Jewish Sightseeing HomePage Jewish Sightseeing
  2005-03-18-Rosenthal-Purim
 
Torah portions

Purim

 


Purim commentary

How leap years affect
Purim and yahrzeits


jewishsightseeing.com, March 18, 2005


By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal, Tifereth Israel Synagogue, San Diego, California


Last Shabbat I noticed that many congregants were perplexed that so few yahrzeits were being commemorated that week. I explained that it is because it is a leap year.

The Jewish calendar is solar, as well as lunar, based. In order to make sure that Jewish holidays come out in their proper seasons we sometimes add an additional month to the year. That month is "Adar II." It follows "Adar I."

If someone dies in Adar I, in a leap year their yahrzeit is commemorated in Adar I. If someone dies in Adar II, in a leap year their yahrzeit is commemorated in Adar II. When we are not in a leap year, and there is only one Adar, all Adar yahrzeits are commemorated in that one Adar.

But when do you commemorate the yahrzeit of someone who dies in a non-leap year, when there is only one Adar, when you are in a year with both Adar I and Adar II?

You commemorate the yahrzeit of someone who dies in the Adar of a non-leap year in Adar I. This is based on the Talmudic injunction: "one must not pass by precepts." (Pesachim 64b) That is, when one has the opportunity to perform a mitzvah one must do so at the earliest opportunity. In this case the earliest opportunity is Adar I. That is why there are so many yahrzeits in Adar I but only few in Adar II. Only those people who die in a leap year in Adar II have their yahrzeits commemorated in Adar II. All other Adar yahrzeits are commemorated in Adar I.

By now you must undoubtedly be asking yourself an excellent question: "If one must take the earliest opportunity to perform a mitzvah, why do we celebrate Purim in Adar II instead of Adar I? Should we not celebrate Purim in Adar I just as we observe non-leap year Adar yahrzeits in Adar I?"

The answer is "no." The reason we wait until Adar II to celebrate Purim is because the Talmud also teaches that Purim and Pesach must be celebrated close to one another because they are both festivals of liberation. Purim celebrates the Jews of Persia escape from the clutches of the evil Haman and Pesach celebrates our liberation from Egypt. In order for them to be close together we celebrate Purim in Adar II instead of Adar I.

I am sure that this problem has been plaguing you for some weeks and I hope that the above explanation puts your discomfiture to rest.

You will now be able to join us at the Megillah reading on Thursday evening and Friday morning with a clear head and an open heart.

I look forward to celebrating with you.

(Editorís Note: The above explanation is not Purim Torah!)