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The curious case of Yahrzeit in Adar during an intercalated year with two Adars
(Thanks are in order to R. David Golinkin for his Teshuva on this subject)
The custom of saying Kaddish for an immediate relative evolved over the last millennium, along with the custom of fasting on that day. Thus, it is important to know which day, in an intercalated year, to observe this act of memorializing our loved ones. There seems to be a real debate among sages as to which day to say Yahrzeit. The debate is not about when someone dies on Adar 1 in a leap year. That yahrzeit will always be observed in Adar during the regular year and Adar 1 in a leap year. Nor is it an issue if the loved one dies in a leap year on Adar 2. The yahrzeit is, of course, every time on Adar 2 during a leap year, and on Adar 1 in the regular lunar month of Adar. The controversy occurs in the case of a person who dies, like Moses (Adar 7) on a regular Adar, in a year without an additional month. Hevra Kadishas, the groups that prepare the deceased with shrouds and washing, generally observe this yahrzeit date and need to standardize when to observe it.
Rabbi Yosef Caro, in the Shulchan Aruch, says that since Purim is observed Adar 2, closer to Pesach (to join their ‘redemptions’), and fasting is done the day before, all Adar mitzvoth are connected to Adar 2 (the real Adar) and, with it, yahrzeits of those on Adar 1. However, the Rema (Rabbi Moses Isserlis, the Ashkenazic commentator on Shulchan Aruch), tells us that if a person dies on Adar on a regular year, one should observe it on Adar 1 as ‘lo lehachmitz et Hamitzvah’–we should not tarry in the case of doing a mitzvah. There is also further ample evidence in the Halachic literature that if a person vows to pay a debt by Adar on a leap year, that his meaning is Adar 1. Therefore “the real Adar” is the month that directly follow Shevat, not the month that immediately precedes Nisan! Further “mishnichnas Adar marbim besimcha” may also be applied, as this month of Purim is the Adar that is intended under this concept. Delaying a yahrzeit to the month of Purim, then, would be in conflict with conviviality and should rightly be concluded on Adar 1. Rabbi Meir opines that oaths would require debts to be paid on Adar 2 not Adar 1 and that God respects the intercalation of the Beit Din, and therefore , Adar 2 is the authentic Adar. Therefore, in Ashkenazic communities, by and large, Moshe’s yahrzeit is observed on Adar 1 and in Sefardic communities, it’s observed on Adar 2
However, R. Isserlis also mentions the custom of righteous Jews who determine to observe the Yahzeit on both Adars in a leap year! That custom also gained some traction and the Mishna Brura tells us that because of doubt, the pious Jew does it both months! A lone opinion attributed to the Tashbatz, a student of Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg in the 13th century tells us that in the first year, a mourner observes the yahrzeit on Adar 1 and on all subsequent years observes it on Adar 2! This is because on the first year he (or she in our egalitarian custom) has finished the first 12 months of saying Kaddish. Waiting a total of 13 months detracts from the idea that the soul is raised by kaddish said 11 full months and finalized at the Yahrzeit Kaddish. The Tashbatz otherwise agrees with Maimonides and Rabbi Meir’s opinion that Adar 2 is the authentic month of Adar in an intercalated year.
My opinion in this matter (Rabbi Silverman) follows the Ashkenazic custom that Yahrzeit on a regular Adar is observed in Adar 1 and our yahrzeit software is synchronized to this viewpoint. But I suppose if you have accidentally forgotten to observe your yahrzeit on that date, you have a ‘retroactive’ chance to observe it in the next month! Kudos to those who follow the more stringent view of the Mishna Brurah. One might overcome the problem of ‘marbim be simcha,’ of the need to accentuate joy on the month of Purim, with the attitude that joy is brought ‘on high’ to the soul of the loved one, and contentment too, to the heart of those engaging in the mitzvah of Zechirat HaMetim–of remembering our loved ones.
It's your moment to step up
וַיְצַ֣ו מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיַּעֲבִ֨ירוּ ק֥וֹל בַּֽמַּחֲנֶה֮ לֵאמֹר֒ אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשָּׁ֗ה אַל־יַעֲשׂוּ־ע֛וֹד מְלָאכָ֖ה לִתְרוּמַ֣ת הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ וַיִּכָּלֵ֥א הָעָ֖ם מֵהָבִֽיא
Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!” So the people stopped bringing
At the end of the book of Exodus we encounter the one, and probably only time, where a Jewish leader had to ask the Jews to stop donating! Talk about your abundance mindset! Imagine having enough so much gold, and silver and animal skins that you had to start turning people away. I, for one, can tell you, that here at the East Northport Jewish Center, we are still accepting as many dolphin skins as you are willing to donate (and can procure without upsetting the people at PETA too much.)
Oy! To live in such a time where everyone wanted to participate, and give, and the only real issues you had was in which tent you piled all the crimson thread, and in which tent you piled all the royal purple threads. Alas, we do face challenges, and it is easy to look back to this story from our past and be wistful. Heck, we don’t have to go back quite so far. We can look back to the boom in the founding and growing of synagogues post World War II, or even the huge numbers of involved congregants we, along with most other congregations had in the 1980’s and yearn for “The Good Old Days.” But, if you’re hoping I have the answer to bringing back the days of hundreds of congregants attending Shabbat services every Shabbat and jam packed tribute booklets for a “Man of the Year” dinner, alas, I don’t have those solutions. But maybe those aren’t necessarily the challenges we should be struggling to achieve. Similarly, I’m really not sure what we would do with even ONE dolphin skin, let alone hundreds. But what are the challenges we can and should address as we hopefully approach the light at the end of this pandemic? What are the main places we should focus our strength and energies? I’ll give you a hint. Let’s start with what we’re good at. When I was struck by an automobile on the way to shul, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection and support from our congregants—both those whom I have weekly or daily interactions with, as well as even those who some might consider “three times a year” Jews, yet nevertheless felt the very Jewish need to fulfill the obligation of Biqor Holim, via e-mails, phone calls, or the delivery of delicious delicacies hand-cooked, or provided by our community’s one and only Kosher eatery: Pastrami ‘N Friends. (Talk to our President Robin Kain if you want to purchase gift certificates!) When I was unable to lead services, the Rabbi was not left to fend for himself, but our congregants stepped up to help lead, either via our Zoom offered minyanim, or our in-person hybrid Shabbat services. We are a community of doers and givers. We are truly the heimish community, who might actually have needed a Moses to tell them when enough has been given. (I should add, that, our freezer is now full, and there’s only so much corned beef I can consume at one time, but thank you for the continual offers!)
Sure, if you read the Pew report, it sure seems like doom and gloom, and I’m not going to bother to repeat the statistics that portray a very real and very scary outlook for our future, not only at ENJC, but as Jews, nay as ANY organized religion faces in the years to come. But instead of focusing on the negatives, let us double-down on our positives. What gifts can YOU bring to the East Northport Jewish Center? What skills do you possess that might be helpful to our community? What hidden talents might brighten someone’s day? Do you know how to read Torah or Haftara? Can you deliver a sermon or D’var Torah? Can you lead any part of our services? Let’s take a step forward here. Are you willing/able to learn new skills to help our community? Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to make Gefilte Fish, and he can start a global empire under the Mrs. Adler’s label! If you can read Hebrew, I can teach you how to lead a prayer service. Whether the relatively short 15-minute evening minyan we host each weeknight, or either parts of the Friday and/or Saturday morning services. It’s never too late to learn how to chant from the Torah or Haftara. Not so skilled in Hebrew? Thanks to such resources as the website Sefaria, it is easier than ever to write a D’var Torah, and I would be happy to show you how to research a week’s Torah Portion and bring insights from your own life into a message to deliver to the congregation.
As we hopefully have more and more in-person events back in our community, it’s time to think about other activities we can be doing at the ENJC. Before the pandemic, we had wonderful sessions on learning to play mah jjong led by our dearly departed congregant Jodi Saperstein, as well lessons in canasta. I hope to be teaching a group on how to play bridge, with the help of Renee Rubin soon. Howie Lewin gave a great talk on researching family lineages, that contained only a merciful few of his terrible puns. We had a growing pickleball contingent coming on Sunday afternoons before we had to close down for insurance reasons. What other skills or knowledges can you teach or offer to our ENJC family? Of course, we can’t always expect that we’ll be able to implement every idea, and just because you are an expert at swallowing knitting needles, doesn’t mean that Sue Kazazz will necessarily be able to fit into our schedule, but it never hurts to let us know. What we do here at ENJC is give back, and help each other, so let us focus our gifts to improve the lives of our members.
וְעָשָׂה֩ בְצַלְאֵ֨ל וְאׇהֳלִיאָ֜ב וְכֹ֣ל אִ֣ישׁ חֲכַם־לֵ֗ב אֲשֶׁר֩ נָתַ֨ן ה׳
חׇכְמָ֤ה וּתְבוּנָה֙ בָּהֵ֔מָּה לָדַ֣עַת לַעֲשֹׂ֔ת אֶֽת־כׇּל־מְלֶ֖אכֶת עֲבֹדַ֣ת הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ לְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֖ה הֹ׃
Let, then, Bezalel and Oholiab and all the skilled persons whom God has endowed with skill and ability to perform expertly all the tasks connected with the service of the sanctuary carry out all that God has commanded.
Neither Bezalel, nor Oholiab were known to be especially pious Jews. They weren’t priests. They weren’t Rabbis, or especially learned in Jewish rituals. It’s doubtful they could have sung even Adon Olam in a tuneful way (possibly because it would be thousands of years before Adon Olam would be written). But they were skillful. Bezalel is noted as being highly artistic and skilled. But even that isn’t a barrier to participation. Bezalel’s assistant, Oholiab, is not mentioned as having any particularly extraordinary skills at all. He was a doer more than a leader, he knew when and where his help was needed and he volunteered. Now is the time for all of us to volunteer to bring ENJC out of this pandemic and into the future. The Rabbi and I don’t need you to be Moses or Aaron. If you’re a Bezalel, and bring special skills, great. But even if all you have is a willing and giving heart and want to help, or even just become more involved as a participant at ENJC, now is your moment. Read More
I may be hated for saying this. But I’d rather be hated for telling the truth than loved for tolerating a lie. And the truth is that it is our responsibility to eradicate the cancerous extremist behavior within our own communities. African-American leaders should be at the forefront of shutting down anti-Jewish attacks by black youth in Brooklyn. Muslims should be the loudest to condemn Islamic radicalized terrorism. And I, a rabbi, must condemn racism within the verbal, mental and cultural shtetls of my people.
Therefore, I want to publicly condemn the use of the derogatory Yiddish word “schvartze” (“black”), those who make Jews of Color feel alienated from our brethren, and any who tolerate, defend and promulgate the racist Hamitic Hypothesis. I want to remind members of my tribe that it is not petty tribalism which defines us, rather the teachings of Torah herself which unite us. And, in the Torah, the very first Rebbetzin was black (Ibn Ezra; Radak, Jeremiah 13:23, Mo’ed Katan 16b, Shaloh, Shavuot 242 and 247), the entire Jewish tribe of Dan is Ethiopian (Eldad ha-Dani, Radbaz, Horav Maran Horav Ovadia Yosef, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate) and all of us are created in the “image of G-d” (Genesis 1:27).
In the second century, Rabbi Meir taught, “Look not at the vessel but at what it contains” (Pirkei Avot 4:20) and in 1983 Rabbi Moshe Feinstein [uncharacteristically] signed a public letter demanding the [Jewish] world aid black Jews from Ethiopia. He told his son-in-law he “suffered great anguish” hearing they were treated differently because “their skin is black.” (Igrot Moshe Vol. 9) The message I see weaved through the glorious canopy of Torah teachings is one salient truth: Our value is determined not by external labels but by our intrinsic individuality. In other words, our soul.
Perhaps we - as a human collective - still struggle to see beyond the color of superficial skin to the content of character because we - as a spiritual collective - still struggle to see beyond the skin of the world to the character of our Maker contained within. Perhaps truly seeing and celebrating our G-d given diversity helps us transform a Darwinian jungle, where only the fittest survive, into a Garden of Eden where everyone can harmoniously thrive. And perhaps the Creator made the world not in black and white but with a rainbow of colors to teach us that one becomes G-dly when the personal plight of the “Me” becomes the moral mandate of the “We.”
Therefore, I - labeled as an “Ultra-Orthodox Jew” - will be “Ultra-Orthodox” in my fight against racism. I will push for reparations for African Americans (Exodus 11:12, Deuteronomy 15:13, Talmud Bavli Gittin 55a, Sanhedrin 91a). I will expose the ugly face of discrimination which hides in plain sight under the guise of benevolent stereotyping (The Insidious Effects of Positive Stereotypes, scholar.harvard.edu, 2012). And I will stand against all bias which perpetuate the enslavement of individuality using the shackles of oversimplified expectations (Psychology Today, “Where Bias Begins, The Truth About Stereotypes, 2016). As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, famed political activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, once said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides.”
There are those who argue that coexistence is impossible. That the tough reality is that rampant economic rivalry, family breakdown, and centuries of prejudicial societal constructs divide us from one another. But no one ever said that unity is easy to achieve. As the champion of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Almost six decades since he was murdered for speaking out, there are still political puppet masters planning for a race war. They’re not satisfied with slogans on T-shirts or messages on baseball caps. They want us to be at each other’s necks. But we mustn’t be afraid of their evil. For we only see evil in the world because the G-d within us knows that it is the force of good to stop it. As New York State Attorney General Letitia James said after an uptick in New York anti-Semitic attacks, ”We can’t shy away from obstacles and we can’t shy away from the facts. We have to face this challenge.” Or, as Akedah Fulcher- a black Jew from the Chassidic enclave of Crown Heights - taught me, “Silence is violence.”
There are those who try to silence me. “The arena of politics is unbefitting for a rabbi”, they say. “You’re a fool to believe in insidious racism,” they say. “You just don’t understand,” they say. Well, here’s what I say. I say that my religion makes it my responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless and the champion of the oppressed. I say that I'd rather be a fool fighting against injustice than an intellectual tolerating it. And I say that I may not understand a lot but I do understand that to stop “othering” the other, I must realize he’s my brother from another mother.
My father taught me that as long as ignorance, intolerance, and injustice exist, we can never rest lest we rest in peace. His ancestor died at the Battle of Gettysburg fighting for that truth, often not so self-evident, that all people are created equal. He used a sword and a bayonet. I pick up the proverbial pen to continue his legacy. For it is only through the heroes of our past
, upon whose mighty shoulders we now stand, that the evolution of democracy and liberty can continue to march forward. As Rabbi Tarfon taught in the Talmud, “It is not your obligation to finish the work nor are you free from engaging in it, etc” (Pirkei Avot 2:16).
In these recent years of proliferated polarization, the victims of bigotry have eclipsed our nation’s attention. And it is what we do next, what we tell our youth
in the coming days, what ideas we normalize in our homes that will determine the future of our United States.
I believe what Dr. King wrote in 1967 that “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” I believe what Elie Wiesel said in 1986, “Peace is our gift to each other.” And I believe what the Lubavitcher Rebbe told Mayor David Dinkins
after the 1991 riots, “We are not two sides; we are one side. We are one people living in one city under one administration and under one G-d.”
These leaders have all passed on but their light will never pass away. As the Talmud teaches, “When his children are alive, he is alive.” (Talmud, Taanit 5b). Dr. Bernice King, daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., quotes Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression.” Elisha Wiesel, son of the late Elie Wiesel, channels his father as he asks
"How can so many among us deny that white privilege is real when our African-American brothers and sisters still suffer from the effects of a century of Jim Crow laws and voter suppression?" And I follow in the footsteps of my Rebbe who taught me that we treat G-d as our Father in Heaven in order that we might treat one another as G-d’s children here on Earth.”
In this way, we walk the dream. (Micah 4:2)