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Adar, Adar Which is Real?

By: Rav Ari Shames

I would like to dedicate this shiur in gratitude to Hashem for a great miracle that He performed for my family two years ago. My wife and five of my children were involved in a very severe car accident that included the car they were in flipping over several times and some even being thrown from the car during the flipping. Through the direct intervention of God, all family members in the car walked away with only scratches and one broken arm. Road trips to the north of the country now include making a special bracha when we pass the spot of the accident, and we have adopted the 3rd of Adar as a family holiday from that point forward (the specific customs are still a work in progress). All of this is so that we do not take for granted the great gift that Hashem gave us.

As this is the first time that we encounter a leap year since the accident, the question comes up as to which Adar should be the one in which to celebrate. In order to answer this we need some background.

This week we enter into our first Adar, one of two this year, it being a leap year. In the Jewish calendar this happens 7 out of every 19 years in order to reconcile the lunar calendar with the solar one. (By comparison, the Moslems use only the lunar calendar and have no leap years so their holidays fall out in all seasons of the year as opposed to our holidays which are to remain in their appointed seasons.)

According to our system, we add a full month such that the year therefore has 13 months. This, of course, has many implications on many different levels. For instance, if one has a rental contract on a house for a "year" the contract would include the 13th month in a leap year as it is included in the "year".

The big question that comes up, in many different contexts, is which of the two Adars is the real one and which is the additional one? This, of course, affects many issues, all seemingly related, but as we will see, each has its own unique twist, making this a very complicated question.

It is natural for us to start with the most basic element of the month - Purim. As we all know, Purim is celebrated in the second Adar. This would indicate that the "real Adar" is the second one. However, the Gemara, when it explains why we mark the holiday in the second Adar, states that this is in order to "connect" one redemption (that of Purim) to another redemption (that of Pesach), and therefore the Adar that is adjacent to Nissan is the one in which we observe Purim. This rationale of the Gemara seems to indicate that there is nothing inherent in the second Adar, making it the "real" one, nor is the first one seen as the "real" one, rather they both are legitimate, and it is only due to the extraneous factor of Pesach that we mark Purim in the second Adar.

In a related discussion, the Gemara records a debate in the case that one accepted upon themselves a vow until "Adar". Which Adar signals the end of the period of the vow? Once again we would have expected to have the answer to our fundamental question - which is the "real" Adar. However, in this case as well, local factors cloud the picture. In the realm of Nedarim (vows) the rule of thumb is that we follow the common terminology to determine the definition of terms. In other words, we are not interested in the objective truth as to which Adar is the real one but rather the vow is a function of the commitment of the one who made it. We need to figure out what he intended and in order to do so we study the common usage of the term, so that it could be that the answer to the objective "real" one and the subjective usage of the term may be very different.

A similar problem and solution are used when dealing with the dating of legal documents. It is recommended to date documents in a leap year with a full description of the month as either Adar I or Adar II, but how do we interpret a document with the generic term Adar on it? Here, as well, we would have expected a fundamental treatment of the issue but in fact we are told that it is a function of the intent of the parties on the document. So, once again, we are left with our lingering question.

An additional area where this is relevant is the observance of a yahrtzeit. Here, as well, we find that the poskim deal with the question on two different levels - on the one hand an attempt to determine the "real Adar" while at the same time invoking local issues that may be relevant to this area only. In this case, some suggest that we follow the pattern of the vows discussed above, as the practices of fasting and other issues are similar to a vow having been made to observe the day in a specific manner. Others point to the fact that we have a rule of not "speeding up" any event related to tragedy (for instance if Tisha Bav falls on Shabbat we push it off to Sunday). In our case, that would mean observing the yahrtzeit in the second Adar. Yet others claim that the observance should be in the first Adar following the principle of not delaying a mitzvah. Not surprisingly, we also find those who suggest observing both dates!

With all of this in mind we can now understand the confusion related to our original question. Which Adar is the correct one in which to celebrate a miracle that happened in a regular year with only one Adar? Once again we can view this question as an attempt to determine the authentic Adar, or possibly this is related to an issue related to a vow that was taken to mark the day. Maybe we should employ the rationale of not delaying a mitzvah or even the concept of attaching one Geulah (the private miracle) to the other Geulah (that of Pesach) as is used in regards to Purim.

The "final" Psak

Thus far we have investigated the theoretical side of things and we have not gotten much closer to a conclusion on the issue. We would expect to open the Mishna Brura and find the bottom line.

In Siman 697 the Mishna Brura writes clearly that in such a case the festivities should be in the first Adar while in Siman 666 he (just as clearly) writes that it should be in the second Adar..

Given the ambiguous state of affairs on this question I personally feel that we should not wait until the second Adar to thank God for His incredible kindness. There are times when we witness firsthand the importance of the moment, and even the split second and the difference it can make between life and death. Therefore my family look forward to marking the third of Adar I this year in gratitude to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

I imagine that when the second Adar arrives we will be happy to mark that day as well, thanking God for the opportunity to thank Him twice in one year for the miracle!

Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov and Chag Sameach


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