We are about to bless a new month – the last one of this lunar year cycle, sort of. Adar may be the twelfth month – counting down from Nissan – but this time around we get to have two Adars, namely Adar Rishon (or Aleph) and Adar Sheini (Bais). We bentch Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon on Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim and observe Rosh Chodesh on Yom Shlishi and Yom Revi’i (Tuesday and Wednesday, February 9 and 10).
The month of Adar is characterized by the emotion of unbridled joy. Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha – with the beginning of Adar rejoicing is increased. Truth be, just the mention of Adar begets a smile, signaling as it does the end of the long, dark winter months. And this being a leap year, we gain an extra month to prepare for and anticipate our joyful Purim holiday, not to mention the benefit of a double dose of fortuitousness as Adar is considered to be the most favorable month of the Jewish year.
The miracle of Purim actually unfolded in a leap year. The wicked Haman miraculously cast his lot for the second Adar, a month devoid of astrological influence. Thus, his evil intent was nullified.
Water is the element of Adar. The two fish symbolic of Pisces represent Esther and Mordechai who were instrumental in elevating Am Yisrael to the pinnacle of holiness, when they fully and lovingly accepted the Torah anew. Just as fish find their serene comfort in the depths of the blue, we Yidden thrive when we are immersed in our element – the soothing, life-giving waters of Torah.
Naftali is the tribe aptly associated with the month of Adar. Moshe Rabeinu‘s bracha for Shevet Naftali was that it would be totally satisfied with Hashem’s blessing – as are those who accept the Torah and its precepts.
The Hebrew letter linked to Adar is kuf, symbolizing kedusha – holiness. According to the Ari, the facial feature linked to this month is the nose. The sense of smell has the power to revive the soul. Both Mordechai and Esther signify sweet smelling spice. In Megillas Esther, the queen is also referred to as Hadassah, the fragrant myrtle, and Mordechai is likened to myrrh, the aromatic incense derived from plants of the myrrhis tree.
Some of the tzaddikim whose yahrtzeits are observed in Adar Aleph are R’ Leib Sarah’s (4 Adar I), R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (29 Adar I), and Sarah Schenirer (26 Adar I).
Reb Leib Sarah’s was born to R’ Yosef, one of the thirty-six hidden tzaddikim of his generation, and his wife, the tzadekes Sarah. R’ Leib’s name carries that of his mother for she was the one to raise him after her husband had passed away when their son was still a youngster. The elder R’ Yosef had married a much younger Sarah with the lofty purpose of rescuing her from the clutches of a gentile landowner. Later recognizing the caliber of the man who had taken her for a wife, she opted to stay married to him.
With R’ Leib’s bar mitzvah imminent, Sarah took her son to the Rebbe Reb Ber of Mezritch for a bracha, upon which Reb Ber announced that he had a unique gift for the bochur. This gift turned out to be the holy neshama of the Talmudist and Kabbalist R’ Chaim ben Attar, the Ohr HaChayim, who had left the world just two days prior at the age of 47. Upon reaching the portals of Gan Eden, the Ohr HaChayim begged to be returned to Earth to perpetuate his kavod shamayim and tovas Yisrael. Upon Reb Ber’s blessing, the soul of the Ohr HaChayim coalesced with that of R’ Leib Sarah’s, who would go on to spend all the days of his life seeing to the needs of the lamed-vav tzaddikim of his time.
On one of his travels, R’ Leib Sarah’s had occasion to stay over at the home of a well-to-do shopkeeper in Koznitz. The businessman instinctively recognized that his guest was not simply a tradesman there for business as usual. The more he observed R’ Leib the more convinced he became that he happened on a rare opportunity to host a holy man. As such, he hoped to cash in on the experience and garner some potent blessings from the tzaddik for his enterprise.
The keen-eyed businessman invited R’ Leib Sarah’s into his shop, hoping that the tzaddik‘s presence would bring blessing to his wares. R’ Leib surveyed the merchandise picking up item after item, and with a look of disapproval dropped each one back in its place. He finally found murmured his approval over a pair of gloves he held in his hands, only to claim them not his style.
To the perplexed shopkeeper, this odd setting would soon be explained and made abundantly clear…
A war broke out among the colonies, and before long the town of Koznitz was overrun by ruthless assailants who completely looted and laid waste to all the stores in the area – except for the one that had been visited by R’ Leib Sarah’s. Every piece of merchandise remained untouched (hadn’t R’ Leib expressed his disfavor of them?), save for the one pair of gloves the tzaddik had admired. These the marauders made off with.
The continuously open eyes of fish allude to G-d’s constant watch over His beloved children. The Kedushas Levi attributes the tribe of Yosef to be representative of Adar, with Yosef’s sons Ephraim and Menashe corresponding to the two Adars of a leap year. Most revealing is Yaakov’s blessing of his two grandsons: “V’yidgu larov bekerev haaretz – may they multiply like fish to become many in the midst of the land.” As the Talmud explicates, just as the fish of the sea are covered by water, making them impervious to an ayin hara, so too the evil eye has no power over the seed of Yosef.
As the progeny of Yosef HaTzaddik immersed themselves in the life-sustaining waters of Torah, so too were they saved from the evil eye of Haman.