The Torah teaches us that Pesach must be both in the first month of the Jewish lunar calendar known as Nissan and during the spring season. In order to equate the Jewish lunar month of Nissan to the solar seasons, once in several years we add an additional month. In the times of Sanhedrin the great leaders of the Sanhedrin would assess if it were necessary to add a month or not. Today we depend on a mathematically calculated cycle in which every several years, such as this year, a month is added. Since the purpose is to ensure that Pesach is celebrated in the spring the Halacha requires specifically that an additional Adar be added. Consequently we must determine the halachic status of the first and second months of Adar. This question has ramification in several areas of Halacha. In this article we will focus on those issues that relate to the celebration of Purim.
In the Gemara Megilah (6b) we find three Tanaic opinions in reference to this question. Tana Kama (the first unnamed Tana in a Mishna or Brayta) holds that the first and second months of Adar are of equal stature except for the reading of the Megilah which should be read on the second Adar. The Gemara explains that the reading of the Megilah includes the distribution of Matanot La’evyonim (presents for the poor-tzdakah which is distributed on Purim) since they are a function of the reading. Rabi Eliezer, son of Rabi Yosi, is of the opinion that all mitzvot should be fulfilled the fourteenth or fifteenth of the first Adar. Rabi Shimon ben (son of) Gamliel holds that all mitzvot should be fulfilled on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the second Adar. The brayta concludes that all opinions agree that on the fourteenth and fifteenth of both months fasting and eulogizing the dead is prohibited.
Rabi Yochanan explains that those who give preference to the first Adar and those who prefer the second differ in the interpretation of the same passuk. In Estherit states “lhiyot osim et shenei hayamim …bechol shana ve’shana”, to keep these two days (14 and 15 of Adar) every year and year. (Esther9\27) Rabi Eliezer reads the pasuk: as every year and year we celebrate on the Adar that follows the month of Shevat so too here the Adar that follows Shevat (Adar I). Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel reads it: as in every year we celebrate the Adar that proceeds Nisan, so too here in the Adar that proceeds Nisan. The Gemara further explains that there is a rationale to these interpretations. Rabi Eliezer states that we abide by the halachic rule of “ein maavirim al hamitzvot” we should not pass over an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah. Therefore, when the first Adar arrives Purim should be celebrated. Ravi Shimom ben Gamliel counters that we should follow the rule which calls for adjoining the celebration of one redemption to another. In this case we would strive to adjoin the celebration of Purim to the celebration of the redemption from Egypt on Pesach. Accordingly we should celebrate Purim on the second Adar adjacent to the month of Nisan.
All Poskim agree that the Megilah and all associated mitzvot should be fulfilled on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the second Adar. In reference to the status of the fourteenth and fifteenth of the first Adar, as days that are prohibited in fasting and eulogizing, we find two opinions. The Rif (Rav Yitzchak Elfasi) and the Rambam (Megilah 2/13) are of the opinion that on both months of Adar it is prohibited to fast and eulogize the dead on those days. The Rosh, on the other hand, interprets the Brayta that states “everyone is in agreement that on those days fasting and eulogizing are prohibited” in the event that the Megilah was read on the first Adar and only then did the Beit Din decide to add an additional month. Should the addition have been determined before the fourteenth of the first Adar or where it is determined, as today, in a pre- calculated format then there is no prohibition to fast or eulogize on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the first Adar.
The Shulchan Aruch quotes both of the above opinions and the Rama states that the common practice is to prohibit fasting and eulogizing on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the first Adar. Regardless of fasting and eulogizing the Shulchan Aruch states that the custom is not to recite Tachanun on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the first Adar. If we accept the opinion that prohibits fasting and eulogizing then it may be appropriate to make some form of celebration on the fourteenth of the first Adar.(see Ran on the Mishna – page 3b in the Rif) The Mishna Berurah suggests that such a celebration would increase the recognition of the miracle which occurred in Shushan. (Mishna Berurah OC 696/5)
As we have seen it is the Second month of Adar that has been chosen to mark the commemoration of the miracle of Purim. Yet, since there is good reason and logic to commemorate the miracle in the first Adar we acknowledge these days as “Purim Katan”, minor Purim. We do this by customarily refraining from: reciting tachanun, fasting and eulogizing the dead.