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The Great Leap Forward

Efraim Dov Metz of Far Rockaway

Efraim Dov Metz of Far Rockaway

By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

As a sign that a leap year is badly needed for the Jewish calendar this year, people point to the fact that the first Chanukah candles will be lit the night before Thanksgiving. Apparently, according to some calendar experts (Johnathan Mizrahi, to name one) this phenomenon happened only once before, in 1888, and will never happen again in our lifetimes. An extra month of Adar is sorely needed to keep our calendar in sync.

Still, Efraim Dov Metz, a seventh-grader at Yeshiva Darchei Torah, laments, “Why did the leap year have to be this year? Last year would have been just fine!” Efraim was born around 12½ years ago on the 8th of Adar. He knows that his bar mitzvah will be celebrated this coming Adar. At some point it dawned on him that he’d have to wait an extra month for his bar mitzvah. Efraim was born in a non-leap year, when there was only one month of Adar. However, he was told that he would become bar mitzvah this year in the second Adar, Adar Sheini. He prepared the leining for the Shabbos before Purim, which this year is Parashas Tzav. Did he prepare the correct parashah?

The first folio in Yerushalmi Shekalim (in the version printed in the Vilna edition of the Talmud Bavli) ends with a dispute between Rebbe Meir and Rebbe Yehudah. When writing a legal document in a Jewish leap year, to what month does “Adar,” without any appendage, refer? Rebbe Yehudah says it refers to Adar Rishon, while Rebbe Meir says that it refers to Adar Sheini.

One explanation of that dispute is that they are disagreeing over which month of Adar is the extra leap month and which one is the same old Adar we all know and love. Rebbe Yehudah says that Adar Rishon, the first Adar, is really the Adar that occurs every year; Adar Sheini is the leap month. Hence, Adar Rishon is really just Adar and may be referred to as such. Rebbe Meir says that Adar Sheini is the usual Adar, and Adar Rishon is the leap month. Therefore, according to Rebbe Meir, Adar Sheini may be referred to as Adar.

The fact that Purim is celebrated in Adar Sheini may have no bearing on which month is the real Adar. It is possible that Chazal proclaimed that Purim should be celebrated in Adar Sheini because, according to the Maharil, they wanted the Purim atmosphere of redemption to lead into Pesach.

If the preceding explanation is correct, Rebbe Yehudah would say that Efraim Metz will be a bar mitzvah on the 8th of Adar Rishon, whereas Rebbe Meir would say that he will be a bar mitzvah on the 8th of Adar Sheini. There is a rule that when there is a dispute between Rebbe Yehudah and Rebbe Meir, we follow Rebbe Yehudah’s opinion. So did Efraim prepare the wrong parashah? Does he actually become a bar mitzvah during the first Adar?

The Rema (O.C. 55:10) clearly decides otherwise. In this exact scenario, he rules that a boy born in Adar during a non-leap year becomes bar mitzvah during a leap year on the corresponding day in Adar Sheini. Efraim therefore did prepare the correct parashah. (However, there is some discussion as to whether a 13-year-old can lein the accompanying Parashas Zachor. Perhaps for the biblical mitzvah, we only permit a young man old enough to grow a beard to read that section.)

Is the Rema choosing Rebbe Meir’s opinion over Rebbe Yehudah’s? Perhaps not. Rebbe Meir and Rebbe Yehudah might have been simply arguing about what the term “Adar” means to people in a leap year. Regardless of which Adar is the “real” one and which one is the leap one, the language used in legal documents has to reflect the vernacular. Even Rebbe Yehudah might agree that Adar Sheini is the real Adar. He just feels that in conversation, Adar without an appendage refers to Adar Rishon.

There is another topic discussed in the poskim. If someone vowed to fast on the yahrzeit of a parent, when should he fast in a leap year, if the parent died during Adar of a non-leap year? The Rema says he should fast in Adar Rishon. Seemingly this suggests that the Rema holds that Adar Rishon is the true Adar. Doesn’t this directly contradict the Rema’s own ruling that a boy in a similar situation become bar mitzvah in Adar Sheini? Doesn’t that ruling illustrate that the second Adar is the real Adar?

If we look up the Rema’s sources, we find that the Mahari Mintz made this same seemingly contradictory ruling. He holds that Adar Sheini is the true Adar, hence the ruling regarding bar mitzvahs. But the fast on the yahrzeit is not necessarily tied to the calendar date. The day marks 12 months from the day the parent passed away. Since the parent died in a non-leap year, the 12 months end in Adar Rishon. The Mishnah Berurah concludes that initially, the child should fast in both Adar Rishon and Adar Sheini.

Efraim did prepare the correct leining in accordance with the ruling of the Rema. However, Rav Sholom Eliezer Roter wrote in the name of Rav Elyashiv that Efraim should be considered a bar mitzvah on the 8th of Adar Rishon for all stringencies. He should start putting on tefillin on the 8th of Adar Rishon (even if his family’s tradition is to start from the day of the bar mitzvah). However, he will not be counted towards a minyan until the 8th of Adar Sheini. This is because there is some element of doubt as to the correct month that he is actually bar mitzvah. So we are machmir both ways.

What about the reverse situation? A boy born during a leap year, whether in Adar Rishon or Adar Sheini, whose bar mitzvah year is not a leap year, will celebrate his bar mitzvah on the same date in Adar. For example, a boy born on the 10th of Adar Rishon will become bar mitzvah on the 10th of Adar. A boy born on the 10th of Adar Sheini will also become bar mitzvah on the very same day, the 10th of Adar. This can lead to an intriguing situation: One boy is born on the 29th of Adar Rishon; another boy is born two days later, on the 1st of Adar Sheini. If their bar mitzvah year is not a leap year, then the boy who was born first will become bar mitzvah on the 29th of Adar, while the boy who was born two days later will become bar mitzvah much earlier, on the 1st of Adar!

We can even take this one step further. Suppose a boy is born on the 30th of Adar Rishon. When does he become bar mitzvah during a non-leap year? During a non-leap year, Adar only has 29 days. The Steipler, zt’l, ruled that he becomes bar mitzvah on the first of Nissan. Now suppose that he had a twin brother that was born ten minutes later than him and after sunset. This twin was born on the first of Adar Sheini. He will become bar mitzvah during a non-leap year on the first of Adar. His twin brother, who was born first, will have to wait a full month later, until the first of Nissan, to become bar mitzvah!

The Shevus Yaakov raises an interesting dilemma: In the above scenario, which brother is considered older? There are at least two potential ramifications of this question. The first is that there is a halachah that a younger brother should honor his older brother. The second is in regard to the mitzvah of yibum. If a man dies childless, there is a mitzvah for the man’s brothers to marry his wife. (This is no longer practiced. Chalitzah is performed instead.) The halachah is that it is a mitzvah for the oldest brother to perform this rite. In the scenario above, which brother is considered older: the one that was born first or the one that turns bar mitzvah first? The Shevus Yaakov said that we consider the brother that was born first to be the older brother. So while the “younger” brother is celebrating his bar mitzvah, he will still have to honor his “older” 12-year-old kid brother.

If a boy is born on the 15th of Adar Rishon, when would he become bar mitzvah if his 13th year is a leap year as well? The answer would seem to be obvious: the 15th of Adar Rishon. The Magen Avraham disagrees. His reasoning is as follows: This boy turned 12 on the 15th of Adar during a non-leap year. Another year must pass until he becomes bar mitzvah. We consider a year to have passed on the 15th of Adar Sheini. Consequently, on the 15th of Adar Sheini this boy will turn 13.

As a proof, he offers the halachah regarding the sale of a house in a walled city in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah tells us that if a man sells a house in a walled city in Eretz Yisrael, he may force the buyer to sell it back to him within one year of the original sale date. What if the original sale date was the 15th of Adar? When does the one year end if the following year is a leap year? According to the Chachamim quoted in a mishnah in Arachin, the answer is the 15th of Adar Sheini. We can conclude that a year starting on the 15th of Adar terminates on the 15th of Adar Sheini. This boy as well has to wait a year from the day he turned 12 on the 15th of Adar until he turns bar mitzvah. Although his birthday is the 15th of Adar Rishon, he turns 13 on the 15th of Adar Sheini. However, many Acharonim disagree with the Magen Avraham. The Mishnah Berurah rules that a boy born on the 15th of Adar Rishon will be bar mitzvah on the 15th of Adar Rishon.

We all wish Efraim Dov Metz and his parents and grandparents mazel tov upon their upcoming simcha. May Efraim Dov be a source of nachas for them and all of Klal Yisrael. v

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead and is a rebbi at Mesivta Kesser Yisroel of Willowbrook. He can be contacted at

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Posted by on October 24, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.