Friday, February 23, 2024 / 14 Adar 1 5784

Shalom Chaverim,

Today is the day that never was, yet will be, and it is!

“What??!!” and also: “So what?!”

A short explanation:

Today is the 14th day of the month of First Adar, an almost semi-holiday known as Purim Katan, the ‘Little Purim’ and tomorrow will be a similar almost semi-holiday known as ‘Sushan Purim Katan’, the ‘Little Shushan Purim.’ Today is the day that would be Purim…except that it is NOT Purim due to the fact that the Hebrew calendar has a leap year 7 years out of every nineteen, and during a leap year we add an entire extra month to the calendar. That extra month is always a second month of Adar. We are in the first month of Adar now, and then after the next new moon we will have the leap-year month (in Hebrew it is actually known as a shanah meuberet, a ‘pregnant year’!). That leap-year month will be Second Adar.

Purim is celebrated (as always) on the 14th of Adar (and ‘Sushan Purim’, the day after), but Jewish tradition decided that in leap years when we have two months of Adar, the holiday is celebrated in the SECOND month of Adar. Why the second and not the first? So that the celebration at Purim of our redemption from the evil planned against us in ancient Persia will remain the same few weeks away as it always is from the celebration of our redemption from Egypt at Passover just a month later. If Purim was celebrated in First Adar, there would be that entire extra month elapsing between the holidays.

How is ‘Purim Katan’ celebrated?

(And thus too, how is ‘Shushan Purim Katan’ celebrated? ‘Shushan Purim’ is almost always the day after Purim – when you read the Book of Esther Megillah this year, pay attention to how the Jews of the city of Shushan at the time of the Purim story required a second day to defeat all our enemies who attacked us. As a result, Jewish tradition determined that a second day of Purim – “Shushan Purim” – should be celebrated in places that are similar to Shushan, that is, a city that was already established with built city walls around it at the time of Joshua. Jerusalem is such a city.)

If you attend traditional services every day or need to attend a funeral on ‘Purim katan’, you might notice the absence of prayer or two or slight change of custom. Otherwise, what the tradition recommends you do to commemorate ‘Purim katan’ is to try to be a little bit more joyous than usual. Don’t fast – in case you were planning to skip all food today anyway! – and instead make your meal a little festive somehow. Every day is good to ‘Don’t worry. Be happy.” But today (and tomorrow) especially so!

Thus, today is ‘the day that never was’ – Purim, on what would normally be its actual date. But let there be no worries: Purim is the day that “yet will be”…just a month from now. Now you can really look forward to a day dedicated for the celebration of being happy!

AND….well, today is the day “that is” – reason enough to celebrate being happy anyway!

זֶה־הַיּוֹם עָשָׂה יְהֹוָה נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בֽוֹ

This is the day that God has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad in it.


Rabbi Michael Schwartz