New York – Halachic Musings: A Tale Of Two Adars – Yahrtzeits And Bar Mitzvahs


    FILE - Jewish settlers, one in the costume of a soldier, read from the Book of Ester, or the 'Megilla' as they celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim in the northern West Bank settlement called Havat Gilad, on 20 March 2011. EPANew York – As the month of Adar is the only one in the Jewish calendar that gets twinned, every time such a leap year occurs, aside for the ‘Mishenichnas Adar’ celebrations, there is also cause for concern and calculations. Although the Gemara (Megillah 6b) concludes that all Purim-related observances, including the Arba Parshiyos, are celebrated in Adar Sheini, in order that the Geulah (Redemption) from Haman (Purim) and the Geulah from Egypt (Pesach) should be observed in consecutive months, nevertheless, figuring out in which Adar other life cycle events such as Bar Mitzvahs and Yahrtzeits should be observed, is quite complicated. 

    Who Is Truly Older?

    It is widely known that adding a leap year into the mix always has interesting Bar Mitzvah ramifications. The majority consensus is that if a boy was born in a non-leap year, one which there was only one Adar, and on the year of his Bar Mitzvah there are two Adars, his Bar Mitzvah will occur in the second Adar, since it is considered the true one concerning when one becomes a man. The same holds true if the lad was actually born in Adar Sheini. In fact the only way one would celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in the first Adar is if he was actually born in an Adar Rishon. This is the accepted ruling by all authorities, both Ashkenazic and Sefardic.

    This makes for a remarkable dichotomy. If one boy is born on the 21st of Adar Rishon, and his buddy a week and a half later on the 2nd of Adar Sheini, then in any standard year following, the second one would be celebrating his birthday almost 3 weeks before his “older” friend. Since there is only one Adar, the second-born’s birthday would be the 2nd of Adar while his “older” friend’s would be on the 21st. In fact, only in a leap year would the older one truly be considered older. This would also affect their Bar Mitzvahs. If their Bar Mitzvah is in a standard year, the younger lad would become a man several weeks before his older compadre.

    Yearly Yahrtzeit 

    However, and quite interestingly, Yahrtzeit observance seems to be an entirely different story. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 568, 7) rules that if one’s parent passed away in a standard Adar his Yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Sheini (similar to the accepted psak for a Bar Mitzvah). Yet, the Rema, citing the Terumas HaDeshen and Mahar”i Mintz, argues that Yahrtzeits do not share the same status as Bar Mitzvahs, and conversely they should be observed in Adar Rishon.

    Will the Real Adar Please Stand Up?

    The Terumas HaDeshen posits that this machlokes is actually based on another one: between R’ Meir and R’ Yehuda concerning which Adar is considered the main one (regarding the laws of Nedarim and Shtaros – Vows and Documents). The Rambam follows R’ Meir’s opinion, that Adar Sheini is the main one, while most other Rishonim, including the Rosh, Ritva, and Ran, follow R’ Yehuda (as is the general rule in Shas), that Adar Rishon is considered the main one. Apparently, regarding Yahrtzeits the Shulchan Aruch sides with the Rambam while the Rema follows the opinions of the other Rishonim.

    Another understanding of this machlokes is that it is based on conflicting Talmudic dictums. Since it is a mitzvah to properly observe a parent’s Yahrtzeit (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 402, 12), wouldn’t we say ‘Ain Maavirin al HaMitzvos’, not to let a mitzvah pass us by? If so, we certainly should attempt to do so as soon as possible, i.e. Adar Rishon and not wait until Adar Sheini.

    Yet, others claim ‘Akdumei Paranusa Lo Mekadmin’, delaying observances that may cause anguish, might be more important here, as we find by Tisha B’Av and other fast days that when a scheduling conflict arises, we delay the fast. Similarly, since the accepted practice is to fast on a Yahrtzeit, its observance should be delayed to Adar Sheini.


    The Levush (Orach Chaim 685, 1) elucidates the Rema’s ruling, stressing a critical difference between Bar Mitzvahs and Yahrtzeits. As opposed to a Bar Mitzvah, when a child is now considered a man and obligated in Mitzvos, properly observing a Yahrtzeit actually achieves repentance (Kapparah) for the soul of the deceased. The Judgement of Gehinnom is twelve months, therefore immediately after the conclusion of this period, which, in a leap year would occur in the first Adar, we should observe the Yahrzeit to obtain elevation for the Neshama. Why should we prolong his Kapparah? And once the Yahrzeit is already observed in Adar Rishon, the first year after the passing, it is already set as the one to observe every time there is a leap year.

    Yet, others, including the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 163), disagree, maintaining that although we find that regarding the laws of Nedarim and Shtaros, even the Shulchan Aruch concedes that Adar Rishon is considered the main Adar, even so, Yahrtzeits should be observed in Adar Sheini. He explains that the rule by Nedarim and Shtaros is that they follow ‘lashon Bnei Adam’, the common vernacular. Since people are used to only calling the month Adar in a standard year, even in a leap year the first Adar is simply colloquially called Adar as well. Yet, concerning Yahrtzeits, which concerns Neshamos, its observance would follow the ‘lashon HaTorah’, which clearly establishes Adar Sheini as the main Adar, as all Purim-related observances are celebrated in Adar Sheini! Therefore, he concludes that Yahrtzeits should be observed in Adar Sheini.

    Double Yahrtzeit ?

    Generally speaking, the practical halacha here follows the traditional paths after the main halacha codifiers. Sefardim, who follow the psakim of the Shulchan Aruch, observe an Adar Yahrtzeit in Adar Sheini, while Ashkenazim would do so in Adar Rishon. Yet, there are several Ashkezaic poskim who rule like the Shulchan Aruch here, maintaining that a Yahrtzeit should be observed in Adar Sheini.

    But, to make matters even more confusing, the Rema adds that there are those who maintain that Yahrzteits should be observed in both Adars (!!). Although in Hilchos Aveilus, the Rema seems to have dropped this opinion as a viable option, nevertheless, it is a psak that several later authorities, including the Shach, Magen Avraham and the Vilna Gaon, aver is required. In fact, and although the Aruch Hashulchan discounts this opinion, as this is not a matter of prohibition and therefore a chumra is non-applicable, still, the Mishna Berura writes that if possible one should try to observe the Yahrtzeit on both days.

    So, what is one to do? He should ask his Rav and follow his shul’s local minhag. Recently, while in America for a simcha, this author noticed a highly commendable and helpful sign posted by the Rav, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, in the famed White Shul in Far Rockaway, with clear and concise instructions to enable easy Yahrtzeit observance during the months of Adar. It proclaimed that the shul follows Ashkenazic practice. Therefore, Yahrtzeit observance for one who was niftar in a regular Adar should be in Adar Rishon. If the mourner is Sefardi, he should observe the Yahrtzeit in Adar Sheini. If one’s minhag is to observe both Adars, he may do so, as long as it does not interfere with someone else’s actual Yahrtzeit (i.e. davening for the amud).

    Yes, Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha, but sometimes that simcha is reserved for resolving halachic doubt (See Metzudas Dovid to Mishlei Ch. 15, 30 s.v. me’ohr einayim).

    Postscript: Another interesting related issue is that even though the universal psak is that a Bar Mitzvah of a boy born in a standard Adar is celebrated in Adar Sheini, nonetheless, there are poskim who maintain that the Bar Mitzvah boy should start to lay Tefillin from Adar Rishon (a month and a day before his actual Bar Mitzvah), even if his minhag is not to do so until the Bar Mitzvah itself. [See Shu”t Beis Shlomo (Even Ha’ezer 56).] In fact, the Tzitz Eliezer (Shu”t vol. 13, 10 s.v. ela & u’chyadua) opines that it is for a leap year like this, that the minhag developed to lay Tefillin a month before their Bar Mitzvah. Thanks are due to R’ Shloimie Lerner for pointing out and providing these invaluable sources.

    Just another tidbit to add more calculations and complications to a year with double Adars.

    For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: 

    Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U’ Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. 

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      • You are partly correct – there is a leap year in 13 years time, but 13 years ago it was not!
        Plus Yahrtzeits are not subject to any 13 year counting.

      • ” this year this is not relevant as 13v years from now is also a leap year.”

        We refer to this as a מחזור, a 19 year cycle, in which there are 7 שנים מעוברות, or leap years. They are the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th. This is a small part of the סוד העיבור (secret of inter calculation) we got from הלל השני.

      • i dunno about a shoel umeishiv nor about a slim shady but lchoirah you were both taking from the same source – from on old game show called to tell the truth – ahh the memories!!
        either way a gevaldig article shkoyach

    1. I don’t know about yartzeits, but as an Adar baby, the halacha is clear that we celebrate both Adars and everyone is obligated to give me two presents or they are over on a gezira d’orriasa.

      • So for all the Adar Sheni babies out there – they only get 7 birthdays every 19 years, while you would get 26 in 19 years… seems like a bit of gezela in your favor!

    2. Rabbi – I really enjoyed quite a few of your past articles, snowballs and this one especially
      there is such a tremendous amount of knowledge therein -how long does it take to write each article?

    3. Regarding Yahrzeits, I observe Adar Rishon, which is my custom, and which is perfectly acceptable, according to many Rabbinical authorities. I know that there are those who will only observe Adar Shani, and there are a third group who will observe both Adars, pertaining to a Yahrzeit. Whenever someone has a Yahrzeit, and the deceased passed away in a non-leap year, they should be informed of their options, when the Yahrzeit occurs during a leap year, such as this one. They should not be told “You must observe both Adars, or you must observe the second one instead of the first.” Rather, they should be shown copies of this article, or similar ones, which are online, and make an informed decision, as to which custom they will follow.


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