2000The following, oft-ignored verses describe a frequently ignored holiday. It happens to be a holiday that has a great lesson to teach us.
Does God Give Second Chances?
Numbers, Chapter 9
4. And Moses spoke to the people of Israel, that they should keep the Passover.
5. And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at evening in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did the people of Israel.
6. And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day;
7. And those men said to him, "We are defiled by the dead body of a man; Why are we kept back, so that we may not offer an offering to the Lord in his appointed season among the people of Israel?"
8. And Moses said to them, "Wait, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.
9. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,"
10. "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean because of a dead body, or is in a journey far away, he shall still keep the Passover to the Lord.
11. 'The fourteenth day of the second month at evening they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.'"
Your Torah Navigator
Moses asks God if the children of Israel may have another opportunity to offer the Passover sacrifice if they were unable to do so during the original set time. The Talmud calls this "Pesach Sheni," the second Pesach.
1. Why in this case are people given a second chance?
2. Why don't we say sorry, wait until next year?
3. Could a person who did not have a good excuse bring his offering on "Pesach Sheni?"
The Talmud in the tractate of Pesachim poses the question: Is Pesach Sheni a second chance, or is it a holiday in its own right? The issue being if you did not miss the first Pesach intentionally, but did miss it, would your observance of the second Pesach be viewed as if you had observed the first Pesach, or is it its own separate holiday. If it isn't a second chance then that means you are still accountable for having missed the first Pesach, but if it is a second chance, then your observance of the second Pesach would wipe the slate clean.
Unlike the verses in the Torah, the Talmud claims that even if one willfully missed the first Pesach, he is not only permitted, but obliged to observe the second. For this meal celebrates our origins as a community. It calls us to declare ourselves as joiners, and as individuals who belong to a greater whole. It also teaches that offering and receiving second chances is another way humans may imitate the Holy One, and it is truly a Godly thing to do. Just as the Holy One grants second chances, so, too, should we not only merit a second chance, but offer them to others as well.
Nowadays, some have the custom of celebrating Pesach Sheni by having a nice meal with matzah and maror, but often the custom of eating matzah only on the first Pesach has eliminated the custom of eating matza on Pesach Sheni. Pesach Sheni without Temple sacrifices has no modern way to be commemorated, yet the lesson of Pesach Sheni deserve a place in Jewish consciousness and Jewish observance.
What would be an appropriate activity that would capture the letter and spirit of this unique occasion in Jewish history?
Maybe Pesach Sheni should be declared a Jewish day of reconciliation where we make it a point to actively give ourselves and each other the benefit of a second chance.