Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel | 5768
Observing Yahrtzeit in a Leap Year
Ask the Rabbi
Question: If one’s parent died in the month of Adar in a simple year (with one Adar), when does he observe yahrtzeit in a leap year? Is the answer the same for the bar mitzva of a boy born in a simple year who turns 13 in a leap year?
Answer: The two questions should be answered together, although the answers may differ. Bar mitzva (we refer to becoming obligated in mitzvot, not to the celebration) depends on the passage of 13 years. Although this occurs on one’s birthday, it is the passage of time, not the date per se which is critical. Regarding yahrtzeit, the date is the factor. A related distinction is that one can become bar mitzva only once, whereas it is possible for two days to commemorate a yahrtzeit some years.
The Rama (Orach Chayim 55:10) rules clearly that in the situation you describe, a boy becomes bar mitzva in Adar II. (The Shulchan Aruch agrees- see Mishna Berura, ad loc.). Several sources support this claim. The Yerushalmi (Megilla, ch. 1) and Tosafot (Nedarim 63b) say that the leap month is Adar I, whereas Adar II corresponds to the regular month of Adar. The Mahari Mintz (Shut #9) points out that when one rents a house for a year and there is a leap year in the interim, the renter gets the extra month (Bava Metzia 102a) even if the rental is from Adar to Adar II.
Regarding yahrtzeit, the situation is more complex. The poskim discuss the matter primarily in regard to the custom that some accept upon themselves to fast on the yahrtzeit. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 568:7) says that here too, the yahrtzeit is in Adar II. However, the Rama (ad loc.) says here that the preferred day is in Adar I. Why the change? Most seem to understand that Adar I is also Adar, and the question is which Adar to give precedence to. Tanaim debate this question in Me
One could understand the Rama’s stringency as an attempt to “cover our bases” in regard to a doubt as to which opinion is correct. However, the Magen Avraham (568:20) and Gra (on 568:10) posit that when there is no special reason to prefer either Adar, we consider that there are actually two yahrtzeits, one in each Adar. Although the Magen Avraham points out that one can accept the minhag of fasting however he wants, he advises to keep both days. The Mishna Berura (ad loc.: 42) seems to concur, as does Igrot Moshe (YD III, 160). It appears that most Ashkenazim’s minhag is like the Rama’s main ruling (Adar I) and Sephardim follow the Shulchan Aruch (Adar II). Those who want to keep both days or come from a place with that minhag, are invited to act in that way.
What about other practices of yahrtzeit? The same opinions are basically pertinent, but one can decide to keep two days as far as visiting the grave, learning, and/or saying kaddish, but perhaps not fast twice. We should note that even the Magen Avraham says that one has the right to say kaddish only once. He refers to the times when only one person would recite a Mourner’s Kaddish, and a yahrtzeit would uproot a mourner during his year of mourning. This situation exists in relatively few shul’s these days, but the principle precludes one from asking to get an aliyah or to be chazzan because of the yahrtzeit in both months of Adar.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.