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!