April 9, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
April 9, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Will the Real Adar Please Stand Up

Years ago, in the late 40s or early 50s, there was a rabbi of the Touro Synagogue—a talmid of Rav Yerucham Levovitz—who appeared on a game show with two other imposter rabbis. The non-Jewish celebrities on the game show had to determine who the real rav was of the three candidates by asking a series of questions. At the end of the show, the host announced, “Will the true rabbi please stand up?” I met the rav many years later, in the Mirrer minyan in Boro Park.

Being that Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon is coming up, we may also pose the same question—which is the true Adar—Adar Rishon or Adar Sheini?



There are five pieces of background information that we need to know:

  • The first piece of information is that there are 365 and ¼ days minus “ad shaish” seconds—that is, ayin dalet is 74 plus shin and shin is 600 that is it is missing 674 seconds in a solar year.
  • The Jewish lunar year consists of 354-356 days. This means that each year, we need to “catch things up eventually” by about 11 and ¼ days.
  • In the times of the Beis Hamikdash, and in the early years after the Churban, the extra month of catching things up was done by the Sanhedrin. In the year 359, the calendar of the fifth-generation Amorah Hillel Nesiyah was adopted and the Sanhedrin stopped calculating the ibbur year.
  • The next piece of information is that in every 19-year-cycle of years, there are seven years in which an extra Adar is added to even things out. It is not added every three years as some people think, it is rather added every 2.86 years. The cycle is three, three, two … three, three, three, two. Rather, the extra Adars are added in years three, six, eight, 11, 14, 17 and 19. This year, 5784, is the eighth year of the current 19 year cycle. The next one will be in 5787.
  • It seems that during the Talmudic era under the Byzantine period, the cycle was three, three, three, two, three, three, two. This was discovered based on the tombstones found in 1924, in the area of Tzoar.


Many Ramifications

And so, we have every seven out of 19 years—two Adars. But which one is the real or true one? There are many ramifications to this question of which is the true Adar.

  • If someone, for example, passed away in Adar—when do his children observe his yahrzeit—during Adar Rishon or Adar Sheini?
  • When is a bar mitzvah celebrated—on the first Adar or the second?
  • And, most important for students in yeshivahs and Beis Yaakovs—which Adar do we say “mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha?”
  • And what about a lease that is up in Adar? Is it the first or the second Adar? Also, what about a get in which the word Adar was written?


The Reason for the Extra Adar

The reason for the extra Adar is that there is a special mitzvah in the Torah to ensure that the holiday of Pesach falls out in the spring. This is primarily on account of the verse in Devarim (16:1), “Shamor es chodesh ha’aviv—guard the month of the spring,” (see Sanhedrin 11b). The Korban Omer which consists of barley is brought on the day after Pesach. If Pesach comes out early, however, the barley will not be available since it has not yet ripened.


Debate As to Why It Is Adar That Gets The Double Month

There seem to be a number of explanations as to why it was Adar that was chosen. Rashi in Rosh Hashanah (7a) identifies this month with the verse’s “chodesh ha’aviv,”—as opposed to Nissan. The Baalei Tosfos in Sanhedrin (12a) explains that the pasuk in Megillas Esther itself (3:7), identifies Adar as the 12th month of the year—so it must be the one that plays both roles.


The Rishonim

The Baalei Tosfos in Rosh Hashanah (19b) concludes that the true Adar is the second one, not the first. The first Adar is the extra one. This is also the opinion of the Rambam in Hilchos Nedarim (1:6). It seems that this is the general halacha.


The Issue of Which Is the ‘Adar Referred’

There is a related issue that may be synonymous with the true Adar and may be an entirely different issue than the “true Adar.” The issue is which is the “Adar Referred?” In other words if someone just says Adar—does it refer to the first Adar or the second one?

It seems that the aforementioned Tosfos hold that both issues are one and the same.


Yahrzeits: The Ruling of the Shulchan Aruch versus the Ramah

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 568:7) rules that the yahrzeits are to be observed on the second Adar. The second one is thus considered to be the true Adar. However, for “Adar Referred” he rules that it is the first Adar (see Choshen Mishpat 43:28 and Etz Hadaat 126:7). So for a lease or a divorce document, just plain Adar refers to the first Adar. A get would be pasul if the intent was for the second Adar and one did not write Adar Sheini according to poskim.

The Ramah (568:7), however, has a more nuanced view. He adds the following words: “Some are of the opinion that one should fast in the first (Adar of the leap year) unless the death was in the second Adar, where one would fast on the second Adar. The custom is to fast in the first Adar. However, some are stringent and do fast in both Adars.” The Mishna Berurah (568:42) explains that although it is proper to fast on the second as well—he does not push off other mourners on this account.

In Yoreh Deah (402:2), the Ramah once again adds that the main custom is to fast in the first Adar. We will see, however, that the Ramah’s position on bar mitzvahs seems to be vastly different from his position on yahrzeits.


Bar Mitzvahs

The issue of when to hold a bar mitzvah can be subdivided into different categories:


Leap Year Births and Non-Leap Year Bar Mitzvahs

If he was born on any other leap year in the cycle three, eight, 11 or 18—then his bar mitzvah will be during the Adar of a non-leap year. This means that a younger cousin can actually be bar mitzvahed before his older cousin, if he was born on an earlier date in Adar Sheini than the cousin born earlier on a later date in Adar Rishon. This is discussed in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 55:10.


Leap Year Births and Leap Year Bar Mitzvahs

If the child was born in leap year six, 14 or 17 of the cycle—then his bar mitzvah will also be during a leap year. There is a debate between the Magen Avrohom and the Mishna Berurah regarding whether an Adar Rishon kid becomes bar mitzvahed in the first Adar or the second. The Magen Avrohom holds that he must wait until the second because a full 13 years haven’t passed!


Regular Year Births but Bar Mitzvah Is On a Leap Year

If the boy was born in years one, four, nine, 12, of the 19-year-cycle then his bar mitzvah is during a leap year. The Rama (Orach Chayim 55:10) rules that he becomes bar-mitzvahed only in the second Adar—because, as we learned in the Tosfos—that is the true Adar.


Mishenichnas Adar

It would seem from all of the above that the simcha that occurs at the arrival of Adar is for the second Adar—not the first.


Yahrzeits Explained

We can understand the Ramah’s position on yahrzeits because the fast is based on 12 months after the passing of the deceased and not predicated upon the year (see responsum of Mahari Mintz, no. 9 cited in the Ramah.) The Trumas HaDeshen (no. 294 also cited in the Ramah) invokes the notion we mentioned earlier that it is based upon “Adar Referred” and it acts as a neder.


Yahrzeit on a 30th of Adar Rishon

During a non-leap year, Adar is only a 29 day month. When is a yahrzeit observed when the death occurred on the 30th during a leap year? The Machatzis Hashekel rules that it should be observed on the first of Nissan, arguing with the Magen Avrohom who holds that it should be observed on the previous 29th. Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim III, no. 159) rules in accordance with the Machatzis HaShekel.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles