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"The Month of Adar"

The Month of Adar

The Sages of the Talmud teach that when the month of Av begins, we
lessen our joy; when, though, the month of Adar begins we increase our
joy. They, in fact, are subtly telling us that there is no coincidence
in the world, and that each season has a unique character and nature
of its own. The fact that the destruction of the First and Second
Temples occurred on the ninth of Av is an indication that the
beginning of the month of Av, by its very nature, is a time of
retribution; the fact that the Purim festival took place in the middle
of the month of Adar is a sign that the month of Adar possesses a
unique capacity to transform the bad into good.

Rav Papa adds that if a Jew has a court case or business transaction
with a stranger in the month of Av he should do his best to avoid it,
for this month is a time of misfortune for him. He should try to
arrange such undertakings in the month of Adar. In Adar, a Jew enjoys
good fortune. Now, if this is true concerning an individual Jew, how
much more so regarding the People of Israel as a whole. It follows
that there is no better time of year for dialogue between Israel and
the nations than the month of Adar. As in the days of Purim when evil
decrees were transformed to good, so too in our days all the evil
thoughts of the nations will be transformed to blessings and success.

The Four Parshiot

In addition to the fixed arrangement of weekly Torah-readings, the
sages instituted the reading of four special Torah portions, or
Parshiot, in the month of Adar.
The first is Parshat-Shekalim (Numbers 28:9-15). This reading was
instituted in order to remind the entire People of Israel to donate
the yearly half-shekel contribution – a contribution used to purchase
the communal sacrifices which were to be offered up in the Holy
Temple. Concerning this sum there was no difference between rich and
poor; each was commanded to give a half-shekel, no less and no more.
This contribution can be seen as an indication that concerning the
most fundamental act carried out in the Temple – the offering of
sacrifices – every Jew is equal. Even if money was left over from the
previous year, the sacrifices for the coming year would not be bought
with it; the Torah demands that each year’s sacrifices be purchased
from the donations of the new year. The year, as far as sacrifices are
concerned, begins on the first of the month of Nisan. Therefore, each
year on the first of Adar (the month preceding Nisan), the courts
would make an announcement reminding people of the half-shekel
offering so that during the month of Adar everybody would bring their
contribution. With the beginning of Nisan, the communal sacrifices
would be bought from the new contributions. In order to strengthen the
court announcement, it was instituted that Parshat-Shekalim be read on
the Sabbath before the first of Adar. And if the first of Adar falls
on Sabbath, Parashat Shekalim is read therein. With the destruction of
the Temple, the sages enacted the continued reading Parshat-Shekalim,
in remembrance of the Temple and the mitzvah of the half-shekel.

Following Parshat-Shekalim is Parshat-Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19). In
reading this portion of the Torah we fulfill the Mitzvah to remember
what the nation of Amalek did to us. The sages instituted its reading
just before Purim in order to link this mitzvah to the Purim holiday
on which we celebrate the blotting out of Haman who was of Amalekite
The third Parasha is Parshat-Parah (Numbers 19:1-22). In this portion
we learn about the practice of ritual purification in order that we
are able to go to the Holy Temple and offer up sacrifices. The Sages
instituted its reading just before the month of Nisan in order that we
prepare and purify ourselves for the offering of the Passover
The fourth and final Parasha is Parshat-HaChodesh (Exodus 12:1-20),
and it was instituted to be read on the Sabbath before the first of
Nisan. If the first of Nisan happens to fall on the Sabbath, Parshat-
HaChodesh is read therein. Its reading was instituted in order to
remind us that the month (Chodesh) of Nisan is the first month of the
Jewish calendar. In addition, Parshat-HaChodesh makes mention of
Passover preparations.

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