Adar is the 6th month on the traditional Jewish calendar counting from Rosh HaShana and the month of Tishrei which is in the fall, but on the Biblical calendar, counting from Aviv or Nisan, Adar is the 12th month and falls towards the end of winter. It was the last month that the Children of Israel spent in Egypt. In Exodus 12:2 we read HaShem’s instructions to Moshe and Aaron saying, “This month (speaking of Aviv or Nisan) shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.”

It follows then that during Adar, this last month of Egyptian captivity, that the people perhaps would have felt some trepidation, yet much joy as they looked with anticipation to the promised coming redemption and a new beginning! In Jewish tradition, the month of Adar is one in which we are admonished to “increase our joy,” and this concept becomes even more relevant this year as we shall discover.

Why is this Year Referred to as Shanah Me’ Uberit – A Pregnant Year?

Approximately once every three years, the Joy of Adar is doubled due to an additional month, a thirteenth month, being added to the calendar in order that the lunar calendar stay in sync with the solar calendar and the festivals occur around the same time each year. In Hebrew this leap year is called shanah me’uberit which literally translated means a “pregnant year.” Adar then becomes a “pregnant month! “ Therefore we have Adar Aleph and Adar Beit, Adar I and Adar II. This year, the year 5782, is one of those years and it changes everything as far as the observed calendar.  

Purim Katan – Why is this Year Different from Other Years?

Normally we would simply celebrate the Festival of Purim on the 14th day of Adar, but since we have two months of Adar this particular year, the major Festival of Purim is pushed to the second month, Adar Beit. So as not to dismiss this day in the first month of Adar all together, the rabbis have designated it as Purim Katan (“Little or Small Purim).”

Purim Katan, the 14th day of Adar Aleph, is a day that often goes by almost completely unnoticed, for there really isn’t much written about it other than the custom to add something to your meal. Yet according to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Sneerson of blessed memory, that is actually the point. For it is on this rather mundane day that Jews are called upon to rejoice, as it is indicative of the rabbinic teaching  that we should try to be in a constant state of joy…even on the most mundane of days…because he says, “joy breaks boundaries!” The prophet Zechariah admonishes us not to despise “the day of small things” Zechariah 6:10). Those who choose can use this day as a day to meditate upon the greatness of small things. We as humans are quite small in this great big universe, but together we can do amazing things… each spreading our light every day through a smile, engaging in a mitzvah (a good deed) or an act of loving kindness. Each of us have been gifted with an amazing G-d given potential, so let us together joyfully use that gift to spread the light into the darkest corners of the earth! Incidentally Purim Katan falls on Feb 14, Valentine’s Day this year, a day that certainly does not have Hebraic roots, but is celebrated as a day of love when many hearts may be needy and open to the love and light and joy that we have to share.

As we have emphasized, during the next two months of Adar we are admonished to “double our joy,” but that is not all! In the Hebrew language, there are so many words that are related to one another. When we look into the meaning behind the name of this month, and break it apart Hebraically, we will discover more clues beginning to emerge… like hidden sparks beneath the surface, they will be uncovered, one by one for us to examine.

What is the Meaning Behind the Name Adar?

The Hebrew name “Adar” is related to the word “adir,” which denotes strength and power. Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of blessed memory, known affectionately in Jewish circles simply as The Rebbe, often pointed out that the term adir is used to refer to the Jewish people. King David writes, “He gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be HaShem!” (Psalms 68:36).

According to the source Ohr Chadesh (Light of the Holy), the word Adar when broken down is A/Dar which means “the letter of Alef dwells.” The letter Alef in Jewish mysticism represents Divinity and the Absolute Oneness and Unity of G-d. It is more than amazing that the Creator of the universe chose to make Himself known by not only dwelling here on planet earth, but also in the by dwelling in the very hearts of mankind. This concept of the Divine or the Alef dwelling below is a theme that runs throughout the entire Tanakh. It is also brought out in the Midrash when it states that G-d “longed to make for Himself a dwelling place in the lower world.” HaShem, represented by the Alef, longs to reveal His presence and to dwell in the midst of his people (Tanchuma Naso 16).

This idea is brought out clearly in the parshiot or Torah portions during the month of Adar each year. These portions deal with the building of the Tabernacle in the desert which they were to make according to the tavnit, the pattern (Exodus 25:9) by which HaShem explicitly instructed them to use. They were to take the physical materials of this world such as gold, silver, copper, wood, linen, wool, oil, etc. and make a beautiful Tabernacle for His Glory…a Tabernacle that had intrinsic implications which tied the physical to the spiritual. In parsha Teruma we find for example HaShem instructing Moshe to speak to the people when He says, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them,” (Exodus 25:9).

The Tabernacle is long gone, the Holy Temple has been destroyed, yet the commandment to build a sanctuary for our G-d echoes down through the ages…it reaches far beyond the physical. It becomes the task of each of us to sanctify our thoughts, speech, intentions and actions and to build a sanctuary within our hearts, to create a G-dly home within that is worthy of Hashem’s Divine Presence to dwell! It is a challenging task, for like the words of the Shema, we are called upon to engage all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength. In Hebrew this concept involves all our being, all “our everything” in this holy endeavor!

A poignant example can be seen in the picture of King David, the sweet singer, referred to as a man after G-d’s own heart in spite of his failures…joyously playing his harp, and dancing before HaShem with all his strength as he led the processional to bring the ark into the City of David (II Samuel 6:14).

A Bit of Mysticism and a Little Monkey

According to the mystical writings in the book of Sefer Yetzirah, each month has a Hebrew letter and a “sense” associated with it. The letter of Adar is kuf ק and the “sense” of the month is laughter and joy. In the month of Av, the month when the Temple was destroyed, we decrease our joy…but when Adar begins, we are admonished to “let joy increase” (Taanit 26b).

As we strive to increase our joy by focusing on the Alef, on HaShem our G-d and Creator and the awesome factor of His dwelling within us and in our midst, we are endeavoring to build the inner courage to let go of our trappings and enhance that joy and release some of those hidden sparks beneath the surface, the sparks both within us and all around us just waiting to be discovered! Joy, simcha, is catching!

If we take a closer look at the letter kuf ק, we see that it is the only letter (other than the final letters) to descend below the line. Shimona Tzukenik in her teachings on points out that kuf קוֹף in Hebrew means monkey. She notes that it looks like the letter reish ר, rounded like a monkey’s back with a line hanging down below the line, resembling a long tail ק.

Tzukenik gives us a vivid picture of that little monkey that I have not been able to get out of my mind since first encountering it for I not only believe it to be so very relevant for all of us in meeting the challenges that life brings, but also because it brings me back to a very strong and delightful memory from my early childhood that has stayed with me to this day…I remember sitting on my daddy’s lap…a favorite spot for me…and him laughing and lovingly calling me “his little monkey.” I have my ideas but can’t say why exactly he came up with that name, yet he did. I do know that he knew nothing about the Jewish calendar nor that many years later, I would discover that the month in which I was born (Adar) had a direct mystical connection to the little nickname he gave me and that it would ring true to the way I would attempt to make it through the challenges of my life. The description that Shimona Tzukenik gives below is so telling in this regard. Perhaps Daddy was thinking of this when he came up with that nickname for me as “his little monkey.” I will never know, but I love the story and the connection!

The Power of Transformation – Hafactha

Picture for a moment in your mind’s eye that kuf ק, that little monkey catching his tail on a branch, flipping over and swinging upside down, catching another branch, and going from tree to tree in the same manner.

This of course is a metaphor but provides a great lesson in helping us visualize how we, when confronted with evil or with negative thoughts and seemingly negative circumstances, have the ability like the little monkey, to let go of that branch and flip over and turn things upside down. In so doing we can turn negativity on its head because we can see things from a different perspective. In Hebrew, this is called hafactha הָפַכְתָּ.

Hafactha in Hebrew thought is the power of transformation and is seen very clearly in multiple accounts in the Torah. Remember the words of Joseph to his brothers regarding their throwing him into the pit, selling him into slavery, etc.… “But as for youyou thought evil against me, but G-d meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). We will see this time and time again in the story of Purim which we will highlight in our coming articles.

Letting in the Light, Discovering those Hidden Sparks!

The letter kuf is the beginning letter in the words kedusha or holiness, and kelipot, the mystical concept of coverings which block those sparks of holiness within us and around us. The goal is to invite HaShem with all His goodness into each and every aspect of our lives and in so doing, become kadosh (holy) as we break through all the barriers and let the sparks from the Light shine through!

The late gifted singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen brings down this concept beautifully in the lyrics of his song entitled Anthem, There is a crack in everything; there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

We simply have to wake up and take notice of that light that is trying to break through…this is happening before our very eyes all over the world! What is the impact of this incredible awakening upon us today? How can we explain this phenomenon?

It definitely involves those hidden ones, those “lost ones,” including those of Judah who are just discovering their heritage and those of Joseph and the 10 tribes plus the ones from the nations (including many of you) who are continuously coming out of the church pews in mass in search of that which has been “hidden” and is now being revealed! HaShem’s children are returning to their hearts, returning to Him and to His Torah and He is bringing them home from the uttermost parts of the earth!

The first few verses of Deuteronomy 30 in speaking of this phenomenon lay it all out so clearly and beautifully… “And it will come to pass when all these words, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, will come upon you, you will ‘ take it to heart’ (literal translation of the Hebrew renders the meaning ‘return it to your heart’) in the midst of all the nations to which HaShem your G-d has exiled you, and you will return all the way to Hashem your G-d and hearken to His voice, according to all that I have command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Remember how it was when you first began discovering Torah? It was like your eyes had been closed, veiled…and were now open and you were discovering layer upon layer of truth you had never before seen…and the learning continues…it is without end…it goes on and on!

The Torah is like a beautiful garment…it can be likened to HaShem’s veil…His garment…His mask…and as we peel off the masks layer by layer, we discover His promise that we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart! (Jeremiah 29:13). And as we seek Him, we pray with the sweet singer, King David, “Open my eyes and let me see wonderful things in your Torah!” (Psalm 119:18)

But how do we find Him amidst all the stress and the turmoil in our lives, in the lives of our families, our friends…in the lives of those in the world around us? We know that chaos and order co-exist simultaneously…each has a purpose, yet within each purpose is a challenge, a challenge to break through those barriers and find the joy, the simcha!

In order to find the joy, we cannot focus on the bad, on the negative. Rather we must focus on the good, on the positive…we must acknowledge and embrace it and praise HaShem in all things! Remember Adar is related to the Hebrew word adeir, strength. And from where does our strength come? Nehemiah 8:10 gives us the answer –“The joy of HaShem is our strength!” That phrase brings to mind a joyous little childhood song that I remember singing with all my heart, a song that many of you may remember as well…The Joy of the L-rd is my Strength!

So as we enter into the new month of Aleph Adar may HaShem bless us with the strength to increase and share that joy, to live purposely with an awareness of the wonderful blessing we have of our G-d and Creator dwelling within us!!! Smile and laugh, reach out to those who feel abandoned…break out of yourself, your character, out of all those bounds you have set up for yourself and return to who you were created to be! Plant a garden these next 60 days of Aleph Adar and Beit Adar, a garden of gratitude…tend it and water it and watch it grow and flourish!

Be that little monkey…turn negativity on its head! Flip it over, turn it upside down…swing from branch to branch with joy and discover those hidden sparks beneath the surface that are within you, within me, within all of HaShem’s children and within all His Creation…Baruch HaShem!

In our next articles we will delve into Beit Adar, the second month of Adar and try to glean from all the many lessons we can learn from the story behind the joyous Festival of Purim and the incredible faith, strength and courage of one young woman who turned negativity on its head and saved an entire people from annihilation!

by Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin

Betty Tabor Givin (who is known by her Hebrew pen name as Elisheva Tavor) is a lifelong teacher. After having retired from her teaching career of several decades in the public and private school sector, she turned her full attention to religious education. She is an ordained teacher and long-time board member for United Israel World Union. Her popular teachings demonstrate the depth and beauty of her Jewish faith. Her articles have been featured in various publications and on the web. She is a regular contributor to Netiv Center for Torah Study and the United Israel Bulletin and is presently writing a book entitled, Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface.