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Devar Torah - Emor

Friday, 8 May, 2020 - 3:15 pm

Pesach Sheni: Enough is Enough!

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This Friday is Pesach Sheni. What is the relevance of Pesach Sheni to all of us today in the midst of the Coronavirus?

What originally brought about the establishment of Pesach Sheni? A year after Yitzias Mitzrayim Hashem instructed the Jewish people to bring the Korban Pesach offering on the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan, and to eat it that evening, roasted over the fire, together with matzah and maror, as they had done the previous year just before they left Mitzrayim.

“There were, however, certain persons who had become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, and could not, therefore, prepare the Korban Pesach on that day. They approached Moshe and Aaron . . . and they said: ‘. . . Why should we be deprived, and not be able to present Hashem’s offering in its time, amongst the B’nei Yisroel?’” (Bamidbar 9:6-7)

In response to their plea, Hashem established the 14th of Iyar as a day for the “Second Pesach” (Pesach Sheni) for anyone who was unable to bring the offering on its appointed time in the previous month.

Because there was a commandment to celebrate Pesach in the Midbar and it required ritual purity, those that were not pure implored Moshe for an opportunity to fulfill the commandment. It is strictly because of their heartfelt request that we have the Yom Tov of Pesach Sheni and we don't say Tachanun on this day etc.

The Rebbe asks why they didn't begin their complaint to Moshe Rabbenu by first emphasising the obligation to bring the Korban Pesach  and then point out that they were impure. Based firstly on their obligation to bring the Korban Pesach they could then point out that they were impure and ask Moshe to help them fulfill the mitzvah. Why did they begin first with mentioning their impurity?

The Rebbe answers that there is a deeper meaning and a profound lesson to be learned from the parsha of Pesach Sheni.  The Korban Pesach is different from any other type of Korban. in general there are three types of korbonos. There is an individual korban which is upon an individual to bring when required for a thanksgiving, free will or a sin offering.  They do not have time restrictions. There are also communal Korbonos that are brought for the entire congregation at specific times. They are brought to the Bais HaMikdash only through appointed representatives Kohanim (accompanied by Leviim and Yisraelim (Anshe Maamad)) of the community that do it on behalf of the entire congregation.  There is one unique Korban, the Korban Pesach that is a combination of both types, individual and communal. Hashem commanded that every individual to bring it in a specific time together like a communal sacrifice together with all the Jewish people.

Therefore the Korban Pesach is an individual korban incumbent upon every Jew to bring individually.  At the same time it's also a communal offering that the entire Jewish people bring at the same specific time.

Now we can understand the heartfelt request of all of the Jews who were impure to Moshe Rabbenu. The meaning of their question was that Hashem established an order of the world in such a fashion that amongst the billions of people alive that it's not possible that occasionally someone should not pass away G-d forbid, in particular when were speaking about an entire nation.  Just as each and every day there are new Jewish people born so too it's not possible that there will not be the opposite in the days of preparation before Pesach. Therefore there is an inherent contradiction between the way that Hashem fashion the world requiring people to become impure to fulfill the mitzvah of burial and the mitzvah of Korban Pesach which requires ritual purity.  Both are necessary according to the Torah.

Because of this  inherent contradiction Hashem  recognized their complaint and answered that they will be allowed to fulfill the mitzvah of Korban Pesach. For this reason the Yom Tov  of Pesach Sheni was created.

There's a deep lesson for all of us. Many ask that on one hand Hashem desires that the Jewish people to be a holy nation separate with a different way of life than the rest of the world. The Jewish people keep the Shabbos, eat kosher and do the mitzvahs as commanded. On the other hand Hashem put the Jewish people in a situation that requires them to dedicate many hours to worldly activities that take away from learning Torah. It takes away hours from mothers to be dedicated to education that's fitting for their children because of their responsibilities. It seems to compromise their ability to build true Jewish homes instilled with the values of the Torah and mitzvos.

Although a Jew is in the physical world that Hashem created, Hashem desired that he should act according to the Torah which is higher than the world.

This is the lesson from the answer that Hashem gave with regard to Pesach Sheni. Even if it appears  that to be in the world and to fulfill the Torah and do mitzvos well at the same time is something great and difficult;  especially when we speak about a mitzvah that comes only once a year it depends entirely on one’s desire. When something happens that makes it impossible and an inherent contradiction to both live in the world and do the mitzvah and it seems like a lost cause, we need to know that it is not a lost cause. Each one of us needs to know that if we really want in truth to fulfill the Torah and do the mitzvos and we cry out and complain about it to Hashem, Hashem will create the opportunity that he can do it and nothing will be lost.

Even if an entire new Yom Tov of Pesach Sheni needs to be created to afford that opportunity, Hashem will do it for those who truly desire to do the right thing.

The lesson of Pesach Sheni  is there for each one of us when it seems like it's impossible to be dedicated to the proper education of our children or to live  the life of a Jewish family as we know it should be lived. Maybe we feel that we can't learn the Torah the way it really should be learnt and therefore  our lives feel like an inherent contradiction because it doesn’t fit with what this world demands of us and of our time. We need to realize that it's only our imagination. We only need to arouse our will desire and  strong decision that this is what we truly want. Each one of us can and should say to ourselves that it's not impossible and that I, whether a man, a woman, elderly or young, should be among the Jewish people to fulfill Hashem's commands. We will then see that Hashem will give us the opportunity we desire each person in their particular way to accomplish.

There are those that ask why didn't Hashem create Pesach Sheni in the first place since Hashem already knew that there would be people that would become impure.  The same question could be asked that since Hashem knows that learning Torah and doing mitzvos within the world and living the way we should would be difficult why didn't He create the world in such a way that it would be easier.

To this the answer of Pesach Sheni teaches us that as long as it doesn't bother the Jew that he can't fulfill the Mitzvah there is no opportunity. It's only when he arouses an inner will and cries out, “Why should we be deprived?”; it is then that Hashem provides Pesach Sheni a new opportunity for a mitzvah is opened up to overcome those difficulties of the world. He is blessed in worldly matters and together with this is able to fulfill Hashem's will. Hashem wants that the Torah and mitzvos should be precious in the eyes of every Jew.  The trials and the tribulations bring out and prove how precious it is to each and everyone of us to fulfill Hashem's will through fulfilling the Torah and mitzvos.

This same challenge applies to the time we find ourselves in the midst of the coronavirus. On one hand we need to take precautions for ourselves, our families and in our communities because it's a  matter of pikuach nefesh. At the same time there are mitzvos that we are not able to do during the time of quarantine such as davening in a minyan, answering Kaddish and Barachu and hearing Krias HaTorah etc. When they are so precious to us and we call out “Why should we be deprived?” we cry out “Hashem you created the corona virus. You also require us to daven in a minyon etc. Why should we be deprived?! End this pandemic and bring Moshiach now”. When we truly desire the opportunity to fulfill these mitzvos surely Hashem will provide  whatever it takes so that that with good health and well-being we will all be able to break through the quarantine as well as the entire galus, and return to live the way Hashem desires with the coming of Moshiach now.

A Good Shabbos

(Adapted from a Sicha delivered on the 14th of Iyar, Pesach Sheni 5725-1965)

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