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We know that the phrase ולכפרת פשע is added to the Musaf Amidah of Rosh Chodesh during a leap year. However, in most minyanim I've davened in, the custom seems to be that one only adds it from Cheshvan through Adar II.

If we are adding this phrase to make 13 expressions, equivalent to the 13 months of a leap year, why do some communities only say it through Adar II, rather than for the rest of the year?

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There are three different minhagim (according to Kaf HaChayim) for the timing of this addition: only during Adar 2, all year long (Cheshvan to Elul), and from Cheshvan to Adar 2.

Rabbi Shelomo Min-HaHar z"l (former rabbi of the Bayit VaGan community in Jerusalem) explains that this last minhag (which you're asking about) is due to the fact that from Nissan onward one cannot declare that year as a leap year, so that's when the addition of "ולכפרת פשע" stops.

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Given that there are 3 possibilities as brought down in the Mishna Brurah 423 or the Kaf Hachaim. However, the prevalent minhag among Ashkenazim is the one that you mention.

הוספת "ולכפרת פשע" בשנה מעוברת

אבל המנהג הרווח הוא, לפי הספרדים כל השנה, ולפי האשכנזים מתחילת השנה עד חודש העבור.

The prevalent minhag among the Sefardim is the entire year and among the Ashkenazim until the leap month (Adar II)

This explains the Ashkenaz minhag rationale.

Since Adar II is the last month of the year when counting by months, and Rosh Chodesh Nisan is the first month then the minhagim of Rosh Chodesh would follow that way of counting. Thus, the addition of ולכפרת פשע would end at the "end of the year" by months.

Even if you count by the change in the year number (Tishrei), by the end of Adar II, the leap month has been added and the months have been reset to synchronize with the seasons. If the Sanhedrin were to determine the leap year, the end of Adar would be the absolute last time it could have been done. As a result, we have now added the thirteenth month and the brachos for the months now revert to the normal 12. Once Rosh Chodesh Nisan has passed (without an extra month having been set to synchronize it) a leap year cannot be decreed until the following Adar.

It should be noted that the gemara mentions that Chizkiyahu decreed a second Adar at Rosh Chodesh Nisan and the Chachamim stated that he was wrong to do so. See Sanhedrin 12b.

The question would more likely be "why start saying it in Tishrei rather than the previous Nisan" if you count by Nisan as the first month.

The reason for that, would be that the earliest simanim that would indicate the the year might be a leap year would not show up until Tishrei (Rosh Hashana for the count of years). I remember seeing a reference that he chachamim would not discuss a potential leap year until Tishrei. As a result, we do not start saying ולכפרת פשע until after Tishrei. Note that since Tishrei is Rosh Hashannah, we do not have that part of musaf in Tishrei.

  • I'm aware that Adar II is the last month of the year, per the seder given in Parshat Bo (Chodesh Aviv=Nissan) and Ester (Chodesh 12=Chodesh Adar). – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 8 '16 at 20:11
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt I probably did not express myself correctly. I meant that one reason for the Ahkenaz minhag ending at Adar II is because it is the last month according to the count of months in Bo. I did not mean to imply that you did not know that. I apologize for giving the wrong impression. – sabbahillel Mar 8 '16 at 21:22
  • I did not construe as much, it just seems a poor rationale to follow for the nusach, IMO – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 8 '16 at 21:23
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt I edited the post and I gave two reasons for the Ashkenaz minhag, one based on brachos of Rosh Chodesh following the months and one because Adar is the last time a leap year can be made during the current year. – sabbahillel Mar 8 '16 at 21:36

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