Will the True Adar Please Stand Up?


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

Years ago, in the late forties or early fifties, there was Rav, a talmid of Rav Yerucham Levovitz, who appeared on a game show with two other imposter Rabbis.  The non-Jewish celebrities on the game show had to determine who the real Rav was of the three candidates by asking a series of questions.   At the end of the show the host announced, “Will the true Rabbi please stand up?” I met the Rav many years later in the Mirrer Minyan in Boro Park.

Being that Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon is coming up, we may also pose the same question – which is the true Adar – Adar Rishon or Adar Sheini?


There are four pieces of background information that we need to know:

  • The first piece of information is that there are 365 and ¼ days minus “ad shaish” seconds – that is 74+600 in a solar year.    The Jewish lunar year consists of 354-356 days.  This means that each year, the we need to “catch things up eventually” by 11 and ¼ days about.
  • In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, and in the early years after the Churban, the extra month of catching things up was done by the Sanhedrin. In the year 359, the calendar of the fifth generation Amorah Hillel Nesiyah was adopted and the Sanhedrin stopped calculating the Ibbur Year.
  • The second piece of information is that in every 19-year-cycle of years there are 7 years in which an extra Adar is added to even things out. It is not added every three years as some people think, it is rather 2.86 years.  The cycle is 3,3,2..3,3,3,2.  Rather, the extra Adars are added in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19.  This year, 5782, is the sixth year of the current 19 year cycle.  The next one will be in 5784.
  • It seems that during the Talmudic era under the Byzantine period, the cycle was 3,3,3,2,3,3,2. This was discovered based on the tombstones found in 1924 in the area of Tzoar.


And so we have every 7 out of 19 years – two Adars.  But which one is the real or true one?  There are many ramifications to this question of which is the true Adar.

  • If someone, for example, passed away in Adar – when do his children observe his yartzeit – during Adar Rishon or Adar Sheini?
  • When is a Bar Mitzvah celebrated – on the first Adar or the second?
  • And, most important for students in Yeshivos and Beis Yaakovs – which Adar do we say “mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha?”
  • And what about a lease that is up in Adar? Is it the first or the second Adar?  Also, what about a get in which the word Adar was written?


The reason for the extra Adar is that there is a special Mitzvah in the Torah to ensure that the holiday of Pesach fall out in the spring.  This is primarily on account of the verse in Dvarim (16:1), “Shamor es chodesh haAviv   – guard the month of the spring” (See Sanhedrin 11b).   The Korban Omer which consists of barley is brought on the day after Pesach.  If Pesach comes out early, however, The barley will not be available since it has not yet ripened.


There seem to be a number of explanations as to why it was Adar that was chosen.  Rashi in Rosh Hashana (7a) identifies this month with the verse’s ‘chodesh haAviv’ – as opposed to Nissan.  The Baalei Tosfos in Sanhedrin (12a) explain that the pasuk in Megillas Esther itself (3:7), identify Adar as the twelfth month of the year – so it must be the one that plays both roles.


The Baalei Tosfos in Rosh Hashanah (19b) conclude that the true Adar is the second one not the first.  The first Adar is the extra one.  This is also the opinion of the Rambam in Hilchos Nedarim (1:6).  It seems that this is the general halacha


There is a related issue that may be synonymous with the True Adar and may be an entirely different issue than the “true Adar.”  That issue is which is the “Adar Referred.”  In other words if someone just says Adar – does it refer to the first Adar or the second one?

It seems that the aforementioned Tosfos hold that both issues are one and the same.


the Shulchan Aruch (OC 568:7) rules that the yahrtzeits are to be observed on the second Adar.  The second one is thus considered to be the true Adar.  However, for “Adar Referred” he rules that it is the first Adar.  [See CM 43:28 and EH 126:7].  So for a lease or a divorce document, just plain Adar refers to the first Adar.  A get would be pasul if the intent was for the second Adar and one did not write Adar Sheini according to poskim.

The Ramah (568:7), however, has a more nuanced view.  He adds the following words: “Some are of the opinion that one should fast in the first (Adar of the leap year) unless the death was in the second Adar, where one would fast on the second Adar. The custom is to fast in the first Adar. However, some are stringent and do fast in both Adars.”   The Mishna Brurah (568:42) explains that although it is proper to fast on the second as well – he does not push off other mourners on this account.

In Yoreh Deah (402:2), the Ramah once again adds that the main custom is to fast in the first Adar.  We will see, however, that the Ramah’s position on Bar Mitzvahs seems to be vastly different from his position on Yahrtzeits.


The issue of when to hold a Bar Mitzvah can be sub-divided into different categories:


If he was born on any other leap year in the cycle 3, 8, 11 or 18 –  then his Bar Mitzvah will be during Adar of a non-leap-year.  This means that a younger cousin can actually be Bar Mitzvahed before his older cousin if he was born on an earlier date in Adar Sheini than the cousin born earlier on a later date in Adar Rishon.  This is discussed in SA OC 55:10.


If the child was born in leap year 6, 14, or 17 of the cycle – then his Bar Mitzvah will also be during a leap year.  There is a debate between the Mogain Avrohom and the Mishna Brurah regarding whether an Adar Rishon kid becomes bar Mitzvahed in the 1st Adar or the second.  The MA holds that he must wait until the 2nd because a full 13 years haven’t passed!


If the boy was born in years 1,4,9,12, of the 19-year-cycle then his bm is during a leap year.  The Rama (OC 55:10) rules that he becomes bar-mitzvahed only in the second Adar – because, as we learned in the Tosfos – that is the true Adar.


It would seem from all of the above that the simcha that occurs at the arrival of Adar is for the second Adar – not the first.


We can understand the Ramah’s position on Yahrtzeits because the fast is based on twelve months after the passing of the deceased and not predicated upon the year (see responsum of Mahari Mintz #9 cited in the Ramah.)  The Trumas haDeshen (#294 also cited in the Ramah) invokes the notion we mentioned earlier that it is based upon “Adar Referred” and it acts as a Neder.


During a non-leap year, Adar is only a 29 day month.  When is a yahrtzeit observed when the death occurred on the 30th during a leap year?  The Machatzis Hashekel rules that it should be observed on the first of Nissan, arguing with the Mogain Avrohom who holds that it should be observed on the previous 29th. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe, OC III #159) rules in accordance with the Machatzis HaShekel.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


  1. “MISHENICHNAS ADAR It would seem from all of the above that the simcha that occurs at the arrival of Adar is for the second Adar – not the first.”

    However, if the reason for Mishenichnas is related to Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth (and yartzeit), which was the cause of HaChodesh asher nepach, as the Gemara states that Haman did not realize that Moshe was born in Adar, and as Rashi states that the reason for Mishenichnas id due to Purim AND PESSACH, therefore it is caused by Moshe, and his Adar 7 was in the First Adar (that year was a Leap Year), them=n –

    Mishenichnas begins from the First Adar!

    In other words, once we know why the ENTIRE Month is of simcha (right from Moshenichnas, which is not by any other month), and we realize it is all due to Moshe, and we understand why Rashi adds Pessach to the explanation of Mishenichnas (that Purim and Pessach were caused via Moshe)…then the analysis is quite different!

  2. Twins, with one born that last day of Adar Rishon while his brother is born a few minutes later in Adar SheIn; two different Bar Mitzvah dates?

  3. Lemayseh, if indeed a godol has such a me’halech, then boruch she’kivanti!

    My post is to expand the lomdus of this inyan, to create rischa d’oraysa – l’hagdil Torah.

    Unfortunately, the tone of your comment is not merely to provide a mareh mokom – which l’ma’aseh you didn’t, but to be lekanter. After all, the lomdus of gedolei Yisroel aren’t ever “pshetlech”, and because my husband is a bonified rov and manhig of a kehillah (on shabbosim), I earned the title Rebbitzen (without any “quotations”).

    Words have meaning and reveal the mindset of the writer – whether it is pure or in the sewage.

  4. UJM and hockintherock, Although the Magen Avraham (based on his understanding of the Mahari Mintz’s position) maintains that even a boy born in an Adar Rishon’s Bar Mitzvah gets deferred to Adar Sheini, and the Olas Hatamid and Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Orach Chaim 163: end 3; although in Siman 14, he seems to contradict this position and rule accordingly to the majority consensus) agree with him, nevertheless, the consensus of poskim is that one who is born in an Adar Rishon’s Bar Mitzvah 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, Levush (Orach Chaim 685 1), Pri Chodosh (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 Mahari Mintz), Elyah Rabba (Orach Chaim 55:9 and Elyah Zuta 5), Rav Dovid Oppenheim (cited in the Ba’er Heitiv), Me’il Tzadaka (Shu”t 21), Shaarei Teshuvah (Orach Chaim 55:11), Maamar Mordechai, Pri Megadim (Eshel Avrohom 10), Ikrei Hadat (3:7), Chida (Machzik Bracha), Machatzis Hashekel (he also questions the Magen Avraham’s understanding), Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 66:1), Kaf Hachaim, Maharsham (Daas Torah), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (15:2), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 55:14), Mishnah Berurah, and Kaf Hachaim.

    The Ba’er Heitiv (ibid.) concludes that “v’chein haminhag pashut eitzel kol ba’alei hahora’ah.”

    See also the Beis Yitzchok’s haskama to Rav Nosson Nota Landau’s Oorah Shachar, who as a side point, cites his ancestor the Maharam Padua as ruling this way as well.

  5. In our current calendrical system, no girl can ever be Bas-Mitzwoh in Adar hoRishon.
    The Jewish lunar year consists of 354-356 days. Actually 353-355.
    Common practice for 30th Adar hoRishon Johrzeits actually is to observe it in regular years on Shevat 30th {rational being that it is 1st day of Rosh-Chodesh Adar in lieu of 1st day of Rosh Chodesh haSheni}