Adar, the Seventh of

views updated


ADAR, THE SEVENTH OF , anniversary of both the birth and death of Moses according to talmudic tradition (Meg. 13b; Kid. 38a, etc.). The date is derived from a comparison of biblical dates (Deut. 34:8; Josh. 1:11; 3:3; 4:19; Jos., Ant., 4:327, gives the first day of Adar as the day of Moses' death). In Oriental communities it became a day of fasting and commemoration for the pious because of the belief that a spark of the soul of Moses is found in every righteous person. In medieval Egypt the date signaled a central event in the life of the community. During the preceding Hanukkah, messengers were sent to all Jews in the area to invite them to come to celebrations at the ancient synagogue in the village of *Dumuh near Cairo which, according to tradition, was erected 40 years before the destruction of the First Temple on the spot where Moses had prayed before going to Pharaoh. The seventh of Adar was a day of prayer and supplication. The eighth was a day of celebration, apparently of a "carnival" nature. To insure the serious aspect of the festivities, the rabbis of Egypt enacted certain prohibitions. Women must be accompanied by their husband, brother, or grown son; men and women were separated in seating; dancing, singing, and the putting on of plays or "shadow shows" (a sort of puppet show) were forbidden. While this observance was later discontinued, Sephardi Jews still light candles for the "ascension of the souls of the righteous" on the seventh of Adar. Some communities recite special piyyutim on this date and also on Simḥat Torah, when the biblical account of Moses' death is read in the synagogue. Among these are "Cry! O Jochebed, with a bitter, hard voice! Sinai, Sinai, where is Moses?!" (Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 371); "Be graceful to us, O Lord because of the merit of Moses" (ibid., 3 (1930), 416); and "Happy art thou, O Mount Abarim, over all the high mountains" (ibid., 1 (1924), 8446). In 17th-century Turkey and Italy (and later also in Northern Egypt) it became customary in some circles to observe this date as a fast day, and to recite portions from a special tikkun (selected passages from Scripture, Mishnah, and Zohar), compiled by Samuel *Aboab of Venice. In Eastern and Central Europe, as well as in the United States, this day was observed by the members of the ḥevra kaddisha as a fast day which was terminated by a special banquet at which new members were admitted and a new board elected. After the Minḥah service in the synagogue, the rabbis used to eulogize Moses and all famous rabbis and Jewish scholars who had passed away during the preceding year. The day is still widely celebrated in Orthodox communities. In Israel, it has been officially designated as the day for commemorating the death of Israeli soldiers whose last resting place is unknown.


M. Hakohen, Seder Zayin Adar, Mekorot, Minhagot Seliḥot u-Tefillot (1961); Ashtor, Toledot, 2 (1951), 385.