As we approach the onset of the second month of Adar—Adar Sheini—we dedicate this week’s article to the oft-confusing identification of the “true” month of Adar. As we shall see, classifying the “principle” month of Adar might have ramifications that embrace a wide range of halachic issues.

In which of the Adar months is a bar-mitzvah celebrated? When is a yahrzeit commemorated? Which of the two months is considered Adar for legal purposes? The answer to these questions is not simple, and bringing clarity to the issue is not as easy as one might initially think.

Why Extend the Year?

Chazal in Maseches Sanhedrin (11b) teach us that the year is extended (into an ibbur year) for three reasons: “For the spring, for the fruit of the trees, and for the season.” The most basic of the three reasons and the only one made explicit, is the first: “Guard the month of the spring, and you shall make Passover for Hashem, your G-d” (Devarim 16:1).

From this verse, Chazal derive an explicit instruction: to ensure that Pesach occurs in the spring. The reason for this is that the omer offering, consisting of freshly cut barley, is offered on Pesach (Rashi, Sanhedrin). As barley is not harvested earlier in the year, Pesach must therefore be celebrated in the spring. Since the Hebrew calendar is lunar by nature, and the seasons occur according to the solar calendar, the discrepancy between them (of 11.25 days) must be corrected by adding an extra month every few years. This ensures that Pesach coincides with spring.

A Dozen Possibilities: Why Adar?

Rashi (Rosh Hashana 7a) explains that the verse “guard the month of the spring” refers to the month closest to spring: “Double the month before spring in order to ensure that Nissan falls in springtime”—the “guard” for the month of Nissan is the month that precedes it. Hence, the very reason for the extension of the year is also the reason for the choice of Adar.

Tosefos (Sanhedrin 12a) give a different reason. If any other month was doubled, the month of Adar would not be the twelfth month of the year, but the thirteenth. This, Tosefos explains, would be in contradiction with an explicit verse in Megillas Esther (3:7), which states that Adar is the twelfth month of the year. In keeping with this statement, only the month of Adar is doubled.

Which is the Principle Adar?

The question of which of the two months is the principle Adar is addressed by Tosefos (Rosh Hashanah 19b). Although the twelfth month, as we have seen, must be Adar, Tosefos write that the first Adar is the additional month, and the ‘principle’ month is Adar Beis—the final month of the year.

This ties in well with the fact that Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar. Yet, the Gemara (Megillah 7b) explains that Purim is observed in Adar II in order to juxtapose the redemption of Purim to the redemption of Pesach. Thus, the celebration of Purim does not prove anything as to the status of the month.

Tosefos reach a similar conclusion in discussion of another question: Which of the two months is ‘Adar’ alone (Adar stam), and which needs additional identification? This question is asked in the context of the following Talmudic debate: When one makes a vow stating that it should apply “until Adar”: Is the vow binding until the first Adar, or does it extend until the second?

Tana’im relate to this question in discussing the proper way to date legal documents. Tosefos (Nedarim 63b) write that the halachah follows the opinion of Rabbi Meir, who ruled that ‘Adar’ alone refers to the second month of Adar, whereas the first month of Adar must be termed ‘Adar Rishon.’

It thus emerges that according to the Tosefos both the question of which month is the principle month, and which month is termed ‘Adar’ alone have the same answer: the second month. Presumably, the verse (in Esther 7:3, where Adar is referred to as the twelfth month) is fulfilled even if it is called ‘Adar Rishon.’

Kessef Mishnah explains that this is also the Rambam‘s opinion (Nedarim 1:6).

Nomenclature and Halachah

Other rishonim (see Ran, Nedarim 63b; Shita Mekubetzes), however, do not concur with the ruling of the Tosefos. They argue that the halachah should follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, who considers the first of the two months to be ‘Adar’ alone, and the second to be ‘Adar Sheini.’ According to these opinions, if a person makes a vow to pay back a loan in ‘Adar,’ the loan must be returned in the first of the two Adar months.

Does this mean that these rishonim also disagree with the ruling of Tosefos concerning which of the two months is the principle month? Not necessarily.

It is possible that these rishonim maintain that the first month is plain ‘Adar’ for written and spoken purposes only. However, for various other halachic matters, the second of the two is the ‘authentic’ month.

Although Tosefos seem to tie both questions together, Maharsham (Nedarim loc. cit.) explains that the reason (according to the Tosefos) for which the suffix-less month of Adar is the second month is because people refer to the month in which Purim occurs as the month of Adar. This does not mean that other rishonim, who rule that the first of the two is plain ‘Adar’, would not agree to the classification of the second of the two as the halachic Adar.

The Shulchan Aruch’s Opinion

The rulings of the Shulchan Aruch appear to follow the distinction outlined above. On the one hand, Shulchan Aruch rules clearly that for both legal documents and gittin the first of the two months is termed ‘Adar’ (Choshen Mishpat 43:28; Even Ha-Ezer 126:7; see Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim 163). If a person writes a get in Adar II and writes ‘Adar’ with no addition, the get will be disqualified!

Yet, on the other hand, for a yahrzeit, Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 568:7) rules that the day should be commemorated on the second month, thus indicating that this is the ‘true’ halachic month of Adar. Shulchan Aruch thus makes a distinction between Adar stam—the question of which month is considered ‘plain Adar,’ and the principle halachic month of Adar.

When to Celebrate a Bar-Mitzvah

Based on the principles outlined above, we are now ready to address one of the basic questions concerning the Adar months: When should we celebrate the bar-mitzvah of a boy born in Adar? There are a number of variations to this question, each of which needs to be addressed separately.

Born on Adar of a leap year, and thirteenth year is a regular year: A child that was born in Adar of a leap year, be it in the first or second month of Adar, becomes bar-mitzvah in a regular year on the corresponding day of Adar. This gives rise to a seeming paradox, which is ruled by the Shulchan Aruch (55:10): A child born on the fifth day of Adar II (for instance) will reach bar-mitzvah before a child born on the tenth day of Adar I!

Born on Adar I, and 13th year is a leap year: Rema (ibid.) rules that the child only becomes bar-mitzvah in the second Adar month. This halachic ruling is in keeping with the ruling of Tosefos, whereby the second month of Adar is the ‘authentic’ halachic Adar, and the first Adar month is the addition. See also below.

Born on Adar I in a leap year and the 13th year is (also) a leap year: Magen Avraham (55:10) derives from the wording of Shulchan Aruch that the child becomes bar-mitzvah on Adar I, whereas a child born on Adar II would become bar-mitzvah on Adar II. Magen Avraham questions this ruling based on the Rema’s above mentioned ruling (whereby a child born on Adar in a simple year becomes bar-mitzvah only on Adar II of a leap year). The reason for this ruling, according to Magen Avraham, is that a leap year possesses thirteen (as opposed to twelve) months, and a child only reached bar-mitzvah after a full thirteen years had passed.

Based on this reasoning, Magen Avraham rules that a child born on Adar I of a leap year only becomes bar-mitzvah on Adar II of the leap year that is his 13th year—for only then does he pass thirteen full years (the last year comprising thirteen months).

However, many authorities dispute this ruling of Magen Avraham, as noted by Be’er Heitev (11, citing from Shevus Yaakov, Orach Chaim 9), and Mishnah Berurah (43) follows the majority ruling whereby a child born on Adar I becomes bar-mitzvah on Adar I.

Some have written that the dispute between the above authorities depends on whether a child becomes bar-mitzvah when he completes thirteen full years, or when he reaches his birthday for the thirteenth time. Magen Avraham sides with the former argument, meaning that the child can only become bar-mitzvah after the full thirteen months of the leap year pass by. Other authorities side with the latter argument, according to which the bar-mitzvah is reached when the relevant day of Adar I occurs for the 13th time.

Born on the 30th of Shevat, and thirteenth year is a leap year: This date does not occur on a leap year, raising the question of when the child becomes bar-mitzvah. Binyan Zion (151) writes that the child becomes bar-mitzvah on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar II. The reason for this is that the second Adar month is the principle month of Adar, and the child’s birthday, the 30th of Shevat (the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar) corresponds to this day.

When to Commemorate a Yahrzeit

The question when to commemorate a yahrzeit has been asked recurrently on our website. When should we commemorate the yahrzeit of one who passed away in Adar: in the first or second month?

Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 568:7), as noted above, rules that the yahrzeit of somebody who passed away in Adar of a regular year is commemorated (by fasting, saying kaddish, etc.) on the second Adar of a leap year.

Rema, however, makes the following addition: “Some state that he should fast in the first [Adar], unless the demise was in the second Adar of a leap year, in which case one fasts in Adar II. The custom is to fast in the first Adar. However, some are stringent and fast in both months.” Elsewhere (Yoreh De’ah 402:2), Rema confirms that the principle ruling is to fast in the first Adar month. Mishnah Berurah (42) adds that although it is proper to fast in both months, one does not have the right to defer others in davening from the amud and saying kaddish twice.

How is this ruling of Rema consistent with his ruling on bar-mitzvahs, whereby a child becomes bar-mitzvah only in Adar II? There are two possible approaches for resolving this difficulty:

1. Mahari Mintz (9, quoted by Rema in Yoreh De’ah) writes, based on the above-mentioned Gemara in Nedarim, that the ‘true Adar’ is the second Adar month, and this is therefore the time when a child becomes bar-mitzvah. However, a yahrzeit is commemorated specifically in the first month, because the fast of a yahrzeit depends on the count of twelve months from the time of the niftar’s passing. Although this rationale applies specifically to the first year of a parent’s passing, it remains sufficient to determine the correct yahrzeit for subsequent leap years as falling in Adar I.

Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim 14) adds that one should not think, based on this rationale, that the yahrzeit of somebody deceased in Adar I would occur in Shevat of the next year (after 12 months). The rationale is limited to deciding between two months of Adar, but is not a strong enough reason to substitute Adar with Shevat.

2. According to the Terumas Hadeshen (294, also mentioned by Rema), the Gemara’s conclusion (in Nedarim) is that plain ‘Adar’ is the first month, and not the second. According to his opinion, the custom of fasting on a yahrzeit is considered as a vow (made by the child of the deceased parent) to fast each year on the day of his parent’s passing. Therefore, a person must fast specifically in the first Adar, which is the month of Adar stam.

This explanation is appropriate for explaining the opinion of the Rema, for in the laws of Nedarim, the Rema concurs with the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 220) whereby Adar stam is the first Adar month.[1]

Yahrzeit for the 30th of Adar I

Another halachah concerns somebody whose parent died on the thirtieth day of Adar I—a date that does not occur on a regular year. This question, which also arises for a number of other months, is the subject of a dispute among authorities. Some state that the yahrzeit should be commemorated on the 29th of the previous month (Magen Avraham 568:7), and others write that it should be commemorated on the first of the following month (Machatzis Hashekel).

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggros Moshe vol. 3, no. 159) rules that the yahrzeit should be commemorated on the first of the following month, explaining that it is unreasonable to commemorate the passing on a date when the parent was still alive. Therefore, if a parent passed away on the thirtieth day of Adar I (in a leap year), the yahrzeit is commemorated (in a regular year) on the first day of Nissan.

When Adar Enters…

When should a person “increase in joy” according to the Talmudic ruling (Taanis 29b) of Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simchah: Adar I or II?

Rashi explains that the days of Adar are joyous because they were “days of miracles, Purim and Pesach.” Rav Yaakov Emden (Shut Yaavatz no. 88) explains that Rashi could not explain the joy of Adar based on Purim alone, for why, in this case, would be Adar more joyous (on account of Purim) than Nissan (for Pesach) and Kislev (for Chanukah). Rather, the reason is because these are consecutive days of miracles.

Yaavatz goes on to add that Rashi hints in his words at when one must augment joy in a leap year. The miraculous days of Adar and Nissan, as Rashi clearly implies, are adjacent with one another. The Gemara explains (Megillah 6b) that Purim is observed in the second month of Adar because we celebrate both redemptions—Purim and Pesach—in consecutive months. Thus, the joy of Adar in a leap year clearly begins only with the onset of Adar II.

May the days of Adar be truly joyous, and may these days of miraculous redemption bring with them the final Redemption, speedily and in our time.



[1] An extension of the halachah’s of a yahrzeit is when to host a thanksgiving feast for a miracle that occurred. Peri Megadim (697, Eshel Avraham 1, cited in Mishnah Berurah 2) writes (quoting from Rash Ha-Levi) that somebody who experience a miracle on a day in Adar of a regular year, and took upon himself to feast on that day, must conduct the feast on Adar I of a leap year. Peri Megadim cites proof to this from the ruling of the Rema concerning a yahrzeit. This clearly indicates that the ruling of the Rema is not on account of counting a whole year (of thirteen months), but is rather based on classifying the first Adar month as Adar stam for purposes of vows. The ruling of Mishnah Berurah (686:8), whereby somebody who experiences a miracle in Adar (and vowed to hold a feast) should feast on Adar II, requires further scrutiny.

Tags: Adar Bar Mitzvah leap year lunar month Parsha Pesach spring yahrzeit

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