Purim Katan - פורים קטן

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


Timing. 2

In the Triennial Torah Lectionary. 3

Observances. 4

A Rare Occurrence. 4

Simcha – Joy! 5

The Beginning Of Redemption. 7

Other Purim Katans. 7

 

In this study I would like to examine the minor holiday of Purim Katan - פּוּרִים קָטָן. Purim[1] Katan means little, or minor, Purim.[2]

 

Purim Katan will occur on the following dates:

 

 

Shushan Purim Katan is the day after Purim katan.

 

In a leap year[3] when, according to the Jewish calendar, there are two months of Adar, Adar Rishon (I Adar) and one in Adar Sheni (II Adar)[4]; we celebrate Purim Katan in the first Adar, Adar Rishon. The fact that Purim Katan is in Adar Rishon indicates that this year is a leap year, the idea of which is to reconcile the difference between the solar and lunar years[5] in the Jewish, or Biblical calendar. [6]

 

When the Jewish calendar has 13 months instead of the usual 12 it is known as a “pregnant year”. It is as if the year is pregnant and carrying an additional month in its belly. Thus, the additional month, called Adar rishon, which is actually the 12th month (not the 13th as one might think), is called the “month of pregnancy”. The 13th month is then called Adar sheni.

 

Purim Katan” is also called the “fourteenth of the first Adar“ in the Gemara. Therefore, when we choose to use the term “Purim Katan”, we are emphasizing that it has an aspect in which it is smaller than Purim,[7] yet it comes first.

 

In the case of Purim the following day is Shushan Purim, and in the case of Purim Katan it is Shushan Purim Katan.

 

Timing

 

Purim Katan takes on an interesting characteristic because the Yerushalmi[8] notes that the year of the Purim story was, in fact, a leap year and that Purim took place in Adar rishon, the first Adar! What’s more, the Megillah itself appears to require the observance of Purim on Adar rishon. Throughout Megillat Esther, the month on which Haman planned to destroy the Jews is referred to as “the twelfth month, the month of Adar”. Clearly, then, we should commemorate this event on the twelfth month, Adar Rishon, rather than on the thirteenth month, Adar Sheni!

 

Since we normally hasten to perform a mitzva, why are we putting off Purim? To answer this question we need to examine Purim and it’s distinctive elements.

 

Purim is a celebration of the renewal of the covenant at Sinai.

 

Shabbat 88a “They gathered at the foot of the mountain.”[9] Rav Avdimi bar Hama bar Hasa said: “This teaches us that God suspended the mountain above them like a barrel and said, ‘If you accept the Torah, good. If not, there will be your burial place.’”

 

Rav Aha bar Yaakov said: “From here emerges a great protest about the Torah” [i.e., since the people were coerced into the covenant, they are not responsible for the agreement]. Rava said: “Nonetheless, they reaffirmed their acceptance in the days of Achashverosh, as it says: ‘The Jews established and accepted’.[10] They established what they had already accepted.”

 

At Purim, the Bne Israel took upon themselves not just to observe Purim as a holiday, but to accept again the Torah from Sinai. Thus we renew the covenant when we celebrate Purim.

 

Passover is also a celebration of the covenant because it is the celebration of the fulfillment of the covenant made with Avraham:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 15:12-14 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

 

They came out of Egypt with great wealth on Passover. Passover is also the beginning of the celebration of the covenant made at Mt. Sinai.

 

Which covenant did Bne Israel renew in the time of Achashverosh? The covenant of Passover. Juxtaposing Purim and Passover is more than just a nice idea. It goes to the heart of the Purim story, to the renewed covenant. We draw an association between these two festivals because of this shared theme: Renewing the covenant.

 

Our Sages moved Purim to Adar Sheni in order to juxtapose these two festivals with a common theme: The renewal of the covenant. They reaffirmed the Torah’s relevance to all times, to all places, under all conditions. The renewal of the covenant commemorated on Purim came on the heels of the Babylonian exile. Purim katan, in Adar rishon, takes on renewed significance in light of this historic juxtaposition. Additionally, both Purim and Passover recount a deliverance of the Jewish people.

 

Lot also juxtaposed Purim and Passover on that fateful night in Sodom. Lot sits in Sodom, bearing within him the seed of redemption. He hosts two angels to a meal on that fateful eve of destruction: the cataclysmic destruction of Sodom is about to occur. Lot provides a meal: we have a deep tradition that the time of year was Passover, Lot served matza. But the Torah uses the word mishteh, a feast, for that meal, and the Sages with their super-conscious ears hear in that word the mishteh which is used elsewhere, in the Megillah of Purim, the Purim seuda (meal). This requires understanding. Passover is the festival of redemption, redemption in the light, redemption revealed, accompanied by miracles, in Nisan, the first month, the month of nissim (miracles), in the glow of spring. Purim is the festival of redemption too, but redemption in darkness, without revealed miracles, in the last month of the year, in the depth of winter. Together they form the full spectrum of the elements of redemption. And Lot is sitting in Sodom, on the eve of its annihilation and his miraculous redemption bearing hidden within his body the seed from which Mashiach will sprout, and conducting a Passover seder and a Purim seuda in one!

 

Purim Katan is a microcosm of the larger Purim. It comes exactly thirty days before the “big” Purim and serves as an official reminder that it is time to begin preparing ourselves for the upcoming holy day. In essence, we have thirty extra days to put ourselves in the festival spirit.

 

There is a significant connection between Purim and Purim Katan. As the Mishna[11] teaches:

 

Megillah 6b ‘There is no difference between the fourteenth of the first Adar and the fourteenth of the second Adar save in the matter of reading the Megillah[12] and gifts to the poor’.

 

In all other matters it would appear that both Purims are the same, with Purim Katan retaining the quality of being first! The only difference is that we do not perform any of the actions required on Purim. The implication is that during the first Adar, there should be some kind of remembrance of the miracle of Purim.

 

Purim katan is not celebrated with the physical commandments performed on Purim proper, but it is nonetheless an occasion of joy and preparation for the transformation possible during every day of the two months of Adar.

 

It thus emerges that in Adar rishon we celebrate the miracle, the salvation. Purim katan belongs to the group of days marked in Megillat Ta’anit; we refrain from fasting and eulogies, but no festivities are required. This is the ruling of the Mechaber[13] and the common practice to which the Rema[14] testifies. We do not observe a festival; we do not observe a period of “standing before HaShem” as we do on other festivals. When Adar sheni comes, when we renew the covenant, then we have a Yom Tov.

 

In the Triennial Torah Lectionary

 

Torah:             Vayiqra (Lev.) 16:1-34

Ashlamatah:   Isaiah 6:1-8 + 8:10-11

Psalms:           Psalm 80:1-20

 

Our Torah portion speaks of Yom Kippurim and the service of the High Priest. Yom HaKipurrim, according to our sages, can be divided as Yom Ki Purim: A Day like Purim. We are reading this on Shushan Purim katan, in 5774. In the bimodal Torah readings, we read this on the first Sabbath after Yom Kipurim and the high Holy days. In a non-leap year we read this on Shushan Purim. However, this year is a leap year[15] so we are reading it on Purim katan II. Our Ashlamata speaks of Yom Kipurim as it takes place in the ‘upper’ Temple in heaven. Thus we have connections between the time of the year and the Torah, the Ashlamata, and the Psalm.

 

Observances

 

While there are no mandatory observances for Purim Katan, we should still celebrate this festival and we should not mourn or fast. Rambam teaches that eulogies and fasting are forbidden on the 14th and 15th for everyone everywhere, both in Adar Rishon[16] and Sheni.[17]

 

Some authorities[18] suggest adding to our normal meals, on this day, in order to increase our joy. The very last entry in Orech Chayim[19] concerns Purim Katan and says that it is praiseworthy to have a festive meal to celebrate the day. 

 

Rabbi Eli Mansour teaches us about the effects of Purim Katan on our prayers:

 

On these days we omit the Tahanunim[20] section of the prayer service, including the Viduyim.[21] We also omit the paragraph of “La’menase’ah” and “Tefila Le’David” which are incongruous with the festive nature of these days. Tahanunim is likewise omitted from Minha on the afternoon of the thirteenth of Adar Rishon. When the fifteenth of Adar Rishon falls on Shabbat, we do not recite “Sidkatecha” during Minha. (The fourteenth of Adar never falls on Shabbat, but the fifteenth can occur on Shabbat.)

 

The Avudraham[22] who quotes the minhag that women should not work during 14 Adar I. Without question, this minhag is based upon its status as Purim Katan. Prohibition of work is never associated with Megillat Ta’anit.[23] Any prohibition of work on this day would have to stem from its status as Purim Katan, a minor holiday.

 

The Code of Jewish Law cites an opinion that one should increase in festivity and joy, but rules that there is no obligation to do so; “Nevertheless, a person should increase somewhat in festivity... for ‘One who is of good heart is festive always’”.[24]

 

A Rare Occurrence

 

The metonic cycle is a 19 year cycle during which the moon returns to exactly the same place (at the same longitude and against the same constellation) in the sky with the same phase.

 

The day of Purim Katan (the 14th day of Adar I) should be viewed as a relatively rare event, because in the 19-year metonic cycle of regular years and leap years we have 19 Purims (which occurs on the 14th day of the second Adar), but only 7 Purim Katans (which occurs on the 14th day of the first Adar), according to the Jewish calendar.

 

The day of Purim Katan (the 14th of Adar I) should be viewed as a precious guest because it comes infrequently.

 

Purim Katan is the only time we have a minor festival preceding the actual festival.

 

This suggests that there is something special about a leap year which demands a Purim Katan. Since Purim Katan is a time to prepare for Purim, we learn that Purim is an extremely important festival.

 

Purim Katan contains an allusion to Mashiach, a descendent of King David, about whom it states:

 

1 Shmuel (Samuel) 17:14 And David was the smallest (katan): and the three eldest followed Saul.

 

Although we use the term small (katan) with regard to Purim Katan, therein lies their greatness, “this small one (alluding to Purim Katan and King David) will be great,” with the true and complete Redemption.

 

On Purim Katan we celebrate the miracle itself, on Purim Gadol we celebrate the renewal of the Sinai covenant.

 

“All the holidays will cease except Purim, as it says:

 

Esther 9:28 And its memory will not cease from their descendants.[25]

 

Simcha – Joy!

 

Ta’anith 29a at the onset of Adar, Joy (simcha) is increased.

 

There are two Adars in a leap year, Adar rishon and Adar sheni. Both of these months carry the admonition that we should increase our joy. All year long Jews strive to feel the tremendous sense of joy that should accompany our service of HaShem. As we draw closer to Purim, we are instructed to raise our spirits to an even higher level.

 

Adar is an especially auspicious month for the Jewish people, and thus if a Jew is embroiled in a court case against a gentile, he should try, if possible, to schedule the trial for the month of Adar. As this month is endowed with special Mazal,[26] a person stands a better chance of emerging victorious in a legal battle during Adar.

 

In a leap year, when we have an extra month of Adar, do both months have this special quality, or only the second Adar, Adar Sheni, which is when we celebrate Purim?

 

Essentially, this question relates to the issue of the zodiacal sign to which Adar rishon corresponds. The twelve months of the Jewish year correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the month of Adar corresponds to Dagim (fish)[27]. The Sages teach that fish are not subject to the Ayin HaRa (evil eye), since they live underwater, and Adar corresponds to Dagim because during this month we are able to avoid the harmful effects of the Ayin HaRa. The question becomes whether in a leap year, Adar rishon follows the mazzaroth[28] sign of Adar sheni, in which case it shares the special auspicious qualities of Adar sheni, or if it has the same sign as the preceding month of Shebat.

 

This issue is subject to a debate. The Lebush[29] maintained that Adar rishon corresponds to the mazzaroth sign of Aquarius, the sign of Shebat, and thus it does not have the special qualities of Adar sheni. A different view, however is taken by the Kedushat Levi,[30] in a famous passage in Parashat KiTisa, and by Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin.[31] They note that just as the twelve months correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac, similarly, the months correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel. The month of Adar, which is under the sign of Dagim, corresponds to Yosef HaTzadik, who is blessed like fish, and who, like fish, was free from the clutches of the Ayin HaRa. Yosef was unique among Yaaqov’s sons in that his two sons, Menashe and Efrayim, each formed a separate tribe.[32] Accordingly, in a leap year, the two months of Adar correspond to the two sons of Yosef, Menashe and Ephraim, and, as such, both are represented by the sign of Dagim. It thus emerges, according to this view, that both Adar rishon and Adar sheni share the special properties of the month of Adar, and Adar rishon is indeed an auspicious time for success in court.

 

Practically speaking, then, it is certainly preferable during a leap year to schedule one’s court cases for Adar sheni, which is an auspicious time according to all views, but if this is not possible, there is certainly value in scheduling the case for Adar rishon.

 

The month of Adar is not special only because it hosts the holiday of Purim,[33] but rather it has a joyous characteristic of its own. Our Hakhamim taught that when the month of Adar comes in simcha (joy) increases. It is not just Purim that is a happy day, but the entire two months of Adar I and Adar II in a leap year, that is full of simcha.

 

Now we should understand that a Jew must be joyous the entire year, not just on Purim or during the month of Adar. The Torah brings punishment upon a Jew for not serving HaShem with simcha, as it is written

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:47that you did not serve HaShem thy G-d with joy and a happy heart.

 

or the Palmist who exhorts

 

Tehillim (Psalms) 100:2 …serve HaShem with joy.

 

Rashi[34] explains that when Adar comes in joy increases because it is the time of the miracles of (both) Purim and of Passover.[35]

 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that since a leap year with two Adars has sixty days, and since sixty is how we nullify the forbidden [in kashrut laws] one can say that the sixty days of Adar allude to the nullification (to the point that it’s actually nullified) of all undesirable things! The time is right to increase in simcha, in double measure, for sixty days.

 

The joy of Adar is what makes the month of Adar the “pregnant” month of the year (i.e., seven of the nineteen years in the cycle of the Jewish calendar are “leap years,” “pregnant” with an additional month of Adar). Tradition teaches that Adar is so full of joy that it is as if Adar were pregnant with happiness. Indeed, some years we need two Adars to contain all the joy of Adar.

 

When there are two Adars, Purim is celebrated in the second Adar, in order to link the redemption of Purim to the redemption of Pesach. Thus we see that the secret of Adar and Purim is “the end is wedged in the beginning”.[36]

 

Our Simcha is supposed to grow every day and carry us all the way to Pesach, which in turn carries us through the year and back to Purim again! The best way to accomplish this is to use Purim Katan. Purim Katan has no halachic requirements. Whatever we do to increase our joy on Purim Katan, we do because we want to, not because we have to. It is the heart-felt joy that comes from showing our love for HaShem, without a requirement, that can carry us, through multiple years, until the next Purim Katan.

 

While each festival has some joy attached to it, they also have mitzvot that are required. Because there are mitzvot attached, we do not have the ability to have joy beyond the festival because these mitzvot intentionally constrain us with requirements.

 

Purim Katan is different. There are no required mitzvot. The joy is therefore unbridled. There are no restraints to our joy.

 

The directive to rejoice and feast on Purim Katan is not explicitly written even in Shulchan Aruch  because it is of so high a level that it can only be hinted at. That is why Hakham Moshe Iserles hints, in his gloss to the Shulchan Aruch, at the joy of feasting on Purim Katan.[37]

 

On Purim Katan there are no mitzvot performed. One can therefore feast, drink, and rejoice on every free moment of the day. Thus the idea of “He who is of a good heart rejoices continually” is seen most openly on Purim Katan.

 

The Beginning Of Redemption

 

The exile of Babylon did not end until the Jews returned to Eretz Israel at the end of the 70 years. Yet, when Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were saved from the fiery furnace, Nevuchadnetzer and his ministers were very much aware and influenced by the miracle, a partial redemption also has its influence.

 

Similarly, when a Jew, in the galut, feels himself free and pursues his goals of Torah and mitzvot, then, because the “servant of the King is like a king”, and being that he is serving the King, he is truly in a state of freedom.

 

This will lead to the ultimate redemption. First we will reach the redemption of Purim, when Mordechai became great and the condition of the Jews improved, to the point that soon after the miracle of Purim the work on the Bet HaMikdash was started again (in the days of King Darius). Then we will bring close the redemption of Purim and Pesach to the ultimate redemption:

 

Micah 7:15 As in the days of your coming out of the land of Mitzrayim I will show them marvelous things.

 

Other Purim Katans

 

The Midrash states that “any man, and especially the inhabitants of a city to whom a miracle has happened, may make that day Purim“.

 

When ever there have been miraculous events which have brought about the salvation of Jewish communities or families, those who witness these events created what is known as Purim Katan, a small or special Purims.

 

Many cities have until recently had local “Purims“, also called “Purim Katan”, all commemorating the deliverance of the local community from a particular anti-Semitic ruler or group. The best known is Purim Vintz, traditionally celebrated in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, one week after the regular Purim. This commemorates the Fettmilch uprising (1616-1620), in which one Vincenz Fettmilch attempted to exterminate the Jewish community.  According to some sources, the influential Rabbi Moses Sofer (the Hatam Sofer), who was born in Frankfurt, celebrated Purim Vintz every year, even when Rabbi in Pressburg.

 

When all the other festivals are abolished (in messianic times), Purim will remain.[38]

 

Bibliography:

 

Eisenstein, Dinim, 337; G. Ki-Tov, Sefer ha-Toda’ah, 1 pt. 1 (1958), 297.

 

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 697:1

 

* * *

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 



[1] The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre referenced in the scroll of Esther.

[2] The Hebrew (קטן) katan means both ‘small’ and ‘humble’.

[3] There are seven leap years in the nineteen year metonic cycle.

[4] The Second, or intercalary, Adar, the thirteenth month of a Jewish embolismic year; it has twenty-nine days and the first Adar has then thirty. (Jewish Encyclopedia)

[5] The Metonic cycle is a period of very close to 19 years that is remarkable for being nearly a common multiple of the solar year and the synodic (lunar) month. The Greek astronomer Meton of Athens (fifth century BC) observed that a period of 19 years is almost exactly equal to 235 synodic months and, rounded to full days, counts 6,940 days. The difference between the two periods (of 19 years and 235 synodic months) is only a few hours, depending on the definition of the year.

[6]  In the Jewish calendar, the months, which follow the lunar cycle, consist of either 29 or 30 days. Twelve such months make a “lunar year” of approximately 354 days -- some 11 days short of the 365.25-day solar year. In order to align the Jewish year with the solar cycle, a thirteenth month is periodically added -- in nineteen years, there are seven such years. The Metonic cycle is used by Our Sages to regulate the 19-year cycle of intercalary months of the Hebrew calendar.

[7] According to Talmudic tradition, Purim should be celebrated in the second Adar because that was the date of the original Purim (which occurred in a leap year). The Rabbis also wanted to bring the period of the redemption of Esther closer to that of the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt celebrated in the following month of Nisan (Megillah  6b).

[8] Megillah 6b

[9] Shemot (Exodus) 19:17

[10] Esther 9:27

[11] The Mishna (lit. “repetition”), redacted circa 200 CE by Yehuda Ha-Nasi (“President Judah”), is the first written recording of the Oral Torah of the Jewish people, as championed by the Perushim (Pharisees), and as debated between 70-200 CE by the group of rabbinic sages known as the Tannaim. It is considered the first important work of Rabbinic Judaism and is a major source of Rabbinic Judaism’s religious texts: Rabbinic commentaries on the Mishnah over the three centuries after its composition were then redacted as the Gemara (Aramaic: “Tradition”).

[12] The Book of Esther, otherwise known as the Megillah, is a book of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and is the basis for the celebration of Purim. Its full text is read aloud twice during the celebration.

[13] Joseph ben Ephraim Karo, also spelled Yosef Caro, or Qaro, (Toledo, 1488 – Safed, March 24, 1575) was the author of the last great codification of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch, which is still authoritative for all Jews pertaining to their respective communities. To this end he is often referred to as HaMechaber (Hebrew: The Author‎) and as Maran (Aramaic: “Our Master”).

[14] Moses Isserles, also spelled Moshe Isserlis, (February 22, 1520 – May 11, 1572), was an eminent Ashkenazi rabbi, Talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Jewish law, entitled ha-Mapah (lit., “the tablecloth”), an inline commentary on the Shulchan Aruch (lit. “the set table”), upon which his “great reputation as a halachist and codifier rests chiefly.” He is also well known for his Darkhei Moshe commentary on the Tur. Isserles is also referred to as the Rema, (or Remo, Rama) (רמ״א), the Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Moses Isserles.

[15] In seven out of nineteen years we add an additional month as part of the month of Adar. This means that in a leap year Adar is 60 days long instead of the normal 29 and a half days. In a leap year, Purim is pushed to the second Adar so that it is always 30 days before Passover.

[16] The first Adar (Purim Katan).

[17] Hilchot Megillah 2:13. The second Adar – Purim.

[18] See the Rama’s (Hakham Moshe Iserles) conclusion of his notes to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (697:1) in which he quotes Mishlei (Proverbs) 15:15: “A good-hearted person is always celebrating.”

[19] Jewish laws of daily life.

[20] “Supplications” - Shulchan Aruch (OC 697:1)

[21] Confessions

[22] Abudraham was a rishon who lived at Seville, Spain, and who was known for his commentary on the Synagogue liturgy.

[23] A chronicle which enumerates thirty-five eventful days on which the Jewish nation either performed glorious deeds or witnessed joyful events. These days were celebrated as feast-days. Public mourning was forbidden on fourteen of them, and public fasting on all.

[24] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 697:1

[25] Midrash, Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei 9

[26] Mazal is normally translated as ‘constellation’. The term mazal comes from the root nazal, meaning to flow. A mazal is an energy flow from above for our benefit. The constellations are the servants of HaShem that He uses to guide His flow of beneficence to the earth.

[27] The Gentiles refer to this sign as Pisces.

[28] Zodiacal

[29] Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe of Prague, 1530-1612.

[30] Rabbi Levi Yishak of Berditchev, Poland, 1740-1810.

[31] 1823-1900

[32] “Ephraim U’Menashe Ki’Reuben Ve’Shimon Yiheyu Li” – Bereshit 48:5

[33] Haman’s lots determined that we celebrate Purim in the month of Adar, the month in which Moshe Rabbenu was born. Although all opinions agree that Purim is celebrated in Adar Sheni, the overwhelming joy of this period makes its presence already felt in Adar Rishon, with the celebration of Purim Katan.

[34] Rashi is an acronym for, Rabbi SHlomo Itzhaki

[35] Taanit 29a

[36] Sefer Yetzira 1:7.

[37] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (697:1)

[38] Midrash Mishlei 9:2