5779 is a leap year in the Jewish calendar. This means that an extra month of Adar is added prior to Nisan so that Passover remains in the spring season, as required by Torah law. While this allows us to say “When Adar enters, our joy is increased” twice, at the outset of both Adar I and Adar II, all kinds of questions arise when we have a 13-month year.
For example, if one normally commemorates a yahrzeit during the month of Adar, when is it observed in a leap year? The first Adar? The second Adar? Both?
There are a variety of opinions that validate all three responses. Today, many synagogues and funeral homes use computer software programs to calculate the dates of yahrzeits. Depending on the particular program, people receive notices suggesting any one of the three answers, generating further confusion.
Also, according to tradition, the yahrzeit for the biblical Moses is observed on the seventh of Adar. As with one’s own personal yahrzeit observance, some mark this date in Adar I, Adar II or both.
Generations ago, the question was raised about the celebration of Purim and the reading of the megillah. In which Adar should these occasions take place in a leap year?
One might think that Purim should be observed in Adar I, since we should not delay doing a mitzvah, four of which are particular to Purim (hearing the megillah, gifts to the poor, sending food portions to friends and having a festive meal). Should one not observe these mitzvot right away in Adar I?
However, all agree that while we mark the date that Purim would have fallen in Adar I, we observe the holiday in Adar II in order to juxtapose the celebrations of Purim and Pesach – both being celebrations of redemption from oppression – by one month.