim Kattan. Others maintain that the Ran meant that there is no overt celebration of the 15th anywhere.

Rema concludes that we should actively celebrate Purim Kattan, out of a sense of doing something to increase our general sense of simchah. Levush maintains that we should celebrate on the 15th as well. Some say that Rema agrees that locales who normally celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar should celebrate on the 15th of Adar I.

Let us hope that there will be many more shanos me’ubaros (leap years) with the accompanying such problems. The next one, according to our fixed calendar (may it swiftly be rendered irrelevant by Mashiach’s arrival) is slated to occur two years hence.

(The only question that remains is if that is enough time to allow me to do a rerun of this column once again!)

Enjoy!

Happy Shushan Purim Kattan! Just What Are We Supposed to Be Doing Today (or yesterday…or tomorrow)?

Depending on when you are reading this, you either have a chance to prepare properly for Purim Kattan (Friday) or to find out if there is anything that you should be doing on Shabbos, having missed Friday’s celebrations.

Celebrations? Were there celebrations on the 14th of Adar Rishon? What is Purim Kattan, anyway? Just a day (or two) on which we do not say Tachanun, Av Harachamim, Tzidkascha Tzedek? (Not that I’m complaining…)

Shushan Purim Kattan? What is that all about? What is its meaning?

As usual, we will start with a Gemara. The Gemara in Megillah (6b) discusses what to do when two Adars intrude upon Purim. I remember singing a Yiddish song as a young child that featured a line that said something to the effect of, “I wish that Purim would come more than once a year.” Well, the Gemara learns from a passuk that Purim can indeed occur only once a year. (Although, as we will see, this is said only regarding reading the Megillah and matanos laevyonim, and probably applies to mishloach manos as well.)

Accordingly, there is a difference of opinion there as to which Adar is the month that gets to ‘host’ Purim. One tanna maintains that Purim should be observed in the first Adar, following the rule that ‘Ein ma’avirin al hamitzvos’ (‘One does not allow a mitzvah [in this case, Purim] to pass by, because one never knows what the morrow may bring). The other tanna holds that we should celebrate Purim in the second Adar, reasoning that it is a more perfect way to celebrate — one geulah (Purim) coming in tandem  with another one (Pesach).

Of these two opinions, the second requires a bit more of an explanation. Why, asks the Chasam Sofer, does the second tanna maintain such an opinion, despite its apparent incongruence with the established rule of ma’avirin?’ This view seemingly trumps doing a mitzvah in its optimal fashion. Why does the second tanna hold what he holds?

The Chasam Sofer answers this with a fascinating chiddush. The celebration of Purim is really a Torah obligation! As he points out, the Gemara elsewhere in Masechess Megillah states, “If we celebrate the Exodus by Torah Law, where we ‘merely’ escaped from slavery to freedom, certainly we should celebrate an ‘exodus’ from certain death to life itself!” Thus, says Chasam Sofer, the obligation to celebrate the salvation of Purim is a Torah obligation.

That Gemara discussing the question of in which Adar we should celebrate Purim makes an enigmatic remark. It says that everyone agrees that the days of “Purim” — the 14th and 15th of Adar, on Adar I or Adar II — are both prohibited from being fast days and are days on which eulogies are not said. The Chasam Sofer says that this fits perfectly with the idea that he developed. Ein ma’avirin indeed calls upon us to celebrate Purim at the first opportunity, namely, the 14th of the first Adar. For that, however, a minor commemoration of the miracle suffices; there is no need for a full-blown celebration, with Megillah reading and matanos laevyonim. Thus, the rule of ein ma’avirin is fulfilled in the first Adar, in observance of the Torah imperative as derived from a kal vachomer by refraining from fasting and eulogies. The sheleimus hamitzvah (ideal observance of the mitzvah) will be achieved in the manner suggested by the second opinion cited above, putting geulah next to geulah by waiting for Adar II.

The Gemara states that eulogies and fasting are forbidden in both Adars. Megillah reading and gifts to the poor are the subject of machlokes there. We have now seen the Chasam Sofer’s explanation of the variant opinions.

What is left to debate is the mitzvah of feasting and partying on Purim. The prohibitions against fasting and eulogies are derived from the fact that the Megillah speaks of an imperative of joy and feasting. The Gemara derives from the passuk that simchah teaches that it is forbidden to eulogize, and feasting teaches that it is forbidden to fast. Therefore, it follows that if fasting and eulogies are forbidden, partying and a seudah are imperatives! This is actually the subject of a dispute amongst the Rishonim. In fact, it is a three-way machlokes! Moreover, it is a machlokes-within -a-machlokes.

Tosafos maintain that there is no need to party in the first Adar. Tosafos hold that these days have the status of certain days listed in Megillas Ta’anis on which manifestations of sadness are prohibited (fasting, eulogies). But that is all that we must do (or rather, refrain from doing). Any display of simchah beyond that is unnecessary.

Ran maintains that since these principles are derived from the words ‘simchah and mishteh,’ it is only logical that we should actively party. (Tosafos do not want to spoil the party, but they hold that Purim Kattan cannot be more intense than other “minor” Yamim Tovim.) But why are there no mishloach manos? The Tzitz Eliezer is not sure!

Some say that Ran implies that partying on Purim Kattan is limited to the day of the 14th of Adar Rishon, while others learn that we get to party on the 15th as well. The Ran’s implication that we do “not [celebrate on the] 15th” requires some understanding. Some explain that this refers only to people who usually celebrate the 14th of Adar as Purim (i.e., residents of cities without walls), while residents of walled cities, who normally celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar, should celebrate Shushan Purim Kattan. Others maintain that the Ran meant that there is no overt celebration of the 15th anywhere.

Rema concludes that we should actively celebrate Purim Kattan, out of a sense of doing something to increase our general sense of simchah. Levush maintains that we should celebrate on the 15th as well. Some say that Rema agrees that locales who normally celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar should celebrate on the 15th of Adar I.

Let us hope that there will be many more shanos me’ubaros (leap years) with the accompanying such problems. The next one, according to our fixed calendar (may it swiftly be rendered irrelevant by Mashiach’s arrival) is slated to occur two years hence.

(The only question that remains is if that is enough time to allow me to do a rerun of this column once again!)

Enjoy!

Is it Adar or is it Not? (Part 2)

As we have seen last week, we are ‘forced’ to add another month to the ‘Jewish’ year every few years. (Actually, precise calculations would dictate that we just add 11 days every 12 lunar months before starting another ‘year.’ That would certainly confuse everyone — imagine 11 ‘blank days’ that do not ‘belong’ to any month! However, the Gemara (Megillah 5a) teaches us that only full months can be added to a year, not mere days.)

Okay, so which month should it be? Where do we add it?

We know that the answer is —Adar! Why Adar? Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos says that we derive from a passuk that we are to add the month as closely as possible to the Yom Tov that is the source of the ‘problem’ to begin with (see last week’s column) — Pesach. Others explain that, in the time of the Sanhedrin, adding the month was not set up as a regularly scheduled calendar event as it is now. Rather, the Sanhedrin saw telltale signs (climatic and agricultural) that would be a clear indication that this would be necessary. These signs were most often seen and best evaluated in Shevat, preceding Adar. Another reason given is that Adar is referred to in Tanach as “the twelfth month,” and we try mightily to retain that nomenclature. As you can readily discern, if any other month were to be doubled, Adar would no longer be the twelfth month!

Our next question concerns the “extra” inserted month. Which is it, Adar I or Adar II? The Yerushalmi in Maseches Megillah asks this question, and points out that for someone born in Adar in a plain year, the answer to this question will determine when his or her birthday falls in a shanah me’uberess (if the extra month is Adar I, the birthday is in Adar II, and vice versa.) Now, you may not care much about when your birthday is, but there are two major times when you DO care! And that is the bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah year. Just when do you become obligated in mitzvos if you were born in Adar? The same is true for animals, which can only qualify for specific korbanos at specific ages. In the times of the Beis Hamikdash, we needed to know when their birthdays fall in a leap year. The Yerushalmi ends its discussion inconclusively, although many understand it as saying that the first Adar is the “extra” one.

What about “marbin besimchah”? Well, the Gemara in Taanis (26b) is the source for this “din,” where it says that just as there is a statement of Chasmal Mishenichnas Av, mema’atin besimchah,” —from when the month of Av commences, we minimize all forms of simchah— so too, “Mishenichnas Adar, marbin besimchah,” the polar opposite. Rashi there explains that we increase simchah in Adar because it is a time of miracles, like those that occurred on Purim and Pesach. Many understand Rashi’s emphasis on these holidays in the sense that it is davka the proximity of both nissim that are a call to joy. This would certainly give the ‘marbin besimchah award’ to Adar II. Indeed, the halachah is that Purim is celebrated in Adar II, another indication that the proximity is the key factor in the joy.

The Sefas Emes makes an interesting point. He writes that the Gemara we quoted has an inherent difficulty. Why ascribe Adar’s simchah to Av’s lack thereof? Let Adar stand on its own! He answers that Av’s joylessness is connected, of course, to the churban Beis Hamikdash, the cessation of korbanos, etc. While in Adar, as it turns out, the collections for the machatzis hashekel, the monies that virtually everyone in Klal Yisrael gave in order to participate in the korbanos tzibbur (public sacrificial offerings) commence. Thus, Adar is indeed the very antithesis of Av, for it is a time of strengthening of the korbanos and all that they represent. Hence the great simchah of Adar, in contradistinction to the mourning of Chodesh Av. This would place the ‘burden’ of being happy squarely on Adar II, for that is when the collections for the korbanos would start to be made.

There is an interesting Yerushalmi (in Maseches Megillah) which states that the year of the Purim miracle was a 13-month year! It seems that it was this way in the year of the choosing of the lots, with the future Adar date being given as the day chosen for the destruction of the Jews, chas ve’shalom. However, according to this, Purim would have taken place in Adar I, for this date is described in the Megillah as “the twelfth month,” which is Adar I. The Chasam Sofer (Shut OC siman 163) makes a historical analysis, and concludes that when Haman drew the lots, the year of waiting and anticipating was supposed to be a 13-month year. However, when Mordechai prevailed, he canceled the second Adar, arguing that the Jews should maintain their connection to Moshe Rabbeinu and the month in which he was born and died — just plain Adar.

Halachically, things are left rather unclear. Regarding a yahrtzeit, the Shulchan Aruch rules that the fasting of the yahrtzeit-observer is in Adar II, the Rema rules that this should be done in Adar I, and some Poskim rule that one should fast on that date in both Adars! Regarding a bar mitzvah, the Rema writes that the bar mitzvah takes place in Adar II (this is the common custom), while there are opinions that the bar mitzvah is in Adar I. Thus, some maintain that one should observe the stringencies of both opinions, starting to wear tefillin on the birth-date in Adar I, yet not considering oneself a full-fledged halachic adult until the birth-date Adar II.

In truth, many of you may have noticed a setirah (contradiction) in the Rema’s rulings. As concerns yahrtzeit, Rema seems to view Adar I as the main Adar, while for a bar mitzvah he rules that it is Adar II. There are Poskim who differentiate between bar mitzvah and yahrtzeit, with various suggestions for the difference.

In closing, it should be noted that al pi kabbalah (according to Jewish mysticism), each Hebrew month represents a different tribe of Israel. Adar, of which there is sometimes one and sometimes two, corresponds to Yosef, who is sometimes counted as one Tribe, and sometimes as two (Menashe and Ephraim.)

May we all merit to see the renewed Sanhedrin, who will then decide whether a given year should be me’uberes or not!