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26 Shevat 5763 - January 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Twice Adar: Understanding the Halochos of Adar Rishon and Sheni

by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

Rising to the Occasion

"When Adar arrives we increase our level of happiness" (Ta'anis 29a). All year long Jews are meant to feel the tremendous sense of joy that accompanies the opportunity of serving the King of kings. As we draw closer to this unique time we are expected to raise our spirits to an even higher level. What is the reason for this change?

"There is no joy greater than eliminating doubts (Responsa Rema)." Adar and Nisan are months in which Hashem performed extraordinary miracles for the Jewish people. The high level of clarity of faith that we can reach through celebrating and studying these events, gets rid of any hesitation we may have about believing in Hashem's total domination of world history. When everything is clear, we realize that our Father in Heaven is watching over us every moment of the day and we are free to experience the simcha which is the true status of our nation.

Although all opinions agree that Purim is observed in Adar Sheni, the overwhelming joy of this time makes its presence felt in Adar Rishon as well, with the celebration of Purim Koton. However numerous other halachic issues arise concerning the question of which Adar is the "real" Adar. In order to fully appreciate this special time of year, it is worthwhile to take a few moments to investigate the halochos pertinent to Adar Rishon and Sheni.

The Arba Parshiyos

Our Sages instituted that in the month of Adar we read the Arba Parshiyos -- four designated portions of Torah and Nevi'im. Which Adar should they be read in? The ruling of the Shulchan Oruch and other poskim is based on the content of these parshiyos.

Shekolim deals with the mitzvah of Machtsis Hashekel. The gemora says that since one has to bring korbonos from new contributions in Nisan, this sum (the annual half a shekel) had to be given before the month of Nisan. Zochor describes the mitzvah of eradicating Amolek, an important theme of Purim. Poroh explains the mitzvah of Poroh Adumoh which is essential to become tohor, a prerequisite for entering the Beis Hamikdash for the Korbon Pesach and on Pesach. The final parsha, Parshas HaChodesh, deals with the mitzvah of Korbon Pesach itself.

Since these parshos all center around Purim and Pesach, they are read in Adar Sheni (Shulchan Oruch 685).

Shabbos Mevorchim

The chazan stands majestically before the bimah, embracing a sefer Torah on the Shabbos before Adar Rishon. As he clears his throat to announce the upcoming month, he thinks to himself, "Should I say that next month is Adar, or must I be more specific and say Adar Rishon?"

Our chazan's seemingly innocent question touches on a fascinating halachic dichotomy.

The poskim agree that Adar Sheni is the "real" Adar, and Adar Rishon is the added month (Radvaz 1,150). Although this has relevance when deciding when to make a yahrtzeit (as explained later in this article), our Sages did not say that words are defined based on halachic parameters. Interestingly enough, the meaning of a word is based solely on the way people talk, i.e., what they intend to express when using it.

Most Rishonim understand that when people say or write the word "Adar" by itself, they are referring to the first Adar, Adar Rishon (Rosh and Ran, Nedorim 63a). Based on this information, our Chazal's doubt is resolved, and he can say simply that next week will be "Rosh Chodesh Adar." However as in all aspects of life, avoiding ambiguity is preferable and for the sake of clarity it is better if he says explicitly, "Adar Rishon" (Mishna Berurah 427,3).

If it is always better to say Adar Rishon or Sheni, what difference does the definition of the word Adar make? The question of what the word "Adar" means has serious ramifications regarding many issues, as expressed by the following scenario. In order to follow this story, bear in mind that the word "Adar" refers to Adar Rishon.


The Shulchan Oruch writes that if a person passed away in Adar of a non-leap-year, the yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Sheni (Orach Chaim 568,7). In order to understand the ruling of the Shulchan Oruch, we must return to our initial principle. While the exact date of vows, financial contracts and gittin depend on what people mean when speaking or writing, the date of a yahrtzeit is significant because it is a day of judgment for the deceased and his family, and can only be determined by the month which is halachically considered Adar. Since Adar Sheni as the real Adar, the Shulchan Oruch sets the yahrtzeit in that month.

The Rema notes that even though Adar Sheni is the real Adar, following the principle of ein ma'avirin al hamitzvos (we do a mitzvah at the first possible opportunity) the yahrtzeit should be kept in Adar Rishon (Yoreh Deah 402,12). However even the Rema cites poskim who say that since this issue is unclear, it is praiseworthy to also observe the yahrtzeit in Adar Sheni (Orach Chaim 568,7).

The Mishnah (Megilloh 6b) says that the only difference between the first and second Adar is that Megilloh is read and matonos Lo'evyonim are given in the second Adar. This implies that aside from these two cases, all other halochos should be observed in both months. In this vein, some claim that keeping the Yahrtzeit in both Adar Rishon and Adar Sheni is not just laudable; it is an obligation. (Gra, Magen Avraham, Mishna Berurah, ibid.). As with the previous halachos, since many different issues are involved in determining which opinion to follow, a rov should be asked.

Bar Mitzvas

The poskim pose a halachic riddle which is very pertinent to this topic. How is it possible to have twins, one born before the other, yet the second child's bar mitzvah is before the first one? They answer that if the first child was born at the end of Adar Rishon and the second was born at the beginning of Adar Sheni and also the bar mitzvah is in a non-leap-year, the child who was born first has his bar mitzvah at the end of Adar, while the second child's bar mitzvah is at the beginning of Adar (Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 55,10 citing Agor).

While the question of Yahrtzeit depends on which month is considered the halachic Adar, the issue of a bar mitzvah in a leap-year presents us with a new issue. In order to consider that a child has reached the time where the Torah considers him to have transformed from a boy to a man, it is not enough to know which Adar is Adar. This calculation requires us to be aware when thirteen years have terminated. Here even the Rema is in agreement that a boy born in Adar of a non-leap- year does not become Bar Mitzvah until Adar Sheni of his thirteenth year (Rema, Orach Chaim, 55,11).

Even while celebrating the tremendous simcha of a bar mitzvah, it is important to remember that our Sages have told us that no happiness can be complete until the final redemption arrives (Medrash Tanchuma 98,1). In the merit of studying and following the halachos of Adar Rishon and Adar Sheni, may we personally witness the ultimate joy of the Geula Shleima in the near future.

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