Traditional 9 Adar Customs (Minhagim)
The 9th of Adar is a fast day (ta’anit) (even though it has never been commemorated as such), as Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) wrote: “These are the days that tragedies befell our forefathers and it is worthy to fast on them…. On the 9th of (Adar) Beit Shammai and Hillel clashed” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Laws of Fast, 580).
There are several traditional alternative ways of commemorating a fast day without actually fasting:
- Fasting from destructive speech (ta’anit dibbur). Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chafetz Chayim, 1838-1933, Poland) wrote that whoever feels the need to accept upon themselves a fast, it is preferable that they should do this by fasting from speech and not through fasting (from food). This is often done as a means of abstaining from gossip and evil speech (Smerit HaLashon, Sha’ar Tevunah, chapter 2, Mishnah Berurah Orach Chayim 571:2).
- Action: Commit to fasting from evil speech and gossip. Click here for further resources.
- Giving charity (tzedakah). Rabbi Abraham ben David (the Ra’avad, 1125-1198, Provence, cited in the Rosh Ta’anit 1:16) stated that one is also allowed to give charity (tzedakah) to the poor instead of accepting upon oneself to fast.
- Action: Commit to contributing at least $18 to 9 Adar or to any organization you feel promotes constructive conflict. Consider making this donation in honor of someone who has been a rodef shalom (pursuer of peace) model for you. And consider raising money for a local mediation center or other related community organization. Click here for further resources.
- Self-Reflection (teshuvah). Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (The Rambam,1135-1204, Spain, Egypt) writes (Laws of Fasts 1:1-2, 4) “It is a positive Torah commandment to cry out and to sound trumpets in the event of any difficulty that arises which affects the community….This practice is one of the paths of repentance (teshuvah)…”
- Action: Commit to taking 18 minutes to reflect either by yourself or with another person, on how you have been managing a particular conflict in your personal, professional or communal life, and what might be done to manage it in a more constructive manner. Click here for further resources.
- Pray (tefilah). Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (The Rambam, 1135-1204, Spain, Egypt) writes (Laws of Fasts 1: 2, 4) “On these fast days, we cry out in prayer and offer supplications.”
- Action: Commit to reciting (or composing) a special prayer that inspires you to engage more mindfully and constructively in conflict. Consider doing this either as part of a formal prayer service or before or after engaging someone whom you have been in conflict with.
- Cook/Eat (se’udah). Whether or not you decide to fast on this day, you can commemorate it by the foods you eat marking the end of the day. What may be traditional foods to mark this day though? The Talmud tells of a debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua regarding the eighteen decrees enacted by Beit Shammai on the 9th of Adar. According to Rabbi Eliezer, these decrees were positive and can be likened to “A basket full of cucumbers and gourds: a man puts mustard [grain] therein and it holds it.” While according to Rabbi Joshua they were negative and can be likened to “A tub full of honey: if one puts pomegranates and nuts in it, the tub overflows” (Talmud, Shabbat 153b). Therefore, you are welcome to commemorate this day by cooking, eating or writing a creative recipe for these foods or others that you think can inspire constructive conflict.
- Action: Commit to writing a recipe, cooking or eating foods that reflect or inspire constructive conflict. Click here for further resources.