For the week ending 1 March 2014 / 29 Adar I 5774

A Tale of Two Adars

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
Computations and Complications
Library Kaddish

As the month of Adar is the only one in the Jewish calendar that gets twinned (7 years out of every 19)[1], every time such a leap year occurs, aside for the ‘Mishenichnas Adar’ celebrations, there is also cause for concern and calculations. Although the Gemara[2] concludes that all Purim-related observances (including the Arba Parshiyos) are celebrated in Adar Sheini, in order that the Geulah (Redemption) from Haman (Purim) and the Geulah from Egypt (Pesach) should be observed in consecutive months, nevertheless, figuring out in which Adar other life cycle events such as Bar Mitzvahs and Yahrtzeits should be observed, is quite complicated.

Who Is Truly Older?

It is widely known that adding a leap year into the mix always has interesting Bar Mitzvah ramifications. The majority consensus is that if a boy was born in a non-leap year, one in which there was only one Adar, and on the year of his Bar Mitzvah there are two Adars, his Bar Mitzvah will occur in the second Adar, since it is considered the true one concerning when one becomes a man[3]. The same holds true if the lad was actually born in Adar Sheini. In fact the only way one would celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in the first Adar is if he was actually born in an Adar Rishon. This is the accepted ruling by all authorities, both Ashkenazic and Sefardic.

This makes for a remarkable dichotomy. If one boy is born on the 21st of Adar Rishon, and his buddy a week and a half later on the 2nd of Adar Sheini, then in any standard year following, the second one would be celebrating his birthday almost 3 weeks before his “older” friend. Since there is only one Adar, the second-born’s birthday would be the 2nd of Adar while his “older” friend’s would be on the 21st. In fact, only in a leap year would the older one truly be considered older. This would also affect their Bar Mitzvahs. If their Bar Mitzvah is in a standard year, the younger lad would become a man several weeks before his older compadre[4].

Yearly Yahrtzeit

However, and quite interestingly, Yahrtzeit observance seems to be an entirely different story. The Shulchan Aruch rules that if one’s parent passed away in a standard Adar his Yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Sheini (similar to the accepted psak for a Bar Mitzvah). Yet, the Rema, citing the Terumas HaDeshen and Mahar”i Mintz[5], argues that Yahrtzeits do not share the same status as Bar Mitzvahs, and conversely they should be observed in Adar Rishon.

Will the Real Adar Please Stand Up?

The Terumas HaDeshen[6] posits that this machlokes is actually based on another one: between R’ Meir and R’ Yehuda concerning which Adar is considered the main one[7] (regarding the laws of Nedarim and Shtaros - Vows and Documents). The Rambam follows R’ Meir’s opinion, that Adar Sheini is the main one, while most other Rishonim, including the Rosh, Ritva and Ran[8], follow R’ Yehuda (as is the general rule in Shas), and consider Adar Rishon to be the main one. Apparently, regarding Yahrtzeits the Shulchan Aruch sides with the Rambam while the Rema follows the opinions of the other Rishonim.

Another understanding of this machlokes is that it is based on conflicting Talmudic dictums. Since it is a mitzvah to properly observe a parent’s Yahrtzeit[9], wouldn’t we say ‘Ain Maavirin al HaMitzvos[10], not to let a mitzvah pass us by? If so, we certainly should attempt to do so as soon as possible, i.e. Adar Rishon and not wait until Adar Sheini.

Yet, others claim ‘Akdumei Paranusa Lo Mekadmin[11] might be more important here, as we find with Tisha B’Av and other fast days where, when a scheduling conflict arises, we delay the fast. Similarly, since the accepted practice is to fast on a Yahrtzeit, its observance should be delayed to Adar Sheini.


The Levush[12] elucidates the Rema’s ruling, stressing a critical difference between the two. Properly observing a Yahrtzeit achieves repentance (Kapparah) for the soul of the deceased. The Judgement of Gehinnom is twelve months; therefore immediately after the conclusion of this period, which, in a leap year would occur in the first Adar, we should observe the Yahrzeit to obtain elevation for the Neshama. Why should we prolong his Kapparah? And once the Yahrzeit is already observed in Adar Rishon, the first year after the passing, it is already set as the one to observe every time there is a leap year.

Yet, others, including the Chasam Sofer[13], disagree, maintaining that although we find that regarding the laws of Nedarim and Shtaros, even the Shulchan Aruch concedes that Adar Rishon is considered the main Adar[14], even so, Yahrtzeits should be observed in Adar Sheini. He explains that the rule in Nedarim and Shtaros is that they follow ‘lashon Bnei Adam’, the common vernacular. Since people are used to saying Adar, even in a leap year the first Adar is simply colloquially called Adar. Yet, concerning Yahrtzeits, which concerns Neshamos, its observance would follow the ‘lashon HaTorah’, which clearly establishes Adar Sheini as the main Adar, as all Purim-related observances are celebrated in Adar Sheini! Therefore, he concludes that Yahrtzeits should be observed in Adar Sheini.

Double Yahrtzeit ?

Generally speaking, the practical halacha here follows the traditional paths after the main halacha codifiers. Sefardim, who follow the psakim of the Shulchan Aruch, observe an Adar Yahrtzeit in Adar Sheini, while Ashkenazim would do so in Adar Rishon[15]. Yet, there are several Ashkezaic poskim who rule like the Shulchan Aruch here, maintaining that a Yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Sheini[16].

But, to make matters even more confusing, the Rema adds that there are those who maintain that Yahrzteits should be observed in both Adars (!!). Although in Hilchos Aveilus, the Rema seems to have dropped this opinion as a viable option, nevertheless, it is a psak that several later authorities, including the Shach, Magen Avraham and the Vilna Gaon, aver is required. In fact, and although the Aruch Hashulchan discounts this opinion, as this is not a matter of prohibition and therefore a chumra is non-applicable, still, the Mishna Berura writes that if possible one should try to observe the Yahrtzeit on both days[17].

So, what is one to do? He should ask his Rav and follow his shul’s local minhag. Recently, while in Americafor a simcha, this author noticed a highly commendable and helpful sign hanging in the famed White Shul in Far Rockaway, signed by the Rav, Rabbi Eitan Feiner, with clear and concise instructions to enable easy Yahrtzeit observance during the months of Adar. It proclaimed that the shul follows Ashkenazic practice. Therefore, Yahrtzeit observance for one who was niftar in a regular Adar should be in Adar Rishon. If the mourner is Sefardi, he should observe the Yahrtzeit in Adar Sheini. If one’s minhag is to observe both Adars, he may do so, as long as it does not interfere with someone else’s actual Yahrtzeit (i.e. davening for the amud).

Yes, Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha[18], but sometimes that simcha is reserved for resolving halachic doubt[19].

Postscript: Another interesting related issue is that even though the universal psak is that a Bar Mitzvah is of a boy born in a standard Adar is celebrated in Adar Sheini, nonetheless, there are poskim who maintain that the Bar Mitzvah boy should start to lay Tefillin from Adar Rishon, even if his minhag is not to do so until the Bar Mitzvah itself. In fact, the Tzitz Eliezer opines that it is for a leap year like this that the minhag developed to lay Tefillin a month before their Bar Mitzvah[20]. Just another tidbit to add more calculations and complications to a year with double Adars.

[1]See Gemara Rosh Hashana 7a and Gemara Sanhedrin 12b. There are several sevaros explaining why only Adar gets doubled. See Rashi (Rosh Hashana ad loc. s.v. v’afap”ch), Tosafos (Sanhedrin ad loc. s.v. ein), Kedushas Levi (Parshas Ki Sisa s.v. ta’am) and Sfas Emes (Likutim L’Chodesh Adar).

[2]Gemara Megillah 6b.

[3]Rema (O.C. 55, 10; based on Shu”t Mahar”i Mintz 15), Levush (O.C. 685, 1), Magen Avraham (O.C. 55, 10), Pri Chadash (ad loc. 10), Pri Megadim (ad loc. E.A. 10; he adds that m’pahtus this is also the Shulchan Aruch’s shitta), Levushei Srad (ad loc. s.v. eino), Korban Ha’Eida (Megillah Ch. 1, Shiyarei HaKorban s.v. hada), Shaarei Teshuva (O.C. 55, 11), Gilyon Maharsha (Y”D 402, s.v. b’Adar), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (15, 2), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 55, 14), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 45), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 59); not like the Mahara”Sh HaLevi (Shu”t O.C. 16) who was of the opinion that all observances should be celebrated in Adar Rishon.

[4]Although the Magen Avraham (ibid., based on his understanding of the Mahar”i Mintz’s position) maintains that even a boy born in an Adar Rishon’s Bar Mitzva gets deferred to Adar Sheini, and the Olas HaTamid agrees with him. Nevertheless, the consensus of poskim is that the Bar Mitzva of one who is born in an Adar Rishon is observed in Adar Rishon as well; if he was born in a standard Adar or Adar Sheini his Bar Mitzvah would be observed in Adar Sheini. These poskim include the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.), Levush (O.C. 685, 1), Pri Chadash (ad loc. 10; citing the Yerushami Megillah Ch. 1, 5, that Adar Rishon is merely a ‘tosefes’), Shvus Yaakov (Shu”t vol. 1, 9; who writes that the Magen Avraham misunderstood the Mahar”i Mintz), Elya Rabba (O.C. 55, 9 & Elya Zuta 5), Rav Dovid Oppenheim (cited in the Ba’er Heitiv ad loc. 11), Me’il Tzadaka (Shu”t 21), Shaarei Teshuva (O.C. 55, 11), Ma’amar Mordechai (ad loc. 13), Pri Megadim (ad loc. E.A. 10), Ikrei HaDat (3, 7), Maharsham (Daas Torah ad loc. s.v. u’shnas), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (15, 2), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 55, 14), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 43), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 59). The Ba’er Heitiv (ibid.) concludes that “v’chein haminhag pashut eitzel kol ba’alei hahora’ah”! On an anecdotal level, this halacha affected this author growing up, as my birthday was Rosh Chodesh Adar and my Bar Mitzvah occurred on a leap year. B’Ezras Hashem, it will affect my son who was born on my birthday as well, as his upcoming Bar Mitzvah is scheduled for the next leap year - in Adar Sheini 5776!

[5]Shulchan Aruch and Rema (O.C. 568, 7), Terumas HaDeshen (vol. 1, 294), Mahar”i Mintz (Shu”t 9). Interestingly, in his Beis Yosef commentary (end O.C. 568),the Shulchan Aruch writes that that this opinion of such a Yahrtzeit being observed in Adar Sheini, is the ruling of the Mahar”i Weil (Shu”t Dinin V’Halachos 5; who was arguing on the Mahar”i Mulin).

[6]Terumas HaDeshen (vol. 1, 294). His assessment of the dispute is widely acknowledged as the proper one and is cited by many later authorities as a given.

[7]Nedarim 63a. Application of this dispute is if one writes a document listing only the month as Adar, which Adar was he referring to? The same applies to vows as well. If one made a Neder not to eat meat until Adar, until when is meat prohibited to him?

[8]Rambam (Hilchos Nedarim Ch. 10, 6; especially according to the Kesef Mishna’s understanding), Rosh, Ritva, and Ran in their commentaries to Nedarim 63a. Interestingly, Tosafos (Nedarim 63b s.v. v’hatanya) implies like the Rambam as well.

[9]See Shulchan Aruch (Y”D 402, 12).

[10]See Gemara Pesachim 64b, Yoma 33a, 58b, and 70a, Megillah 6b, and Menachos 64b.

[11]See Gemara Megillah 5b, regarding pushing off Tisha B’Av. The Ramban (Milchemos Hashem to end of the first Chapter of Megillah) adds that this applies as well to Taanis Esther. Although the Maharil (Shu”t 1120 writes that this is inapplicable to a Yahrtzeit as it is only ‘Tzaara B’Alma’, nevertheless the Chasam Sofer reiterates this sevara several times. See Shu”t Chasam Sofer (O.C. 163 s.v. v’hinei), Haghos Chasam Sofer (to Shulchan Aruch O.C. 568, 7), and Chiddushei Chasam Sofer (to Gemara Megillah 5a). Thanks are due to Rav Yitzchok Breitowitz for pointing out this debate regarding Klalei HaShas to this author.

[12]See Levush (O.C. 685, 1), Shu”t Beis Shlomo (E.H. 56, Hagha”h M’Ben HaMechaber 1), and Shu”t Har Tzvi (O.C. vol. 2, 83, 1; quoting the Mahar”i Mintz).

[13]See Shu”t Chasam Sofer (O.C. 163) and Haghos Chasam Sofer (to O.C. 568, 7). The Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a to O.C. 568, 7 s.v. k’she’ira) cites this as well.

[14]Regarding Nedarim see Shulchan Aruch (Y”D 220, 8); regarding Documents see Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 43, 28); regarding Gittin see Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 126, 7). In all of these cases he agrees that the halacha follows R’ Yehuda that one who writes/says ‘Adar’ is referring to Adar Rishon. These cases all follow ‘Lashon Bnei Adam’, the common vernacular. Interestingly, he does not follow the Rambam in these cases [see how the Chelkas Mechokek and Bais Shmuel (to E.H. 126, 7) deal with this difficulty].

[15]Most Sefardic poskim follow the Shulchan Aruch and observe this Yahrtzeit in Adar Sheini, include the Knesses HaGedolah (O.C. 568, Haghos on Beis Yosef), Chida (Machazik Bracha ad loc. 8), Yafeh LaLev (vol. 2, ad loc. 4) and Rav Daniel Tirani (Ikrei HaDat 29, 4). See Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 568, 76), Chazon Ovadia (Purim ppg. 32 - 34), and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (221, 3) whom all state this.

[16]Although the Yaavetz implies in his responsa (Shu”t Sheilas Yaavetz vol. 1, 117) like the Rema, in his later Siddur (Siddur Yaavetz pg. 375a) he concludes like his father, the Chacham Tzvi, that such a Yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Sheini. As mentioned previously, the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t O.C. 163 and Haghos to O.C. 568, 7) and Korban Ha’Eida (Megillah Ch. 1, Shiyarei HaKorban s.v. hada) were major proponents of this, as well. The Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t O.C. 113, 1 & end 116) also follows the Chasam Sofer on this. Additionally, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe Y”D vol. 3, 160, 1) implies that the Ikar truly is Adar Sheini for Yahrtzeits, as it should be the same as Bar Mitzvahs, all rationale proving otherwise notwithstanding. [Rav Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia - Purim pg. 34), expresses a similar sentiment. However, l’halacha Rav Moshe holds that one should observe the Yahrtzeit in both Adars - see footnote 17.] Yet, it must be stressed that most Ashkenazic poskim follow the Rema’s shitta and maintain that the Yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Rishon. These include the Maharil (Shu”t 31), Mahari”i Mintz (ibid.), Terumas HaDeshen (ibid.), Levush (ibid.), Elyah Rabba (O.C. 685, 7 & Elyah Zutah ad loc. 7), Taz (O.C. 568, 3), Chayei Adam (132, 37), Yeshuos Yaakov (ad loc. 4), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (221, 3), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 568, 13 & 14), Shu”t Maharam Brisk (vol. 1, 128), Shu”t Har Tzvi (ibid.) and Shu”t Moadim U’Zmanim (vol. 7, end 250). The Mishna Berura (568, 42) as well, implies that regarding Yahrtzeits Adar Rishon is Ikar.

[17]The Rema in O.C. 568, 7 adds that there are those who are machmir to observe a Yahrtzeit in both Adars. Yet, in Y”D 402, 12, he repeats this halacha, while only mentioning that one should observe the Yahrtzeit in Adar Sheini! Nevertheless, several later authorities, including the Shach (Y”D 402, 11; quoting the Rashal and Bach) as well as the Magen Avraham (O.C. 568, 20) and the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a to O.C. 568, 7 s.v. shnayhem) hold that one must observe the Yahrtzeit in both Adars; the Gr”a even mandating it m’din. Although the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) writes strongly against what is essentially observing two Yahrzteits for one person, nevertheless, the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 42), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe Y”D vol. 3, 160, 1), and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Moadim U’Zmanim (vol. 7, end 250) maintain that it is proper to observe a Yahrtzeit in both Adars if a parent was niftar in a standard Adar.

[18]Gemara Taanis 29a.

[19]Metzudas Dovid (Mishlei Ch. 15, 30 s.v. me’ohr einayim) ‘Ha’aras Einayim B’Davar HameSupak Yismach Lev Ki Ain B’Olam Simcha K’Hataras HaSafeikos’! This saying is also cited by the Pri Megadim (O.C. beg. 670, E.A. s.v. nohagin and O.C. 682, M.Z. end 1) regarding why on Chanuka (as we say in Al HaNissim) it is fitting that the ‘Zeidim’ were given over to the ‘Oskei Torasecha’.

[20]See Shu”t Beis Shlomo (Even Ha’ezer 56) who maintains that such an Adar Bar Mitzvah boy should be machmir to start laying Tefillin a month and a day prior to his actual Bar Mitzvah in Adar Sheini. Although not everyone follows his chiddush, it is cited by many poskim l’maaseh. See Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 6, 9 and vol. 10, 105, 2), Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 13, 10 s.v. ela & u’chyadua), Shu”t Moadim U’Zmanim (vol. 7, 250 s.v. v’ch”z & u’la”d), Orchos Chaim (Spinka, 37), Igros HaKodesh (5717, vol. 14, 243, postscript), and Shu”t L’Horos Nosson (vol. 12, 5). Thanks are due to R’ Shloimie Lerner for pointing out and providing these invaluable sources.

© 1995-2019 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at ohr@ohr.edu and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions www.ohr.edu

« Back to Purim

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) and your donation is tax deductable.