Adar 2: Fix the system, don’t discard it

By Joshua H. Glettner, 10th grade

Imagine you have a perfect system for completing all your work and always studying exactly enough to succeed. But what if you fail a test, and the system seems not to work. Do you toss it away? Do you change it? Or do you keeping going on as if nothing happened?

Judaism has the same problem with regards to its calendar. It’s clear from the Torah that months should be measured according to the appearance of the moon, but the lunar calendar does not follow the seasons of the year.  That matters because the Torah also says that holidays should be during particular seasons.

The problem starts with the Torah’s injunction in Devarim to “Guard the month of spring, and make [then] the Passover offering,” indicating Passover should be in the spring. But the lunar calendar has only 354 days, while the earth takes 365 days to travel around the sun. This 11-day difference causes calendar days to gradually move earlier in the year relative to the seasons — in other words, if spring were April 15 one year, the next year is would be April 4 and the following year 11 days before that.

Sometimes when we are on a path that diverges from success, we must find a correction to restore proper order

So the Rabbis ordained the establishment of an additional “leap month” when Pesach seemed it would occur too early in the following year. In ancient times this power was exclusive to the Nasi, the head of the Sanhedrein, in Eretz Yisrael. The Talmud credits a Nasi named Hillel II for releasing the secrets of calendar setting to the masses in order to preserve the unity of Am Yisrael. His system, still in use today, requires the addition of an extra month in seven different years within a continuous 19-year cycle.  

The extra month is inserted just before Pesach, and in years including this one, we add a leap month in the middle to make up for the deficiencies of the lunar calendar: a second Adar, Adar II.

The effect of this is on the celebration of Purim. Adar is the month of Purim, and in leap years Purim and all the acts associated with it are celebrated in Adar II.  The day when Purim would occur in Adar I is still supposed to have a bit of simcha (celebration), but is not a full-fledged holiday. This year Adar I was Feb. 5 and 6, and at school, we refrained from saying Tachanun (a mournful prayer of supplication involving the lowering of the head).

Whenever this happens, it reminds us of the importance of bringing Torah observance into the natural world.  But there is another lesson as well. Sometimes when we are on a path that diverges from success, we must find a correction to restore proper order — but we should not completely swerve away from what has previously proven successful.

Let me give you an example. I knew this guy, let’s call him Lan, who would always do his homework an hour a day, and then would study for another hour. It worked pretty well for him, until one day he had a lot of homework, which he refused to budge his system to accommodate, causing him to skip several problems.

The poor guy learned a lesson from this: to add another 20 minutes on days when he had a lot of homework. And I am glad to now say, now Lan has a beautiful 5.0 GPA.  Happy Adar I!

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