Parshat Beha’aloscha 5784: Pesach Sheini, In Our Times?

Shalom Friends;

Our Parsha Beha’alotcha vort is being sponsored by Jonathan and Debbie Sassen of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated lilui nishmas Jonathan’s mother Tova bat Yaakov and dedicated for the safety of the Chayalim and the liberation of all remaining hostages and that they’re brought home whole physically, mentally and spiritually as well as for the good health and security of kol Am Yisrael. To the Sassen family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Beha’aloscha 5784: Pesach Sheini, In Our Times?

by Moshe Burt

One Perek into Parshat Beha’aloscha, Torah relates:

“Moshe spoke to the B’nei Yisrael to make the Pesach offering. They made the Pesach offering in the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month, in the afternoon, in the…Sinai; according to everything that Hashem had commanded… There were men who had been made impure by a human corpse and could not make the Pesach offering on that day; so they approached… Moshe and… Aaron on that day. Those men said to him, ‘We are impure through a human corpse; why should we be left out by not offering Hashem’s offering in its appointed time among the B’nei Yisrael?'”

“Moshe said to them, ‘Stand and I will hear what Hashem will command you.”

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael, saying: If any man will become impure through a corpse or [will be] on a distant road… he shall make the Pesach offering for Hashem, in the second month, on the fourteenth day in the afternoon, shall they make it; with matzot and bitter herbs shall they eat it.'” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 9, posukim 4-11 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary, page 99-101)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin entitles an entire section of his discussion of our Parshat Beha’aloscha: “Second Chances” regarding offering of the Korban Pesach and eating matzot and bitter herbs for those of Am Yisrael who need in his sefer, “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar (pages 71-78) :

As the first anniversary of Yetziyot Mitzrayim approaches, Hashem commands Moshe to instruct the nation concerning the rituals of the the Korban Pesach.

The people comply, offering the Korban on the afternoon of the fourteenth day of Nissan.

A number of individuals, however, approach Moshe with a problem. “We are tamei, ritually impure [and are thus unable to offer the Korban Pesach]…, why should we be diminished by not offering Hashem’s Korban in its appointed time in the midst of the B’nei Yisrael?” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 9, posuk 7)

When Moshe turns to Hashem for direction, Hashem responds by introducing the concept of Pesach Sheini, a second Pesach… (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 9, posukim 10 – 11)

While the full observances of the festival of Pesach are not repeated on Pesach Sheini, the occasion provides a “second chance” for those who were unable to offer the Korban Pesach on Pesach itself to do so a month later. Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 9, posukim 9 – 12)

[So] why does Hashem create a second chance… only in conjunction with… Pesach? The law does not provide, for example, a Yom Kippur Sheini for those unable to fast on Yom Kippur, nor… a Succot Sheini for those who cannot sit in the Succah on Succot.

Further, if Pesach Sheini is warranted, why is it not included in the Halachic code from the beginning? Why doesn’t Hashem instruct the nation concerning the laws of Pesach Sheini when He first introduces the Korban Pesach on the eve of Yetziyot Mitzrayim? Why wait until those who cannot participate on Pesach object?

Why limit the observance of Pesach Sheini only to those who are ritually impure or who are at a distance from the Mishkan/Beit Hamikdash at the time of the Korban Pesach? What of those individuals who are constrained from taking part in the Korban Pesach for other legitimate reasons? Is someone too ill to participate on Pesach… included in the opportunities offered by Pesach Sheini? If not, why not? If so, why does the Torah not say so?

Note: Rabbi Goldin discusses Pesach Sheini both in the context of one wishing to convert to Judaism, and Rambam’s formulation regarding individuals legitimately constrained for any reason from participating in the Korban Pesach and who are, therefore, obligated to offer a korban on Pesach Sheini. This author will take up both in future vorts.

Rabbi Goldin continues his discussion by explaining the why of the exclusivity of the Pesach Sheini, the “second chance” to participate in the Korban Pesach which does not occur with any other Yom Tov and the question of limited participation in Pesach Sheini (ibid) :

So elemental is the Korban Pesach, so fundamental to our identity and experience as Jews, that Hashem provides a second chance for those who are initially unable to participate. Pesach is, after all, where we begin as a people. No one should miss out on the yearly renewal of our shared affiliation. No one should be excluded as we re-create our first steps together.

The journey toward Judaism opens with the step of belonging. Each year as the journey is re-affirmed, each member of the community must be given the opportunity to join.

As noted above, the Torah seems to limit participation in Pesach Sheini to those who are ritually impure or at a distance from the Mishkan/Beit Hamikdash on Pesach. The Rabbis… interpret the Biblical mandate much more extensively. On two sentences in the Mishna, they increase the reach of Pesach Sheini:

An individual who is ritually impure or at a distance and did not perform the first [Korban Pesach] shall perform the second [on Pesach Sheini].

[An individual who otherwise] erred or was legitimately restrained from performing the first [Korban Pesach] shall perform the second [on Pesach Sheini]. (Rabbi Goldin citing Mishna Pesachim 9:1)

The legal verdict is clear. The laws of Pesach Sheini apply not only to those who are impure or at a distance, but to all those who are legitimately constrained [adjective: forced, compelled, or obliged] from participating in the Korban Pesach at its appointed time.

…The Rambam is… emphatic: both the convert and the young adult are obligated in the rituals of Pesach Sheini. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Korban Pesach 5:7) Even individuals who were not practicing Jews at the time of Pesach are to be given the opportunity to affiliate with the community once such affiliation becomes possible.

Finally, we turn to our last remaining question concerning Pesach Sheini. Why aren’t the laws of this festival of second chances included in the Halachic code from the outset? Why does Hashem delay the transmission of these edicts until objections are raised by those unable to participate on Pesach itself?

A fascinating, well-known answer to this question is suggested in the Midrash and quoted by Rashi. Hashem deliberately delays the transmission of the laws of Pesach Sheini in order to reward the individuals who approach Moshe concerning the Korban Pesach. So great is the merit of these individuals that Hashem allows a section of the Halachic code to develop as a result of their efforts. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sifrei, Bamidbar 68)

In our times, where there is no Beit Hamikdash, and therefore no literal Korban Pesach, where we basically are all tamei, in one way or another, and where Matzah comes to symbolize the Korban Pesach, those who are unable, for reasons such as hospitalization, errant travel connections (to Israel or to locations in Chutz L’Aretz) where they are unable to reach their destination in time for the Seder, etc., or if kidnapped, held hostage for ransom before Pesach and freed, or miraculously escaped, before Pesach Sheini, would they celebrate Pesach Sheini in our days? This latter question relates to the hostages seized by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and their so-called “innocent Gazan civilians” collaborators and held captive to this day.

It would seem that today, in all of these cases, since we lack the Beit Hamikdash, and, for whatever reason, we don’t today Schect the Korban Pesach, if one has missed the Pesach Seder, there seems no recourse today to Schect the Korban Pesach and eat Matzot on Pesach Sheini.

This brings us to the question of how did our Chayalim celebrate Pesach this year during the war in Gaza against Hamas and their terrorist cohorts [noun: a group or company]?

In a conversation with Rabbi Tully Bryks of Ramat Beit Shemesh, he suggested that the Chayalim at the front may have celebrated Pesach in an abbreviated way with Matzot and the four cups of wine, while in a constant state relating to Maror — the bitter herbs of battle.

Rabbi Goldin makes these points in concluding discussion of Pesach Sheini (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar, pages 80-81):

…Through a delicate interweaving of thought and law, in… the narrative of Pesach Sheini…, a… pervasive message emerges: when you perceive participation with your people to be a cherished gift worth fighting for; when you feel diminished by an inability to take part in a Torah ritual; when you view a Mitzvah as an opportunity and not as an obligation, you are worthy of a portion of the Torah inscribed in your name.

With the investment of time and effort, the observance of Mitzvot can deeply enrich our personal and family lives.

May it be that our Chayalim, regardless of the machinations of their high command, emerge totally victorious — eradicating from the face of the earth Hamas, their terrorist buddies and the so-called “innocent civilians” of Gaza who joined with Hamas in their murderous deeds, that the Chayalim return home whole — physically, mentally and spiritually and that the Chayalim Liberate and bring home all remaining hostages. And may we see the restoration of true unity within Am Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates the wild beasts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, all other terror entities, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the remaining hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and brought home to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his fourth year at home in Eretz Yisrael and continues in a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia as well as the US and Canada, the real Jews via matrilineal descent, make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.