BEHA’ALOSCHA (Numbers, 8:1-12:16) — “Second Chance”

One month after the Eve of Passover is known as “Pesach Sheini”.  In Temple times, this “Second Passover” provided an opportunity to those who had been unable to bring the Passover offering.  Even today, when there is no opportunity to bring that offering, Pesach Sheini teaches us an important lesson: 

“It’s now or never.” So goes the saying.  A missed opportunity can’t be made up.  As King Solomon writes, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be included.  (Ecclesiastes, 1:5)  The Talmud understands this verse as meaning that when the time for performing a Mitzvah passes, it is too late; nothing can be done to right the wrong.

Offerings had to be brought at a set time in the Temple.  Once you missed the deadline, that was it.  Too late.

There is a Mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur.  You can’t say, on the day after Yom Kippur, “Oh, I was hungry yesterday, so I ate.  I guess I’ll fast today instead.”  Or, “Oh, last week was Rosh Hashanah, and I missed the sounding of the Shofar!  I’ll just do it now!”

Sorry.  It doesn’t work.

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Some people in the desert were unhappy with this concept.

Moses was confronted by a group of people with a problem.  Due to their involvement in the Mitzvah of burying the dead, they found themselves disqualified from bringing the Passover Offering.

Every year, on the Eve of Passover, a Passover Offering was to be brought in the Temple by every family.  This offering may only be brought by someone who is in a state of ritual purity.  If, for example, a person has come in contact with the dead, he may not participate in this ceremony without first undergoing a week-long purification process.

There were people …who could not bring the Passover Offering on that day (i.e., the Eve of Passover) so they approached Moses and Aaron …”We are contaminated through contact with a dead person; why should we lose out by not bringing G-d’s offering…among the Children of Israel?”  (Numbers, 9:6-7)

“…why should we lose out?”  These devout Israelites, busy with other Mitzvahs, wanted to do MORE.  They wanted to express their gratitude to G-d for taking them out of Egypt.  They wanted to get even closer to G-d than they were already, and they felt deprived by not being able to do more.  Why couldn’t they get another chance?

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That chance was provided.  Moses brought their inquiry to G-d, and G-d gave him the Mitzvah of Pesach Sheini, the “Second Passover.”  Anyone who was either far from Jerusalem or ritually “contaminated” on the Eve of Passover was given the opportunity to present his offering a month later on the “Second Passover.”  Like the first Passover Offering a month earlier, it had to be eaten with Matzah and bitter herbs.

Most commentaries indicate that the Mitzvah of Second Passover would have been given to Moses even had these people not come to him with their request.  However, some suggest that this Mitzvah was given only because of that request.

Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen, the first Rebbe of Radomsk, (quoted in Sefer Iturei Torah) seems to take this approach.  The Rebbe points out that the Passover offering is the only Mitzvah with a deadline where we are given a second chance after that deadline is missed.  A group of people were pained over their inability to do a Mitzvah.  They desperately wanted to do this Mitzvah, pleading, “why should we lose out…” by not being able to bring the Passover offering. 

G-d’s response?  He gave them a second chance.  They wanted to do this Mitzvah, so G-d gave them the Mitzvah.

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Rabbi Yoseph Ber Soloveitchik was one of the great rabbinic geniuses of the 19th century.  He served as the Rabbi of Slutzk, a position where he suffered considerable degradation from communal “leaders” who rejected his wisdom and Torah guidance.  After he left Slutzk in 1874, he was quite certain that he would never again accept a rabbinical position.

In 1878, the city of Brisk sent a delegation to invite Rabbi Soloveitchik to serve as their rabbi.  He refused.  A very close friend, an esteemed rabbi who accompanied the delegation tried to convince him to change his mind.  He refused.  He had had enough of the rabbinate; he was not interested in the position.

Suddenly, one of his visitors cried out emotionally, “Rebbe, how can you turn us away when there are twenty-five thousand Jews in Brisk anxiously awaiting your arrival?”

Upon hearing these words, Rabbi Soloveitchik realized that he could not leave twenty-five thousand people waiting.  He had no choice.  He HAD to accept the position.

The Chofetz Chaim (Brief biographies of the Chofetz Chaim can be found here and here.  Read his obituaries in the New York Times and Time magazine here.)  used to tell the above story about Rabbi Soloveitchik.  He pointed out that Rabbi Soloveitchik refused to allow twenty-five thousand people to wait for him.  Yet, he noted, the Jewish People have been waiting for two thousand years for the Messiah to come, and he hasn’t arrived yet.  What is taking so long?  Is the Messiah any less considerate than Rabbi Soloveitchik???  Obviously, answered the Chofetz Chaim, there is a difference between the twenty-five thousand Jews of Brisk and us.  The difference is that we’re really not waiting!

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The Temple has been lying in ruins for almost two thousand years.  Two thousand Passovers without a Passover Offering.  Two thousand “Second Passovers” without a Passover Offering.  What is G-d waiting for?

Perhaps He’s waiting for us to complain, in pain and in anguish, “Why should we lose out by not bringing G-d’s offering…among the Children of Israel?”

G-d saw how badly some of the Israelites felt due to their inability to bring the Passover Offering.  As a result, He immediately answered their prayers and gave them the chance to bring it after all.  If we genuinely express our desire to bring Offerings in the rebuilt Temple, if we REALLY feel that we are losing out by not having a Temple, will He immediately answer our prayers?

What do you say we try it and find out?!

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“Let ‘Em Eat Doughnuts!” (2010) 

Some people are just never satisfied.

…Manna falls from Heaven, and it tastes like whatever you feel like eating…However, there were objections.  Suddenly, everyone got hungry:

Who will feed us meat?  We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt; the cucumbers and the melons; the leeks, onions, and garlic.  Our souls are dried out; there’s nothing to look forward to but manna!” …Ahh!  The good old days!  Make bricks, be whipped by your Egyptian taskmasters, build pyramids, and watch Jewish children thrown into theNile.  Oh, and by the way, eat all the onions you want! …

Read more.

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“G-d’s Partners” (2009)

…Israelasked G-d:  “Master of the World!  Why are You telling us to light candles before You??!!  You are the Light of the World…”

G-d responded:  “It is not that I need the light; rather I want you to give Me light just as I gave you light.  I want to raise your status before the nations of the world.  Let them say ‘Look howIsraelprovides light for He who illuminates the entire world.’ ”…

This Midrash is fascinating!  It seems to be saying that G-d gives us Commandments as a payback — You scratch My back, and I’ll scratch Yours!  What is this Midrash trying to tell us?…

Read more.

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“Who’s Your Brother?” (2006)

… the Torah expects us to live a normal lifestyle.  G-d expects us to marry and raise children.  In fact, one requirement of a High Priest is that he be married.

The one, single exception to this rule was Moses…

Miriam happened to find out about this fact, and she wasn’t happy about it…

Miriam and Aaron, loving sister and brother of Moses, discussed the matter in Moses’ presence.  This was done totally without malice.  It was an act of constructive criticism.

It was also a monumental mistake.  G-d was furious…

Read more.

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“Second Chance” (2005)

“It’s now or never.” So goes the saying.  A missed opportunity can’t be made up.  … when the time for performing a Mitzvah passes, it is too late; nothing can be done to right the wrong … There is a Mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur.  You can’t say, on the day after Yom Kippur, “Oh, I was hungry yesterday, so I ate.  I guess I’ll fast today instead.”  Or, “Oh, last week was Rosh Hashanah, and I missed the sounding of the Shofar!  I’ll just do it now!”

Sorry.  It doesn’t work… Some people in the desert were unhappy with this concept…

Read more.

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“The SEVEN Books of Moses?” (2004)

… I picked up my six-year-old nephew from Yeshiva the other day.  There were all these cute little kids, rambunctious with pent-up energy after a full day of school.  They were happy to have some free time after the discipline of a classroom.  Finally!  The pressure’s off!

There is nothing wrong with the above scenario.  Kids are kids.  The problem is when adults start acting like kids…

Read more.

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“Happy Passover . . . er . . .Chanukah!” (2003)

Aaron was distraught.

…For twelve days, leaders of the respective tribes ofIsraelpresented their gifts for the dedication of the Altar.  …Each day, a representative of a different tribe tendered his generous gift.  Every tribe was represented.   Every tribe but one.

Aaron and his fellow Levites were on the outside looking in.  They had not been included in the ceremony. …  Aaron feared that he and his tribe had been found unworthy of being part of the dedication of the Tabernacle …

Read more.

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“I’m the Greatest…and the Most Modest!” (2002)

 … if Moses was so humble, how did he manage to garner the Chutzpah to debate with G-d? … And what about the way he spoke to the Pharaoh?  Moses showed throughout his career that he was a man to be reckoned with.  Not exactly a wimp! …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on June 16, 2005 at 6:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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