A Tale of Two Adars

An article in time for Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet, the second of the two consecutive months of Adar in this Jewish leap year.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch

Why do we have two months of Adar? After all, no other month is doubled in such a way; why wasn’t the month that is added in a leap-year simply given a different name , rather than Adar I and Adar II?

Also: in which Adar did the original Purim story occur? And finally: what has all this to do with the organization Nefesh B’Nefesh?

Rav Kook addresses the first two questions( in the collection MeOrot Ha’R’iya, a collection of the Rav’s writings on Purim and Chanuka, pages 243-248). The Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1,5) states that the year of the Purim story had two Adars (a leap-year, “Shana Meuberet”).  The Megillah clearly states that Haman performed his lottery for a date on which to kill the Jews, and he arrived at “the twelfth month, the month of Adar”(Megillah3,7).   Interestingly, the Korban Ha’Eidah interprets the Talmud Yerushalmi to mean that the Purim story occurred in the second Adar. Rav Kook himself says that this is illogical, as the twelfth month, the month that Purim occurred,  would  obviously be Adar I and not Adar II, which  would be the thirteenth month of the year.

So why a second month of Adar? Rav Kook explains that the declaration by the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, is termed “ a national secret”(Talmud Ketuvot 112a,from Ezekiel 13,9: a “Sod Ami”). Being “national” means that the leap-year is connected conceptually to the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael, and thus can only be declared by judges in the Land, or by someone outside the Israel who is clearly the preeminent Torah scholar of his time. Such a man was Mordechai.

“And Mordechai knew what was  happening” (Megillah 4,1) and, the Talmud says, he quickly declared a second Adar-which, Rav Kook says, occurred after the first Purim. Mordechai  realized that Haman’s plan was not only a physical attack on the Jews, but an attack against Jewish ties to the Holy Land and, specifically,  to the Temple. This was the time of the Babylonian Exile, of “hester panim”, the hiding of the Divine countenance and supervision of the Nation of Israel. The people were In doubt if G-d’s ancient Covenants, of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, were still in effect, or if Churban and Exile had nullified them.

Tthey turned to Ezekiel and asked: “ A woman whose husband has divorced her,does she and her husband have any further relationship ?”( Talmud Sanhedrin 105a, where the Halachic answer is:”NO”). But Ezekiel answered with the prophecy that Yeshayahu(7,1) had uttered years earlier: “ Where are the divorce papers of your mother? “.

Haman, the classic Amalekite, had, in the view of Rav Matis Weinberg, no fight against G-d Himself; but he did have one against G-d’s relationship to Man. In a time of Exile, of hester panim, the Amalekite declared that, indeed, Man had no ties to the Almighty, and the divorce was in full force.   A rather unhappy state of affairs, indeed .

“ And Mordechai  knew” all this. He also knew that the first Adar represents  the natural workings of the heavens and the calendar- the “derech haTevah”. But the second Adar represented Israel, covenantly bonded to the Almighty, and the Land; this is called “Hashgachah Nisit”, our miraculous Divine supervision. Mordechai knew that the Jewish people were still bound firmly to G-d and to the Land, even in Exile. So, since “hayu  Yisrael  atidin lachzor l’Eretz Yisrael, uchmo chein anu atidin lachzor, lo paka kedushat Eretz Yisrael mei’itanu klal"  (which translates:.since Israel were sure to return to the Land, just as we are surely destined to return to the Land, thus the holiness of the Land still is ours EVEN IN OUR LAND OF EXILE).

And so Mordechai quickly added a second Adar, to show that we will ultimately return to our Land, and to show that “kedushat ha’Aretz and sod haHashgachah chof’fim aleinu”, meaning:  that the holiness of the Land and the secret of Hashgachah still surround us (like the Divine clouds in the desert, which kept out the Hitler-like Amalekites).

The practical results of all this is that  "ein bein AdarI l’Adar II elah krait ha’Megillah and matanot l’evyonim”(Megillah chap.1,Mishnah 4)-there is no difference between AdarI and II except that the Megillah is read and gifts to the poor are given in Adar II. But as far as simcha, being declared a month for happiness and joy, the two are equal.

Rabbi Weinberg stresses that the Amalekite attack was against “ zikaron “ itself: personal significance, and historical significance and “memory”. Jewish happiness is in realizing the significance of each moment, and grabbing each day’s opportunity for personal perfection. Each one of us is an Esther, known as Shoshanah, the Rose (a flower with one precious moment of full-bloomed perfection) who rose to the occasion in Shushan to grasp her historical moment of destiny, correcting the ancient sins of her ancestor King Saul ( in not destroying Amalek).

Her story, a microcosm of Jewish history, which could be viewed by a cynical Amalekite, or a depressed Israelite  as one long tragedy, is rather one of perfection and happiness.  For that, the AdarI of Teva (history and Divine intervention in a “natural” way) and the Adar II of Hashgacha( more openly Divine intervention) are equal; thus it’s Adar I and II, and not Adar followed by Month XYZ. But for  matanot l’evyonim, gifts to the poor, only Adar II will do : as the Maharal of Prague says, charity belongs to the spiritual, not the natural, physical world, because poor people have no physical means.

And the story of the Megillah, with its myriad historical twists and turns,which show that our Divine ties to Hashgachah and the Land of Israel still exist  despite Exile, clearly also belongs in Adar II.

And so I finally reach the question about Nefesh B’Nefesh. If I may be allowed a bit of Purim levity, as a physician who made Aliya years ago,  I’ve always felt close to this organization which offers  a $50,000 grant to 'impoverished' North American doctors to make Aliya. Of course, they’ve saved a bundle of money over the years, as thus far, they haven’t found any qualifiers. But the point of Purim is not costumes, and not only the Jewish fight against anti-Semites,  and the enemies of human significance and happiness (altho in the Prozac generation, that alone is quite a reason for a holiday): the  story is riddled through and through with our ancient, genetic, holy, miraculous , and ultimately, Divine, ties to this Land.

Purim sameach. Be Happy.