CCAR RESPONSA

Contemporary American Reform Responsa

127. LEAP YEAR YAHRZEIT OBSERVANCE

QUESTION: How is yahrzeit treated in a leap year when there is a second month of Adar? What occurs if the person commemorated died in a leap year during Adar II? What occurs if the person commemorated died during the First Adar in an ordinary year? Is the yahrzeit shifted as the festival of Purim? (Rabbi R. B. Davenport, IA)

ANSWER: As yahrzeit has traditionally been observed by fasting, visiting the grave, reciting qaddish, lighting a candle, studying Torah, giving to charity, etc., there is considerable discussion on the matter of dates, not only in connection with the Adar II, but also with a death that fell on Rosh Hodesh (see especially Abraham Gombiner to Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayim 568.7; Sefer Hassidim #723; Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 220.8). One of the main problems over whether Adar I or Adar II should be used to commemorate the dead is the tradition of reciting qaddish for eleven months for the righteous. If it is recited for twelve months, that characterizes a person as wicked. Therefore, Adar I is certainly used for yahrzeit in the first year, even if that year is a leap year.

In subsequent years yahrzeit would, according to Sephardic and some other authorities, shift to Adar II whenever a leap year occurs (Bet Yosef to Tur 403; Maharil Hilkhot Semahot; Mahari Weil Responsa #68; etc.).

Caro, in the above cited section of the Shulhan Arukh, stated that we move the yahrzeit from Adar I to Adar II whenever a leap year occurs, but Isserles disagrees and leaves it in Adar I. In other words, there is a conflict of minhag between the Mediterranean Jewish community and that of Northern Europe. We also see that Jacob Mölln went one step further and indicates that it should be commemorated both during Adar I and Adar II, which is still done by some pious individuals.

As Reform Jews, we would follow the Northern European tradition and commemorate the yahrzeit in Adar I, if the death occurred in Adar I, irrespective of whether the year was an ordinary year or leap year. If the death occurred in Adar II, we would commemorate it in Adar II during leap years and in Adar I during ordinary years.

March 1984

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