THE BLOG

The Secret Blessing of the Hebrew Calendar's Extra Adar

02/04/2011 03:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear chevra,

Last Shabbat, as snow piled higher and deeper, Phyllis and I went to Washington, D.C. to join Fabrangen's celebration of its 40th birthday. (I was among the founding members of what was one of the earliest havurot.) We were invited to announce the coming of Adar Aleph.

This is what, in our distinctive ways, we did (Feel free to share any of this you like, so long as you mention where you learned it.):

[Background note: This year there are two Adars, in obedience to the Jewish practice of adding an entire extra lunar "moonth" seven times out of every 19 years, in order to keep the lunar calendar more or less connected with the solar one. (And especially, according to the Talmud, to keep the month of the Exodus in the spring. When the barley sprouts up against winter is when we rise up against Pharaoh; when the lambs are born is when we are born as a people, when freedom -- that ever-renewing rebirth -- is born.)]

The Adar we are about to proclaim is a strange Adar because it has no Purim -- yet that makes it the most Purimdik Adar of all. For by omitting Purim it is pretending not to be Adar. It is hiding behind a mask, just as we do on Purim, and the hiding actually reveals the deeper truth beneath the mask. In Megillat Esther, God hides -- is never mentioned -- and the name "Esther" itself echoes nistar, hidden, just as she hides her identity in the palace so as to be more fully who she really is when the time comes.

We usually think "Adar Aleph" just means "the first Adar" or "Adar 1." But it could also mean "the Adar of The ONE." The Adar that speaks, through silence, through hiddenness, just as some say that the only sound God actually spoke at Sinai was the sound of the first letter, Aleph, of the first word, Anokhi -- I. And the sound of the Aleph is silence, an open throat.

The pure and simple fact that the Universe wishes to speak to Humankind, opens Its mouth to speak, is all that is necessary. If the Universe is alive and attuned, then everything else follows: Live free, don't kill, rhythmically rest -- all of it.

The Hidden is the Revealed. This is a joke AND a most profound wisdom. Like Purim.

And this very week, as Adar Aleph approached, we could see how in Egypt, Mother Egypt, who after many birth pangs gave birth to us through Mitzrayyim, the narrow birth canal, the Hidden becomes the most Powerful. From a cowed and stuporous people, what seems like Nothing, comes a spark -- and the world glows and grows with light.

Nonviolence, the Hidden strength, shows its strength.

Phyllis' contribution to the profound joke was/is a song. She has written songs to announce every Jewish month -- this is the 13th of those songs -- and each of them draws on a melody inherent to the month:

To the tune of "Winter Wonderland"
Written & led by Rabbi Phyllis Berman; sung by everybody, with gusto!

Winter time -- watch the snow fall;
Soon Adar, but no spring call.
It's Aleph Adar, no Purim till Bet --
More snow and ice, cold and wet.

See the new moon-th in the night sky.
Two nights next week, so don't sigh.
The joke is on us, endless winter of fuss,
Relieved by love and presidents' birthday.

ROSH CHODESH ADAR ALEPH
YIHIYEH B'YOM SHISHI V-YOM SHABBAT KODESH;
HABA ALEYNU V'AL KOL HA-OLAM --
L'TOVA U'LIVRACHA.

When groundhog pokes his head out
He'll stay down, there is no doubt
On this you can bet, winter's not done yet,
Come back when we announce Adar Bet.

With love, laughter, and longing for the day when the Hidden will be fully Revealed to all the world.