A double leap year

Mention that it's a leap year, and most people will assume you're referring to the fact that this February will number 29 days. However, it is also a Jewish leap year, one in which we have 2 Adars. That way Nissan will always correspond to the beginnig of spring in the northern hemisphere. The first Adar will start this Wednesday.

An intereseting thing about lunar calendars: if they don't have some way to catch up with the solar calendars, the dates move around the seasons. That's the case for the Islamic lunar calendar, which accounts for the fact that Ramadan does not always fall out at the same time of year.  In the Jewish calendar, a leap year of 13 months  occurs 7 times in every 19 year cycle, which is why one's Hebrew birthday corresponds to one's legal birthday every 19 years, though it may be off by a single day.

 However, the Jewish calendar is not the only one to solve the problem with a leap month. The Chinese calendar also adds in a month every 3 years. According to http://www.timeanddate.com/date/chinese-leap-year.html,  "the name of a leap month is the same as the previous lunar month" rather like our two Adars. But there is a difference in that it's not always the same month or at the same point in the year. 

We celebrate the holiday of Purim in the second Adar, so that it remains 30 days before the holiday of Pesach [Passover]. That may indicate that we regard the second Adar as the "real" one, but that is not so cut-and-dried. This question was addressed in an earlier when wewe had such a leap year in http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2008/02/double-adar-and-yahrzeit-of-moshe.html:
Yesterday I posted the safeik of the Yerushalmi whether which month, Adar I or Adar II, is the “real” and which is the addition. There is more to be said on the halachic issue, but for today I want to focus on what the debate might teach us for our avodas Hashem. The Shem m’Shmuel writes that the number 12 is symbolic of the natural order, teva; e.g. 12 constellations in the sky, 12 months in a regular year, 12 hours in a halachic day. The number 13 is symbolic of transcending the natural order; e.g. 13 middos harachamim are used to ask G-d to extend his mercy beyond what we deserve. There is something to be said for living within natural boundaries – go to work, have a regular seder in learning, take care of chores around the house, repeat. This is the world of the number 12. But sometimes a person needs to make a jump into the world of 13, a world without limits or boundaries, a world where a person can be inspired by ideas that transcend the practical routine even while knowing that the world of 12 will ultimately pull one back to reality. The world of 13 provides the boost, the vision, without which a person could not sustain himself day after day in the world of 12.
So which is the ikkar and which is the tafeil, which is the “real” world and which is the “tosefes” [added element]? The world of 13 is inspiring, but unless it impacts the day to day world of 12, its platitudes are meaningless. On the other hand, the world of 12 has no meaning without the goal and vision of the world of 13 to sustain it. Which Adar is the “real” Adar – the 12th month, or the 13th?

One other interesting note about having 13 months: 

Though we think of the zodiac as corresponding to the 12 months, scientists actually identify 13 constellations in the earth's orbit around the sun (seehttp://strdu.com/constellations.html). The signs of the zodiac correspond to the 12 months of the year, but the additional constellation matches up to the number 13. Those number match up with the variations in the lunar calendar and to the number of the tribes of Israel. Though they are traditionally regarded as 12, when the tribe of Levi is added, the number comes out to 13.


zeesel nechama said…
Could you tell me where this is in the SHem M'Shmuel? It is beautiful!
Ariella Brown said…
Zeesel Nechama, you can ask on the original post that cites it: http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2008/02/double-adar-and-yahrzeit-of-moshe.html

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