Debate Magazine

Rosh Hodesh Adar II

Posted on the 11 March 2011 by Starofdavida
Rosh Hodesh Adar IIIt was Rosh Hodesh Adar II on Monday. Rosh Hodesh is the holiday dedicated to celebrating the arrival of the new month, considered a special holiday for women because it was given to them as a special gift after they refused to participate in the sin of the Golden Calf. (Women of the Wall prays at the Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall) on Rosh Hodesh). Every few years, a month is doubled (a leap year) in order to keep holidays at the correct time of year (e.g. Passover in the spring). The doubled month is always Adar, because Adar is the happiest month; the holiday of Purim, celebrating the success of the Jews over those who wanted to kill them, occurs in Adar.
The word Adar has many different meanings. One explanation of the word is cloak. This is a reference to God’s compassion for the Jews. The purpose of a garment is to provide us with warmth; in Adar, when Purim occurs, we experience the warmth of God. A garment also conceals the body of the person who wears it. A theme of Purim is seter (hidden miracles); the miracles were “dressed” in a series of natural events.
The word Adar can also mean strength. Adar is the month of good fortune for the Jewish people; the Jews managed to survive, despite Haman’s evil intentions to destroy the Jewish nation. Because it is such a joyous month, we have two of it during a leap year.
According to the Sefer Yetzirah, a commentary, every month has a corresponding letter, mazel (fortune, sort of like an astrological sign), shevet (tribe), and color.
Adar’s corresponding letter is kuf, the equivalent of a k in English. Kuf is also a word that means monkey. Monkeys’ antics are known to make us laugh, a sign of happiness. Laughter symbolizes Adar, a month of joy because of the Jews’ survival during the Purim story.
The mazel of Adar is the fish. One reason given for the fish is that Moses was born and died on 7 Adar. He was cast into the water, where fish live, and was “fished” out by Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh. Another reason is because the Jews are likened to fish that swim in the waters of Torah; Jews who leave the Torah will eventually wither away and die spiritually. The water also protects fish as the Torah protects Jews from harm.
The shevet corresponding to Adar is shevet Naftali. In Kabbalah, the name Naftali is read as two words that mean “sweetness is to me,” nafat li. The mitzvah (commandment) on Purim to reach the level of drunkenness, which the Gemara calls sweetness, that a person is unable to differentiate between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai." (Mordechai was Queen Esther's righteous uncle.)
Jacob blessed Naftali, “Naftali is a deer let loose who delivers beautiful sayings.” Such beautiful sayings give rise to joy and laughter to all who hear.
The three letters that compose the name Haman can be permuted in six ways. The Gematria (numerical value) of Haman is 95, so the total value of all six permutations is 6 ∙ 95, which is 570, also the Gematria for the word rasha, evildoer. 570 is also the Gematria of Naftali, who takes joy and laughs in playing the six permutation game of Haman. In Kabbalah, it is explained that the beautiful sayings of Naftali reflect his wisdom to permute words in general, as well as to examine Gematrias.
The color of Adar is green. Esther, the hero of the Purim story, is also represented by the color green. Green is the middle color of the spectrum. Esther was considered the center because her spirituality was deep enough that she could relate to everyone. Esther was able to identify all the midot that a person possessed because, like green, she could find something of herself in everyone.
As we have established, Adar is an extremely joyous month. The Gemara in Ta'anit 29b tells us that just as we decrease happiness when the month of Av begins because the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was destroyed then, we increase happiness when Adar begins. The Gemara even goes on to say that the good fortune of Adar is so strong that if a person has a court case, he or she should try to conduct it in Adar.
My family has personally had a lot of simcha during Adar. My grandmother and grandfather, of blessed memories, were Holocaust survivors. After they were liberated, they both went back to their hometown and found each other. Homeless, they were sent to a Displaced Persons camp. Despite their horrific memories, my grandmother and grandfather dreamed of the new life they could make together. The two came to New York a week after Purim on March 22, 1949, or chaf-aleph Adar 5709.
A theme of the Purim story is v’nahafokhu, getting turned upside down. Everything turned around on Haman: he was hanged on the gallows he built to hang Mordechai, and his decree to destroy the Jews was rewritten. Haman is said to be Hitler’s ancestor. It seemed that Hitler would complete Haman’s final solution, with hundreds of concentration camps darkening the air with smoke. Suddenly, German forces began losing, and the Soviets liberated the concentration camps. The mighty Third Reich ended. Hitler committed suicide by ingesting poison and shooting himself; this mirrored the gas chambers and mass shootings that took millions of Jewish lives. His body was then partially cremated, another echo of his disposal of the Jews.
My grandfather’s name is Naftali, the shevet of Purim. My mother’s name is Pessi, which is the Yiddish form of Batya, who fished Moses out of the water, making the mazel of Adar fish. My grandmother was Feige, the Yiddish form of Zipporah, who the Midrash explains was Batya’s biological sister.
As we already said, the word adar means strong. My grandparents were truly strong; they came to America with nothing and built up their lives. This was a personal v’nahafokhu; they managed to turn their lives from survivors with numbers on their arms to an observant all-American family. They managed to rise above the trials that had tested them and remained Orthodox Jews, perpetuating the Jewish nation. Their first grandchild, whose name is Mordechai, was born on Ta'anit Esther (Fast of Esther), March 22, the same day they came to America. My grandmother always felt that having children and preserving their Judaism was the sweetest revenge she could give Hitler, showing him that his mission failed: Jewish children are being born. The Jews live.

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