What is the Jewish view of auspicious times and astrological signs? Interestingly, the mystical tradition teaches that each month of the Hebrew year corresponds to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and a sense (kabalah speaks of 12 senses). The sign of this month, Adar, is the “fish”; the tribe is Naftali; the sense is laughter. It is a unique and auspicious time which is described as “the month that was transformed from sorrow into joy.”
The Talmud states “Just as when Av arrives, we decrease in happiness, when the month of arrives, we augment with happiness.” This idea finds expression in Jewish law with some notable recommendations for daily life. One of these: if someone has a court case in Av, he should try to postpone it- for Av is known as a period of “bad mazal for the Jewish people. Conversely, one should specifically schedule a hearing or business deal in the month of Adar because it is a month of “good mazal.”
So when Av enters, we diminish our happiness with customary mourning rituals- by not eating meat, drinking wine, etc. From the moment Adar enters, we increase our happiness. The question is why? A common understanding is that the festival of Purim occurred then, when the Jewish people were saved. But this doesn’t explain the instruction for the entire month.
The commentary on the abovementioned Talmud provides a simple but perplexing explanation that, when further explored, provides insight into the origin of our good fortune: “these are days of miracles and happiness for the Jewish people: Purim and Pesach.” The obvious question is: what does Pesach have to do with anything? The Talmud is speaking about the month of Adar; Pesach occurred in the following month.
To find an answer, lets return to the wording of the expression “just as we decrease in happiness…so too when Adar arrives, we increase in happiness.” We can infer from this phraseology that the same dynamic creating a “negative mazal” in Av creates a positive mazal in Adar; by understanding the cause for sadness in Av, we can discover the reason for joy in Adar.
Traveling through Jewish history there are two notable reasons for the mourning period in Av. The first is Tisha b’Av, which marks the destruction of both temples- a day of “double pain.” The second suggests that this was already a “cursed day.” It began with the Biblical account of the spies who, after scoping out the Promised Land, returned in tears with a discouraging report. At that time, G-d related “If so… you will have something to cry about on this day.”[This does not mean that the destruction was predestined. Rather, if there was to be any negative decree or liability in the future, it would have a greater chance of manifesting during this month. As the Talmud puts it “bad things unfold during bad times; good things during favorable times.”]
What emerges then is that the 9th of Av was simply an outcome of an already established fateful month. Applying this same logic to Adar, we can assume the opposite: that Adar was already established as an opportune month. But what event in history transformed this month?
A common understanding is the miracle of Purim. But the Talmud’s account of the background behind this festival offers a different perspective and points toward an often overlooked day in the Jewish calendar: After the plan to exterminate the entire Jewish people was set, Haman cast lots (purim) to determine in which month to execute. “When the lot fell out in Adar, he confidently rejoiced, knowing that Moses, their leader and redeemer passed away then. Yet he failed to realize that it was also the month that Moses was born.”
Moses was born on the 7th of Adar. He passed away on the same date. Yet the above passage relates that “the auspicious event of his birthday was enough to override the day of his death.” Furthermore, the birth of Moses changed this month into a month of good fortune and aided in the miracle of Purim. From another angle, it was not the salvation on Purim that led to Adar being a month of “good mazal.” It was the strong mazal of Adar that led to the salvation of Purim.
We can now understand the commentary’s reference to Pesach when explaining the cause for increased happiness during Adar. For the starting point and ultimate cause for the deliverance of Purim and Pesach is the same- the birth of our leader Moses. This reveals that there are some events whose influence we commemorate on a specific day in the Jewish calendar. There are other unique events which have the power to transform entire months for all generations.