Terumah/Rosh Chodesh Adar: The Beauty of Adar ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

This week ushers in the month of Adar in all its glory. Like all the months of the Jewish calendar, the name Adar is derived from the Babylonian calendar — its original name was Addaru. Based on the interchangeability of the Aramaic ALEPH with the Hebrew HEY, the name Adar seems to be correlated to the Hebrew word hadar. In this essay, we will explore the difference between the word hadar (“glory”) and its twin sister hod (“splendor”). In doing so we will also discover the connection alluded to by Kabbalists between the month of Adar and the tribe of Yosef.

An anonymous work entitled Sefer HaKushyot (from the 13th century school of Chassidei Ashkenaz) explains that Adar is called so because during that month the hadar of the trees manifests itself (because Adar heralds the coming of spring), or because that was the month in which the glory of the Jewish People — Moshe Rabbeinu — was born. What does hadar mean? Rabbi Shlomo of Urbino (a 16th century Italian scholar) in his work Ohel Moed (a lexicon of Hebrew synonyms) writes that hadar and adar are two of ten synonymous words that refer to the concept of beauty: yofihodhadaradar, na’eh (naaveh), zivziztzvishefer (shapir), and tov. (Interestingly, Ziv — which literally means “radiance” — is the original name of the month of Iyar, which, like Adar, is partially in the spring.)

The Vilna Gaon explains the difference between hod and hadar by way of an analogy to astronomy. He explains that hod denotes self-beauty, just as the sun’s light express the essence of the sun. Hadar, on the other hand, denotes reflected beauty, just as the moon’s light is not inherent to the moon, but only appears to come from the moon. The true source of moonlight is the sun. Rabbi Moshe Shapiro (1935-2017) adds that in Aramaic the word hadar means to “return back”, which is an apt description of the moon, which reflects sunlight. The moon takes what it receives from the sun and reflects back the same light. Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) cites Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Luzzatto (1800-1865) who wrote that the word hadar (“glory” or “honor”) is related to the Aramaic word for “going backwards” because he who beholds something in its full glory is taken aback by its grandeur and reflexively recoils in awe.

The Vilna Gaon further explains that the term hadrat panim is the beauty of one’s facial ambiance and is visible to the naked eye. The term hod, on the other hand, refers to a person’s inner good (i.e. morality), which is reflected in one’s facial ambiance. Moshe Rabbeinu attained a spiritual level known as karnei hod (“rays of glory”) in which his inner goodness shone through in a very physical way (see Rashi to Ex. 34:34). As we will see below, Yehoshua remained with only hadar.

The Malbim explains that hadar refers to outward beauty. An etrog (citron) tree is called an eitz hadar (“beautiful tree”) because its fruits are outwardly beautiful. The word hod, on the other hand, refers to the concept of inner beauty. A person to whom the adjective hod is applied is somebody whose beauty lies in his character traits. He is humble, merciful, just, etc. Hod cannot be seen with the eye. It can only be beheld by the intellect. When Gd tells Moshe that his successor will be Yehoshua, He commands Moshe, “Give from your hod to him” (Num. 27:20). This does not refer to the exchange of any physical gift that Moshe possessed and should pass on to his protégé. Rather, it refers to the unseeable spiritual beauty which Moshe had, that he was to somehow transmit to his student. Rabbi Simcha Maimon explains that this is the meaning of the Talmudic adage “The face of Moshe is like the sun, and the face of Yehoshua is like the moon” (Bava Batra 75a): Yehoshua received his inner hod from Moshe in the same way that the moon receives its hod from the sun.

Hod makes up the root of the word hodaah (“admission” or “thanksgiving”). This is because the concept of hodaah is that one recognizes what he knows deep down to be true, and allows it to come to the forefront by verbally expressing it. In this again, we see that hod refers to that which lies underneath the surface.

The Midrash Sifrei (to Deut. 33:17) understands that the term hod refers specifically to the quality of kingship, possibly because a king assumes inherent powers. When Moshe prophetically blessed the Tribe of Yosef on his deathbed he said, “Like a firstborn ox, hadar is to him.” (Deut. 33:17). This means that the first leader of the post-Mosaic period will come from the Tribe of Yosef. Indeed, Yehoshua — Moshe’s successor — was a descendant of Yosef’s son Ephraim. In this passage, Moshe does not use the word hod,which implies the glory attached to the full sovereignty of kingship. Rather, he used the word hadar, which implies only the outer trappings of kingship, but not the full monty. For this reason, Moshe is called a king (Zevachim 102a), while Yehoshua — as important a leader as he was — is never explicitly called a king.

The Moshe-Yehoshua paradigm itself mirrors the Yaakov-Yosef model. Yaakov’s entire lifestory foreshadowed all the future events of Yosef’s life. In fact, Yosef is the quintessential descendant of Yaakov (see Genesis 37:2) and even looked exactly like him (see Rashi)! Yet, Yaakov is one of the three forefathers, while Yosef is merely a reflection of that potential. Yosef was hadar, but not hod. For this reason, the month of Adar is associated with the Tribe of Yosef, because in that month Moshe died and his successor Yehoshua took up the reins.

The Bible (I Chron. 29:25) tells that when King Solomon ascended the throne, G-d granted him Hod Malchut (“royal glory). However, when Daniel (Dan. 11:20) describes the glory of the future Hasmonean Kingdom, he uses a similar, but different, phrase: Hadar Malchut (“royal glory”). Why does the Bible use the word hadar when describing the Hasmonean Kingdom, and not the word hod like Solomon’s Kingdom? Based on the above, Rabbi Simcha Maimon explains that the term Hod Malchut refers to somebody to whom the kingship inherently belongs, so it is applied to King Solomon, an integral link in the chain of the Davidic Dynasty. The Hasmoneans, on other hand, did not inherently deserve the kingship. On the contrary, they were not of royal stock, but of priestly descent. Therefore, the Hasmoneans were not in essence kings; they only appeared to be kings on the outside. For this reason, Hasmonean kingship is described as Hadar Malchut, the word hadar representing something which is only true in practice, but not in essence.

The Bible in many places speaks of G-d possessing hod and hadar. Based on our definitions the Malbim explains that His hadar is manifest in the way He interacts with creation and reveals Himself in the world. However, G-d’s hod is something hidden which we cannot begin to understand because it speaks to something deeper than our ability to perceive. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) puts it, G-d’s hadar is His role in the world, while His hod is His essence.

What is fascinating about this is that the Bible in several places (e.g., Psalms 104:1, Job 40:10, Proverbs 31:25) speaks of G-d as “wearing” hod and/or hadar. Similarly, the Midrash says that when the Jews were exiled from the Holy Land to Babylonia, they wore their clothes until they reached Adullam, whereupon the gentiles of that city came out and stripped the Jews of their clothing, leaving them naked and embarrassed. The Midrash finds a Scriptural allusion to this in the verse, “Gone from the Daughter of Zion is all her hadar” (Lamentations 1:6). The word hadar, in this context, is understood to mean “clothing”. These sources tell us that there is a fundamental connection between glory/honor and clothing, but for that, you will have to wait until next week’s article.

Tazria/Parshas HaChodesh: Old Month versus New Month ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein


This Shabbat we read Parshat HaChodesh, the last of four special Torah readings before Pesach. Parshat HaChodesh establishes Nissan as the first of the months of the Biblical Year. This is especially germane because this year we read Parshat HaChodesh on the day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. So we discuss the first month of the year on the first day of that month. In this essay we will discuss two Hebrew words that both mean “month” — chodesh and yerach. We will strive to find the difference in their etymology and how/why they are used in different contexts.

Although some say that chodesh is Aramaic, while yerach is Hebrew, others offer a more sophisticated approach. The Malbim and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) provide a penetrating insight as to the etymology of the word chodesh. They explain that the primary meaning of the word chodesh is not “month” but rather “beginning of the month.” In this way we find that the word chodesh appears in the Bible when one would otherwise expect the phrase Rosh Chodesh to appear (see Num. 28:14, I Sam 20:18, and Isa. 1:13). The word chodesh, therefore, primarily refers to the concept of chadash (“new”) or chiddush (“novel” or “renewal”), and specifically denotes the novelty of the month. That chodesh also refers to the idea of a “month” is only a secondary, borrowed meaning.

What, then, does the word yerach mean? Malbim explains that the word yerach simply denotes a period of thirty days — regardless of whether or not those thirty days represent an astronomical event related to the moon. However, in truth, the word yerach is actually related to yareach (“moon”), whose lunar movements help us define the duration of a month. Based on this we may posit that while chodesh denotes the beginning of the month, yerach denotes the entire month as a whole.

Rabbi Aharon Marcus (1843-1916) writes that the word yerach is related to the Hebrew word oraiach (“path”) and to the Aramaic word itrachish (“it happened”). He does not explain the thematic link between these words, but to me it seems fairly clear. The word chodesh is related to the idea of “new,” and alludes to G-d’s role in administering the world, in which He introduces new occurrences that are outside of the normal system of nature. We call these events “miracles”. For this reason, the first of the months is Nissan, whose very meaning is “miracles” because the Exodus from Egypt, one of the greatest miracles of all time, happened then. In general, we use the word chodesh colloquially, because we wish to focus on G-d and His awesome miracles. On the other hand, the word yerach is less commonly used because it is related to the word for “path” and does not connote anything “happening” beyond the regular system of nature. When we refer to a month with the word yerach, we refer to time running its course in a natural way, as if to say that it just “happened,” seemingly without G-d’s miraculous intervention.

Rabbi Hirsch offers another way of differentiating between chodesh and yerach which fits with our modelHe argues that the word chodesh denotes the idea of a month as simply a unit of time (measured by the amount of time it takes the moon’s light to disappear and reappear). In this way, the word chodesh is transcendental, or abstract. On the other hand, he explains, the word yerach connotes the month as a vehicle for maturation. That is, the word yerach implies a physical manifestation of the passage of time — more specifically, in the growth of produce. According to this understanding, the word yerach refers to a month in a very tangible or physical context, a month that is bound to the rules of nature.

Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe (1530-1612), the author of the Levush, writes that the custom is to refer to the month on a divorce document (a get) as a yerach, and on a marriage document (a ketubah) as a chodesh. He explains that this is because the word yerach is associated with being sent away, geresh yerachim (Deut. 33:14), while the word chodesh is associated with something new, and marrying a woman is called “taking a new wife” (Deut. 24:5). (It is also unfortunately true that many marriages end when the novelty wears off and a couple is left in a stale rut. The hope that this will not plague the newlyweds is reflected in the word chodesh that appears in the ketubah.)