We currently find ourselves in the Jewish Month of Adar Aleph, the first Adar. This indicates that we are celebrating a leap year in the Jewish calendar, where we add in an additional month to the calendar, and there are two months of Adar – Adar Aleph, and Adar Bet (the second Adar). This was done in order to align the Jewish lunar calendar, with the solar calendar and thus assure that Pesach will always occur in the spring.
There are several interesting Halachic considerations that arise as a result of this additional month of Adar. While in a normal Adar we would be observing the fast of Esther, and celebrating the festival of Purim, in a leap year, the festivities are moved to Adar Bet. The Talmud is Tractate Megillah 6b lists two main reasons for choosing Adar Bet as the month wherein we celebrate the holiday of Purim. The first is because just as in a normal year the Megillah is read in the month that is adjacent to the month of Nissan, so too in a leap year it should be read in the month adjacent to Nissan and therefore we read the Megillah in Adar Bet. The second is in order to connect the Redemption of Esther (Purim) and the Redemption from Egypt (Passover), so we read in the month that is closer to Nissan.
However, despite Adar Bet being the month chosen to celebrate the Holiday of Purim, and its affiliated obligations, interestingly the Mishna in Tractate Megillah (1:4) teaches us that Adar Aleph does not lose all of its significance. Indeed, the 14th and 15th of Adar Aleph, the dates that in any other year would themselves be Purim, and Shushan Purim, are maintained as days where fasting, and eulogies are forbidden. In other words, in Adar Aleph one is not to turn these days into days of mourning, sadness, or personal suffering. Even if there is a funeral, we minimize the amount of suffering as much as possible.
Indeed, not only are these days forbidden to be days of excessive mourning there are even some medieval authorities who ruled that these days should be days of merriment and feasting. This is not necessarily our practice today, but the Remah (Rav Moshe Isserless) does suggest that one add something special to their meal in a nod to this opinion.
Why is this the case? What are the Rabbis trying to teach us about the month of Adar Aleph? I would like to suggest that there is a beautiful message in these Halachot. While in a normal year these days would be filled with celebration, thanksgiving and merriment, although they are not celebrated as days of Purim, we do not allow them to be forgotten in a leap year. They continue to maintain a special status, as if to teach us that holy and special time does not just disappear. The potential for holiness and joy are inherent in these days, and thus we commemorate them, and maintain a level of joy and holiness in them.
Interestingly, this begs the question regarding the entire month of Adar Aleph, while in reality is used as a practical 30 day period to adjust the calendar, I would like to suggest that much more is actually happening. A famous precept in the Talmud is the idea that “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim Besimcha” (When the month of Adar comes in we increase joy.) Perhaps the same way that the days of the 14th and 15th days of Adar are maintained as days of holy time and joy even in the month of Adar I, we can say that although the month of Adar II is connected to the addition of Joy, Adar I also maintains an element of this increasing of joy. In other words – in a leap year – the Increasing of Joy of the month Adar has double the potential – twice as much joy!
There’s something incredibly powerful and beautiful in this thought – that where there is an opportunity for joy, and merriment – it is up to us to reach out and grab it. Increase joy wherever possible, find the holiness in the moment, find the holiness in time – and celebrate it.
May we all have a joyous and beautiful month of Adar Aleph!