If you examine the Hebrew date for today, you may be puzzled for a moment.
What does 3 Adar 1 5779 signify? Is it some kind of secret code to unlock a safe? Is it a password for an offshore bank account?
Part of the explanation is simple. 3 Adar means that it is the third day of this Hebrew month. 5779 is the Jewish calendar year according to long-standing tradition.
So what is the meaning of 1? It signifies that this is the first month of Adar. And in 5779 there is not just one month of Adar but two.
Why is this a leap year with two Adars? The answer is complicated. However, Rabbi Wayne Dosick, in his book, Living Judaism, gives a succinct summary.
He writes, “The secular calendar, by which most of the contemporary world functions, is a solar calendar......the Jewish calendar is a soli-lunar calendar based on the revolution of the moon around the earth.
Each month of the lunar calendar consists of 29 ½ days - the time it takes for the moon to revolve around the earth. Since a month cannot have a half-day, the months in the Jewish calendar alternate number of days: one month, 29 days; the next month, 30 days.
Each 12-month lunar year has 354 days – which is 11 and ¼ days shorter than the solar year of 365 ½ days. To keep the solar and lunar calendar years in equal balance – and to keep the seasons in sync – the Jewish calendar is arranged on a 19-year cycle, with 12 years of 12 months each, and 7 leap years of 13 months each.”
A long time ago our sages showed great wisdom in calculating our soli-lunar calendar. They could have picked any number of months to be doubled in a leap year.
Perhaps they chose Adar because it is the month we celebrate Purim. So festive is Purim, that our rabbis teach, “One who celebrates the arrival of Adar, increases joy in the world.” How wonderful for us that this year we get to anticipate Purim not just for one month, but two!