Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Month of Adar
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

The month of Adar is designated in Jewish life as the month of joy and celebration. This is clearly due to the fact that the wondrous holiday of Purim occurs in the middle of this month. Purim is not a holiday in the sense that Pesach is for example but it sure is a holiday by any other reckoning. A people constantly threatened with persecution and annihilation needs to be reminded regularly - at least annually - of its ultimate survival and of the defeat of its oppressors and enemies. Thus the advent of the month of Adar always signifies a time or reassurance and confidence in Judaism, the Jewish people and the Divine hand of Providence, so to speak, which unseeingly hovers over us. It is a month of renewed vitality, faith and purpose. And in Jewish life, joy is always associated with the concepts of observance of ritual and the strengthening of Jewish values and beliefs. Even though the holiday of Purim itself is restricted to only two days in the month, its spirit and joy permeate all of the days of Adar. Therefore the rabbis stated that from the day that Adar enters and begins we are already bidden to intensify our feelings of joy and faith and optimism. A happy event suffuses the atmosphere of life both before and after its particular day of occurrence. The whole moth of Adar is therefore viewed as au nit, as an entirety of good tidings and of happy events. The month takes on the vibrant coloration of the joyous days that fall within its allotted time.

Adar also marks the final month of winter. It therefore becomes the harbinger of the beautiful weather of spring and summer that is the climate of the Land of Israel. Though Europe and America have experienced a truly cold, snowy and windy winter we here in Israel have escaped with our moderate and mild winter weather interspersed with the blessing of periodic days of life giving rain. In this, Adar fulfills its role of looking forward optimistically to better climes and times. Adar is so to speak the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel of winter and its inclement weather and sometimes dreary days. People are clearly affected by the weather climate where they live. The pervading darkness of the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere contributes to higher rates of suicide, depression, alcoholism and other negative behavior. People do better in sunlight and warmth than in ice and snow and penetrating cold. The dramatic and continuing population shift in the United States for example to the warmer West and South is testimony to this fact. The coming of the month of Adar, above and apart from its aspects of Purim, is therefore by itself a sign of hope and optimism. The sun will now shine more brightly and more often. As you can already fathom none of this brilliance of journalism of mine that you are reading really applies to those living south of the Equator. But since Israel is the center of the world and Israel is my home everything written here should therefore be considered valid.

Adar is also the sole month chosen by Jewish law to be leap month. In every nineteen year lunar-solar calendar cycle there are seven years in which an extra lunar month ids inserted into the Jewish calendar. This extra leap month is always the month of Adar. We can all use an extra dose of Adar every so often. The realistically difficult world that Jews constantly live in needs to be occasionally lightened by an additional dose of joy and optimism. People gladly bear the idea of two Adars wile they would be less likely to accept a doubling of any of the other eleven months of the Jewish calendar year. The Talmud advances practical and logical reasons to explain why Adar was chosen to be the potential double month. All of these reasons are naturally valid and acceptable on their own - a late rainy season, crops not ready, etc. The rabbis prevented King Chizkiyah from doubling up Nissan instead of Adar. There is an underlying value that the month of Adar possesses that no other month in the Jewish calendar can lay claim to. This idea of the joy of survival, of the ultimate downfall of the wicked, of the better tomorrow in physical, spiritual and national terms, belongs exclusively to Adar. It has therefore no substitute for it in the rest of the year’s calendar months.
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