Contact Us
Adar: the month especially "pregnant" with meaning.

Leap Year Explained

Leap Year Explained

Beginner Beginner
 Email

The Pregnant Year

On the secular Gregorian calendar, every four years an extra day is added to the month of February, since the solar revolution takes nearly 365 plus one-quarter days. The Jewish leap-year system is much more dramatic - it has to be!

In order for the festivals to retain their position relative to the seasons, an adjustment must be made….

On the one hand, the Torah commands to track the new moons and to keep a lunar calendar (see Ex. 12:2). Since the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days, a lunar year of 12 months contains 354 days (the months alternate between 29 and 30 days in length - a month couldn't be 29.5 days anymore than a calendar year could be 365 ¼ days). One consequence of keeping a lunar calendar would be that our festivals (like the Islamic holy days) would occur 11 or so days earlier each year in relation to the solar cycle, and thus, every three years would fall more than a solar month earlier, and every nine years, a whole season earlier.

However, it is also specified in the Torah that Passover must always be celebrated in the spring time (Deut. 16:1) and Sukkot during autumn (ibid.16:12).

In order for the festivals to retain their position relative to the seasons, an adjustment must be made to enable the lunar calendar to maintain harmony with the solar cycle, and indeed an extraordinary provision is taken. In the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th year of every 19 year cycle an entire month is added before the month in which Passover falls - not just a day.1 Such a year is called "shana m'uberret" - literally, "a pregnant year."

The year 5774 was such a year...pregnant with a thirteenth month and also with extra meaning….

The year 5774 was such a year, the 17th in the current 19 year cycle, pregnant with a thirteenth month and also with extra meaning and growth potential. Let's look at one of the interesting lessons that may be drawn from the "reconciliation" of the sun and the moon and consider its practical applications for our personal lives:

The lunar and solar cycles symbolize two basic spiritual principles, namely, consistency and innovation.

The sun symbolizes stability in that the amount of light it radiates each day is constant. The "sun pole" in our lives is our regular pattern of observance and our basic principles and goals, areas where it is important to be consistent, and unwavering.

The moon symbolizes change in that the amount of light it reflects varies continuously. As such, the "moon pole" in our lives is the striving for improvement, progress and growth, and utilization of one's creativity.

One's service to G‑d is whole when these opposing poles become complementary….

Each type of service - constant and changing - possesses certain advantages. When mitzvot are carried out with constancy over a period of time, the repetitiveness itself leads to the service becoming part of our very nature (see Mishna Avot 4:2).

One's service to G‑d is whole when these opposing poles become complementary, just as the sun and moon play an equal role in fixing the Jewish calendar and its holidays. The new mitzvot observances (or higher levels of observance of the ones already in our mitzvot repertoire) which we attain should become enduring commitments, and those which we have already become accustomed to should still be done each time with the eagerness that is usually reserved for first-time events.

The Thirteenth Month

Now, let's consider the added month itself. Interestingly, it has the same name as the twelfth month: Adar. Thus, every "pregnant" year we have an Adar I and an Adar II. Two full months of all that Adar implies. How extraordinary!

Adar…is the official lucky month of the Jewish people….

Adar, which contains the festival of Purim, is the official lucky month of the Jewish people. That's even built into Jewish law, where it is recommended that litigation with a non-Jew should be scheduled for Adar. It's also the official happy month, as is written, "As soon as Adar begins, increase in joy!"

Should something happen that seems unlucky or unhappy, don't be disillusioned. Just as, for example, chicken soup is not rendered unkosher by milk that spills into it if the proportion of soup to milk is sixty or more to one, and therefore the entire mixture including the milk is considered fit to eat and should not be thrown away, so too the sixty consecutive days of lucky, happy Adar not only "swallow up" any seemingly unpleasant occurrences during that time period, but can even make them digestible and, ultimately, tasty.

For sixty days (this year, from Feb. 31, 6pm - April 31, 2014) it is a mitzvah to be extra happy. May all our readers take this mitzvah seriously. If you want to be super-religious about it, you should be increasingly happy each day even in comparison with the previous day of Adar. May G‑d help all of us to accomplish this by hastening our ultimate joy, the complete redemption of the Jewish people.

Footnotes
1.
Very approximately: 19 years of an 11-day annual differential equals 209 days. Seven extra months of 30 days each equals 210 days. In reality it is much more precise, since a flexibility in the length of two consecutive Jewish months, Cheshvan and Kislev - each one can be either 29 or 30 days - allow a regular year to have 353, 354, or 355 days, and a leap year 383, 384, or 385.
Yerachmiel Tilles is the co-founder of Ascent-of-Safed, and was its educational director for 18 years. He is the creator of www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org and currently the director of both sites. He is also a well-known storyteller, a columnist for numerous chassidic publications, and a staff rabbi on AskMoses.com, as well as and the author of "Saturday Night, Full Moon": Intriguing Stories of Kabbalah Sages, Chasidic Masters and other Jewish Heroes.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
4 Comments
1000 characters remaining
sidney goldfarb goldfarb princeton November 27, 2016

5774 was actually the 17th year of the 304th cycle of 19 year cycles since creation, or since this cycle started. 5776 was the 19thyear, therefore a leap year and the last year of the 19 year cycle, since it is divisible exactly by 19. 5776 is also the square of 76 , 76 squared is 5776, what that means is unknown or a coincidence, but perhaps there is a gamatriest that has an answer or 2 , or 19. Reply

steve March 24, 2016

leap year although I have no concerns with what is written above there is not a shred of proof from Torah given that this is the way it is. In fact there is not even any mishnaic/talmudic citations either. Please can this be addressed. Reply

Anonymous Esteto, Fl. March 20, 2016

in saying Kaddish for my father who died the 15th day of Adar I did not realize last month that this was a leap year and did say Kaddish for him erev Purim, the 14th of Adar in February on the 23rd or 14th of Adar 1.
In reading about leap year I realized that I should be reciting Kaddish this March 24th, the 14th of Adar.
Correct? Would appreciate a confirmation on this.
Many thanks. Reply

Sarah via kabbalaonline.org January 28, 2014

Beautiful article, thank you! May we indeed merit to observe mitzvot both ways, and may we soon rejoice together with our Creator with the final redemption! Reply

Since Biblical times the months and years of the Jewish calendar have been established by the cycles of the moon and the sun. Torah law prescribes that the months follow closely the course of the moon, from its birth each month to the next New Moon.
Related Topics