Beit Midrash

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

When Adar Enters


Rabbi Berel Wein

Even though it is only Adar I that is now arriving nevertheless any Adar brings with it anticipation and a feeling of optimism and satisfaction. This is in line with the words of the rabbis that "when Adar enters joy and happiness enter with it." You will note that it does not say that when Adar arrives we will be joyous and happy. Rather Adar brings with it the happiness and joy and that we will somehow therefore be the beneficiaries of that atmosphere that Adar brings with it. This may at first appear to be just a linguistic example of splitting hairs. But I think not. The Jewish calendar is not just a record of time and dates. It creates atmosphere and feeling and emotions and values. The feelings engendered by the months of Elul and Tishrei are far different than those of Adar. It is the sensitivity of our soul and the memories of our traditions that infuse the spirit of the month within us. So it is Adar that brings with it that atmosphere of good tidings and eventual joyous tidings coming ahead. In Israel it also marks the beginning of the turn of the seasons and there is a hint of spring in the air, even though this year we here in Israel unlike the rest of the Western world have had a very dry and mild winter. But spring is certainly the season that everyone looks forward to and Adar ushers in the advent of that season in a short while.

Adar’s main claim to fame is naturally the fact that the holiday of Purim falls within the month. It is clearly identified by name in the Book of Esther itself. The month of Adar is identified in that book as being the twelfth month in the Jewish calendar. This year as is the case seven times in every nineteen year lunar-solar cycle there are two months of Adar. So Adar will not only be the twelfth month this year it will also be the thirteenth month of the Jewish calendar year. The rabbis who ordained and perfected the permanent Jewish calendar in the fifth century ordained that Adar is the only month that can be doubled up so to speak. There are many reasons given for this decision based upon weather, agriculture, travel conditions and other vagaries of life. But in a simple sense the rabbis wanted us to enjoy the atmosphere of hope and optimism that is the atmosphere of Adar a little longer. It has been a long exile and very difficult events have occurred to us. It would have been very easy to give in to sadness and depression, loss of hope and a feeling of despair. Adar came to dispel all of those feelings. Purim is the prototype of the Jewish spirit, of our indestructibility and eventual survival and eternity. We can always use a double measure of such spirit and atmosphere. Hence the rabbis in their wisdom decreed that only Adar was to be doubled up in a fairly regular sequence of years. For when Adar enters so does hope and joy and a feeling of eternity.

This month of Adar contains the day of Purim Katan - the minor Purim celebrated on the 14th day of Adar I. This is also to be seen as a harbinger of the great Purim that is yet a few weeks distant. The knowledge that there exists a small and minor Purim is itself a heartening message. Good tidings and hoped for redemptions do not always burst upon the scene suddenly. Rather they usually come incrementally, one step at a time. The preparation for the great Purim is encased in Purim Katan, the minor Purim. If one can commemorate minor achievements, small victories, gradual improvements then one can expect even greater achievements in the future. Life is never an all or nothing instant winner sum game. Purim Katan leads to the great Purim which in terms leads to the holiday of redemption and national freedom, Pesach. So Adar I has great lessons contained within its calendar days. The appreciation of its hopeful messages fuels our optimism even when apparently everything around us is falling apart and undergoing rapid and uncertain change. We should view the advent of Adar, even the first Adar, even the minor Purim as being positive promises of goodness and security and salvation from our enemies and all of the evil that is unfortunately so prevalent in our world. Yes, my beloved friends when Adar enters so does goodness and happiness.
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