Wednesday, February 13, 2008

double Adar and the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabeinu

This morning I came home from shul and told my wife that there was no tachanun because of 7 Adar. She responded, “What about Adar Sheni?” I honestly never thought about it, but since the whole issue of yahrzeit’s in a double-Adar is a matter of debate (see O.C. 568) , I propose we skip tachanun during both months : )

Yesterday I posted the safeik of the Yerushalmi whether which month, Adar I or Adar II, is the “real” and which is the addition. There is more to be said on the halachic issue, but for today I want to focus on what the debate might teach us for our avodas Hashem. The Shem m’Shmuel writes that the number 12 is symbolic of the natural order, teva; e.g. 12 constellations in the sky, 12 months in a regular year, 12 hours in a halachic day. The number 13 is symbolic of transcending the natural order; e.g. 13 middos harachamim are used to ask G-d to extend his mercy beyond what we deserve. There is something to be said for living within natural boundaries – go to work, have a regular seder in learning, take care of chores around the house, repeat. This is the world of the number 12. But sometimes a person needs to make a jump into the world of 13, a world without limits or boundaries, a world where a person can be inspired by ideas that transcend the practical routine even while knowing that the world of 12 will ultimately pull one back to reality. The world of 13 provides the boost, the vision, without which a person could not sustain himself day after day in the world of 12.

So which is the ikkar and which is the tafeil, which is the “real” world and which is the “tosefes”? The world of 13 is inspiring, but unless it impacts the day to day world of 12, its platitudes are meaningless. On the other hand, the world of 12 has no meaning without the goal and vision of the world of 13 to sustain it. Which Adar is the “real” Adar – the 12th month, or the 13th?

There is an opinion in Chazal that the day baby Moshe was thrown in the Nile was the last day of Pesach (see previous post which discussed this gemara). The gemara asks how this can be, as we know Moshe was hidden for three months, and we know he was born on 7 Adar – there are not three months between 7 Adar and 21 Nissan! The gemara answers that Moshe was born in a leap year, and the three months consist of part of Adar I, Adar II, and part of Nissan. The Shem m’Shmuel notes that even the opinion which holds that Moshe was thrown into the Nile on 6 Sivan also agrees that the year he was born was a leap year (although that assumption is not necessary to work out the date calculation). Just a coincidence? Or, as the Shem m’Shmuel suggests, does this perhaps tell us something about Moshe, about being born with the sensitivity to a that world of 13 which transcends the regular boundaries of teva?

Just want to note that if the Shem m’Shmuel is right that everyone agrees that Moshe was born in a leap year, one can infer that the second opinion in the gemara must hold that Moshe was born in Adar II and not Adar I (he does not discuss this point). Since the year Moshe died was not a leap year, and we assume the date of his birth and death coincide, might that not have a bearing on the halachic question of which Adar is the “real” Adar? Just throwing out the idea – need more time to think about it.

Update: this article makes a similar point, but I am not sure what to make of the idea that Moshe was not born in a leap year.


  1. What's the origin of not saying tachanun on a yahrtzeit (even of Moshe Rabbeinu)?

  2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that the Gemara derives the date of 7 Adar by working backwards from when the Jews crossed the Jordan. Wouldn't that prove that if it was a leap year that Moshe died in Adar II?

    The Wolf

  3. Wolf, you are right. Thanks for refreshing my memory.

    Not sure about the answer to the yahrzeit question as to an exact source.

  4. Anonymous1:32 AM

    Looks like you are an expert in this field, you really got some great points there, thanks.

    - Robson

  5. The lunar year with persian names for most month was not applied, only after jeziat mizraim. At slavery in mizraim the solar year was the reference. Therefore the two calendars never corresponded and the birthdate in the solar year lacks of congruence to the day of jahrzeit.