By Rabbi Adam J. Rosenbaum
This week, we started the Hebrew month of Adar. Which means that Purim is right around the corner, right? Not quite. We’ve only started Adar I … and Purim won’t take place until Adar II.
Confusing, isn’t it? We’re in the midst of a leap year according to the Hebrew calendar, which takes place seven years out of every nineteen, and in which we add an entire extra month. And each time, the month we add is a second Adar.
That begs the question: Why don’t other months repeat from time to time? There are at least two different explanations. The more obvious one is that Adar contains Purim, which is celebrated with joy and abject silliness. Because of this, the rabbis observed that we ought to make a special effort to be happy during the month of Adar. So, in a leap year, why not add to our joy?
A second explanation is probably less obvious, but no less meaningful. The rabbis from the time of the Talmud told several tales about one of the most beloved kings of the biblical era, Hezekiah. He was a flawed king, yet the Bible tells us that he was loyal to God, and therefore much better than most of the other kings in Israelite history. But Hezekiah wasn’t a great manager; according to the rabbis, the Israelite sages would sometimes veto his proposed policies. One such instance was his suggestion to augment the leap year by adding a second month of Nissan. Nissan, apart from being a car company, is the Hebrew month when Passover takes place, and in the Torah, God describes it as the first month of the year. Hezekiah’s logic is understandable: why not take an extra month to recall the monumental departure from Egypt? Yet the sages disagreed, so Hezekiah chose instead to double the month of Adar.
This anecdote offers a lesson: We learn that wonderful ideals sometimes occur almost by accident, after other proposals have been rejected or discarded. Hezekiah meant to add honor to Passover, but after the Sages had their say, he wound up emphasizing joy by turning to his second choice. Just like Hezekiah founded a new tradition almost accidentally, we often discover that our society’s best ideas come about only after they have been revised by others’ input, or refined after popular response.
So, as we celebrate the happy month of Adar twice this year, let’s remember that the best ideas don’t always emerge from the first draft, but come to fruition only after returning to the drawing board.
Adam J. Rosenbaum is Rabbi of Temple Beth Tzedek and an educator with LiNK Jewish Buffalo.