The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Rosh Chodesh Adar 1, 5768/February 7, 5768

Adar Rishon: Creating Time

We are presently celebrating the beginning of the new month of Adar Rishon, (Adar 1). Unlike the other twelve months of the Hebrew year, the month of Adar Rishon does not, in fact, always exist. Adar Rishon is created, when necessary, by the Jewish nation. In the days of the Holy Temple it was dependent upon the Sanhedrin to declare the creation of Adar Rishon. In absence of the Sanhedrin the invocation of Adar Rishon, which occurs seven out of every nineteen years is a function of a fixed calendar. What is the nature of Adar Rishon, and why do we call it into being? What is time, that we can "conjure" up a thirteenth month at will? Who gave the sages of the Jewish nation the authority to call the month into being? Having established this thirteenth month, how are we to spend its days?

The Torah perception of time is not as a calibration of movement through space. Torah sees time as a measure of spiritual energy and potential. This is the secret of the Hebrew term for "leap year" - shnat ibbur - literally, a pregnant year - pregnant with potential. The dimension of time is a fundamental aspect of the created world in which we live. G-d commanded the Israelites, saying, "'This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you,'" (Exodus 12:2) The Hebrew word translated as "to you" also bears the meaning "yours:" This month belongs to you! G-d was delegating to Israel the sole authority over the fixing of the months. He was inviting the Jewish nation to become a partner in fixing and regulating this precious commodity of time. In effect, the children of Israel were being called upon to be partners in creation. This same message is repeated in G-d's words to Moses: "These are the appointed seasons of HaShem, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations... " (Leviticus 23:37) "Which you shall proclaim": You, not Me! Rather than diminishing G-d's ultimate dominion over time, the commandment establishes for us the great stake we, His children, have in partaking of the full measure of the time he has given us.

With this privilege of fixing the months comes great responsibility. We need to spend our time wisely. The decision to declare this thirteenth month is of such consequence, that during the shnat ibbur - leap year of Adar Rishon - the following prayer is added to the Rosh Chodesh (New Month) service: "... may You grant us this month atonement of sin." G-d forbid that we should create an additional month for reasons not pure, or that, having created it, we should spend its days carelessly.

For what reasons do we invoke the thirteenth month? Today it is for the purpose of ensuring that the Passover commemoration of our miraculous emergence from Egypt is observed in its appointed season: the time of Aviv (ibid 13:4), when the flax and barley are ripening (ibid 9:31), after the vernal equinox. During the days of the Holy Temple the Sanhedrin could declare an Adar Rishon when it was clear that the winter rains had caused damage to the roads and bridges, or erased traces of burial sites. In order to ensure that every Jew could complete his pilgrimage to the Holy Temple and participate in the Passover offering, the extra month was declared, granting extra time for the roads and bridges to be repaired and the graveyards to be clearly marked so that travelers would not inadvertently tread over them. To repair the broken paths and bridges that separate us from G-d - this is the proper way to spend this timeless month of Adar Rishon! To use this time to reflect on those who came before us, and to honor them as we mark our own path to the Holy One, Blessed be He - this is a fitting way to engage in G-d's creation and to bring it to a purposeful conclusion!

Time created, whether by G-d, or by man, as in the case of Adar Rishon, is much too precious to squander. When we make Kiddush on Friday evening, and sanctify the holy Sabbath, we do so by testifying to G-d's created world:

"And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And G-d blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which G-d in creating had made." (Genesis 2:1-3, recited in the Kiddush blessing)

We can only testify whole heartedly if we have, indeed, spent the days of our week in His service. So it is with Adar Rishon. Having created the opportunity to draw closer to G-d it is incumbent upon us to spend the days properly, engaged in drawing nearer to Him in space and time, and, in turn, bringing Him into our days and weeks.

This week on TEMPLE TALK Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven explore time and the spiritual potential of the thirteenth month, Adar Rishon. Join them as they hear the moving story of fellow spiritual seekers whose journey embodies the very essence of Adar Rishon: creating time and sanctifying it by seeking out G-d.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2