On Shabbos Parshas Shekalim we bentch Rosh Chodesh Adar, the month that concludes the lunar year cycle and marks the last of the six winter months. As Rosh Chodesh falls on Yom Rishon and Yom Sheni (Sunday and Monday), Shabbos Mevorchim coincides with erev Rosh Chodesh.
Parshas Shekalim is the first of the Arbah Parshiyos read on the Shabbos of their relevancy, continuing up to Rosh Chodesh Nissan. These are Parshas Shekalim, Parshas Zachor, Parshas Parah and Parshas HaChodesh – corresponding to the four elements of creation: fire, water, earth and wind, respectively.
Some of Adar’s significant events: It was on the first of this month that Moshe Rabbeinu began to beseech Hashem to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael; the third of Adar in the time of Ezra HaSofer marked the joyous dedication of our Bayis Sheni; Moshe Rabbeinu was born on the seventh of Adar; the mon ceased its descent in the midbar on that same date when Moshe Rabbeinu was niftar at the age of 120; the end of the Spanish Inquisition is commemorated on the twenty-fifth of this month.
Adar’s association with mazel (good fortune) and joy is in no small measure due to the machatzis hashekel, the half shekels that were appealed for on the first day of Chodesh Adar in the time of the Bais HaMikdash. According to the Gemara this was the refuah l’maka — the antidote for the blow that was to come in the form of the 10,000 kikar of silver that Haman invested with Achashverosh for the king’s approval to eliminate the Jewish nation.
Haman deluded himself into believing that he had picked the perfect month in which to carry out his diabolical scheme, since the loss of our most influential spiritual leader on the seventh day of Adar would surely render the Jews a vulnerable lot. That Moshe Rabbeinu was born on that same date escaped the rasha, who proved to be oblivious to many other “incidentals.”
The evil Haman regarded anything and anyone Jewish with utter contempt, never in his wildest dreams imagining that a discreet and unassuming Jewish woman would be crowned queen and in due course become the harbinger of his undoing.
In Megillas Esther, our heroine is referred to as Esther and Hadassah — “Esther” (satar –hidden) alluding to her exceptional modesty and reflecting her act of hiding before being taken to the king (and subsequently keeping her true identity secret), and Hadassah suggestive of her virtuousness. The tzaddikim who prevail both in this world and the next are likened to hadassim, the fragrant myrtle bush that endures through summer and winter.
In actuality, a tzaddik’s spiritual energy achieves even greater potency in the hereafter. So much so that Hashem chose to keep Moshe Rabbeinu’s resting place hidden, for had we beseeched our holy leader/teacher/mentor to intercede on our behalf as we were driven into golus following the Churban Bais HaMikdash, God would have hearkened to the pleas of His faithful shepherd. [Maseches Sotah]
Other righteous souls who left this earth for a better place during the month of Adar include: R’ Avraham Ibn Ezra and Shabsai HaKohen – the Shach (1 Adar); R’ Chaim Yosef M’Stropkov (4 Adar); R’ Yehuda HaChassid and R’ Moshe Feinstein (12 Adar); R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnnenfeld (19 Adar); R’ Yoel Sirkis – the Bach (20 Adar); R’ Elimelech of Lizhensk (21 Adar); R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (29 Adar); R’ Itzele Ponevezher (21 Adar); R’ Menachem Mendel Hager (25 Adar) and Sarah Schenirer – founder of Bais Yaakov movement (26 Adar).
Visiting the graves of tzaddikim on erev Rosh Chodesh has forever been a venerated tradition of Orthodox Jewry, its basis rooted in the belief that the koach of the niftar’s ruach is enhanced during the moon’s renewal phase (and some believe in mid-month/full moon as well). Even the unworthy petitioner stands the chance of having his or her tefilos intercepted at such time through the Tzaddik’s intervention (provided the prayers offered are sincere and wholehearted).
The koach of a tzaddik in his lifetime…
To the bewilderment of those at his tish, Reb Elimelech flipped his bowl of soup over as soon as it was served, the warm liquid creating a widening stain on the tablecloth. The startling move aroused Reb Mendele of Rimanov from deep meditation and he sprung up exclaiming, “Gevald, Rebbe! They will lock us up!”
Reb Elimelech answered calmly, “Not to worry; we are here, not there.”
The tzaddik explained to his puzzled chassidim that a harsh edict had been drawn up by the Austrian Sovereignty against the Jews. In those days sand was used as a means of drying the ink on a newly drafted document. At the exact moment when the sand was about to be utilized in the kingly court, Reb Elimelech spilled his soup — causing them to reach instead for the inkwell. As a result, the official document was rendered completely illegible and useless.
Reb Mendele had been so engrossed in his own visualization of the happening as it unfolded in the Austrian czardom that he fleetingly believed Reb Elimelech would be made to suffer incarceration for his chutzpah’dik act — prompting his Rebbe to assure him that they were safe at their own table, far away from the Austrian court.
Following the tzaddik’s petirah…
As a child, R’ Sholom (later to become the first Belzer Rebbe renowned as the Sar Sholom) began to save up money to be able to travel to Lizhensk to see the eminent Reb Elimelech. When he finally had enough to make the trip and resolved to go for Pesach, to his great dismay he learned that Reb Elimelech had passed on to the next world on the 21st of Adar. The young Sholom, all of eight years old at the time, was acutely distressed. That night the Rebbe Reb Elimelech came to him in a dream to say, “You wanted to come and see me; here I am, look at me.”
The next morning when R’ Sholom excitedly related his dream, he was laughed at — until the youngster gave a true-to-life description of his nocturnal visitor.
* * *
Purim recalls our attainment of the highest spiritual summit in every sense. Ever since Amalek first embarked on its evil pursuit of the Jews, Hashem swore by His Throne that our enemy would be annihilated. By way of the Purim miracle, Haman along with his children – descendents of Amalek – were obliterated from this earth and the glory of G-d shone forth.
It was truly a time of “orah v’simcha v’sasson” – light and gladness and joy. In the merit of our re-immersing ourselves in the cleansing and healing waters of Torah and our achievement of complete teshuvah, we were privileged to bask in the triumph of eradicating our foe. As that awesome turn of events is tied to our eventual Geulah Shleima, Purim will forever be observed.
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