In a leap year which month of Adar shouldbe used to commemorate a yahrzheit? - Matan - The Sadie Rennert

In a leap year which month of Adar shouldbe used to commemorate a yahrzheit? Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman

Adar 1 5782 | February 2022

נושאים: Aveilut (mourning)

She'ela

My parent passed away in Adar. In a leap year which month of Adar should I use to commemorate their yarzheit?[i]

Teshuva

Background: Will the real Adar please stand up?

The gemara in Tractate Megilla (6a-b) describes a dispute as to the nature of the two months of Adar during a leap year. Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Yossi maintains that the megillah should be read in the first Adar, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel the second. The gemara explains their rationale. The former maintains that mitzvot should not be passed over, so one should not postpone reading megillah or any other mitzvot of Adar. The latter reasons that the redemption of Purim in Adar should juxtaposed to the redemption of Pesach in Nissan – mismach geula l’geula.

While we rule that Purim is indeed celebrated in second Adar, it is unclear if all significant dates in Adar follow the same rule, as the reasoning of mismach geula l’geula only applies to Purim and neither reasoning claims an Adar as the “authentic” Adar.

The question of which Adar should be used to mark dates is discussed in other cases such as Bar Mitzvahs, legal documents, and vows. While some rabbis make claims that Adar Aleph or Bet is the “authentic” Adar (Tosfut RH 19b “Adar”, Rambam Nedarim Ch. 9 Hal. 6), there are others who claim that this discussion is irrelevant as there are other principles that should be used to determine which Adar is used. (OC 568, Mishna Berura 41-42, Magen Avraham 20)

Marking a yarzheit

As many people had a tradition to fast on the date of a parent’s passing Shulchan Aruch discusses when a yarzheit should be marked in the context of the laws of fasting and writes: “When a person’s father or mother died in Adar and it is a leap year, one should fast in Adar Bet.” (OC 568) Rema disagrees and brings the opinion of Maharil that one should fast in the first Adar. He adds that if the parent passed away during a leap year in Adar Bet then one should fast in Adar Bet, and that there are those who are stringent to fast in both Adars. (ibid, YD 402:12)

Mishna Berura notes that if one vowed to fast on the yarzheit then they should fast in both Adars, however if the fast is merely a tradition they may limit it to one Adar. Which one? If they have already marked the yarzheit in a leap year they should continue to use the month they already chose. If this is the first leap year they have a yarzheit, he states they it is traditional to mark Adar Aleph – perhaps because “we do not pass over mitzvot” or perhaps this is the authentic Adar (and Purim is “moved” to Adar Bet due to “mismach geula l’geula”).

Note for those marking both days

There is a tradition for aveilim (mourners) to lead the prayers so they can say extra kaddish. There are certain communal traditions to prioritize who says kaddish when there are multiple aveilim and/or yarzheit. Magen Avraham points out that someone marking the yarzheit in both months should only have priority to lead the prayers in one of these months, as those who follow this more stringent opinion should not use it to infringe on someone else’s territory (hasagat gvul).

Conclusion:

In summary, it seems that this tradition is split. In keeping with the Mishna Berura’s ruling, if one already has a familial or personal minhag (tradition) they should continue to practice it, as there are good reasons for both opinions. If one does not have a minhag then they should rely on their general tradition of halachic practice. Those who follow Shulchan Aruch (traditionally many Sephardic communities) should mark the yarzheit in Adar Bet. Those who follow Rema or Mishna Berura (many Ashkenazic communities) should mark Adar Aleph.[ii] Finally, some have the tradition to mark both days. (Be’ur Ha’Gra OC 568:7, Be’er Hetev YD 402:12-13)

Nowadays there are many people who do not fast for the yarzheit. Yarzheit is more often marked by lighting a memorial candle, saying kaddish, leading communal prayers, and Torah study or good deeds in memory of the deceased. Some may want to take on the more stringent opinion of marking the day twice to give honor to their loved one. In the absence of a pre-existing minhag this is not necessary, particularly if the yarzheit carries a heavy emotional toll. The laws and traditions of mourning are heavily influenced by and understanding of our emotional needs. There is a reason why yarzheit is normally only once a year.

Footnotes

[i] The Hebrew year begins in the month of Nissan and ends with Adar. In a normative year there are 12 months. In a Hebrew leap year there are 13, an extra month of Adar is added to the calendar. First Adar is also known as Adar Aleph, second Adar – Adar Bet.

[ii] There is also an Ashkenazic tradition to mark the yarzheit in Adar Bet, brought by Maharal quoting Mahari Molin. (Be’er HaGola 40)

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Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman Debbie Zimmerman graduated from the first cohort of Hilkhata – Matan’s Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a Halakhic Responder. She is a multi-disciplinary Jewish educator, with over a decade of experience in adolescent and adult education. After completing a BA in Social Work, Debbie studied Tanakh in the Master’s Program for Bible in Matan and Talmud in Beit Morasha.

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