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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Month of Adar

Adar - The Sprouting of Spring

When we reach the month of Adar, it seems to us as if the rain and the days of cold are already behind us and we are approaching the end of winter. We can almost feel spring in the air. However, there are also a number of signs of winter in Adar.
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When we reach the month of Adar, it seems to us as if the rain and the days of cold are already behind us and we are approaching the end of winter. We can almost feel spring in the air.

Indeed, we have a number of signs which indicate that a new season stands at the threshold. In contrast to the cold and rainy winter, veiled in fog, the month of Adar grants us more sunny days and clear skies. The days themselves gradually become longer due to progressively receding sunsets.

However, it is advisable not to store away the warm winter clothes just yet, not to be fooled by illusions of summer but to wait patiently until the arrival of spring. General Winter still holds sway, and his chilly orders are still in effect.

Here are the signs of spring which our sages mention in the Mishnah (Shekalim 1:1):
"On the first of Adar public announcement is made concerning the payment of the shekels and concerning the kilayim (forbidden plant mixtures). On the fifteenth thereof the scroll [of Esther] is read in walled cities, and the roads and the streets and the ritual baths are repaired, and all public duties are performed, and the graves are marked, and [messengers] go forth also concerning kilayim."

With Adar's entrance, they would announce and inform the public that the time had come to go out to the gardens and fields in order to clean them of any forbidden plant mixtures which may have sprouted. At this point it is possible to recognize them and uproot them.

They also announced that the time had come to take care of all public facilities. People had to go out and fix any roads or streets that had suffered damage due to the rains so that they be in working order for festival pilgrims. For the same reason they would clean ritual baths of all dirt and filth and uncover the wells so that there be water available.

Based upon all the steps mentioned in the Mishnah, we may conclude that the month of Adar serves as a preparatory stage for the spring and summer. The rainy season is behind us and any rains that fall from here on will have no negative impact on the streets, roads, purifying baths, or wells. We are standing in the corridor which leads to spring.

In contrast to the signs mentioned in the Mishnah that appear to point to spring and Passover, there are also signs of winter in Adar. The very fact that we intercalate the year by adding another month to the winter - Adar - teaches us that this month is linked to the preceding period, the winter season. According to this, the month of Adar marks the continuation of winter, not the arrival of spring. The legal rule declares: "We may only extend the year by adding an extra month of Adar" (Sanhedrin 12a; for the rationale behind this, see Tosephot, s.v. "Ein").

Let us explain, in short, the calculations of this period. The principle rule which is followed when it comes to adding on to the month of Adar is that Passover be in spring, "Keep the month of spring" (Deuteronomy 16:1). That is, steps must be taken to assure that the Passover festival always take place in the spring.

In order to maintain a balance between the solar year, which has 365 days, and twelve lunar months, which contain a total of 354 days, we intercalate the month of Adar approximately once every three years. In this manner Passover always falls in the spring. Hence, because of second Adar, the winter is extended by a month.

In sum, at its outset this month can be pointed in two directions: toward a continuation of the winter, or toward a preparation for the spring.

There exists a struggle between the priesthood and the throne over whether or not to intercalate the year. The High Priest is not interested in prolonging the winter, which would mean walking barefoot on the Temple's floor. If the month of Tishrei is pushed deep into the winter, the floor of the Courtyard will be cold. The king, on the other hand, prefers adding a month to the year "on account of the soldiers' pay." He wants the year to gain another month while the budget remain unchanged.
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Talmudic sources in the above article were taken from, or based upon, Davka's Soncino Judaic Classics Library (CD-Rom).

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