By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin
Ever feel like you messed up?
Concerned about lost opportunities?
Missed out because of circumstances beyond your control?
What message does the Torah convey to us for times when opportunities pass us by?
It was the first year following the Exodus. Bnei Yisroel was commanded to offer the Pesach sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan, just as they had done the previous year when they were about to leave Egypt.
But what about those who were unable to do so? There was a group amongst the people who were ritually impure, being that they had come in contact with a human corpse. They sincerely desired to participate, but were unable to. They approached Moshe and Aaron with a heartfelt request: “Why should we lose out by not being able to bring HaShem’s offering at the appointed time…” (Bamidbar 9:7)
Moshe received an answer to their plea. “HaShem spoke to Moshe saying, if any man will become spiritually impure through a human corpse, or be on a distant road, whether you, or your generations, he shall make the Pesach-offering for HaShem on the 14th day of the second month (the month of Iyar).” (Bamidbar 9:10-11)
HaShem’s gift to man. The gift of Pesach Sheini, the Second Pesach. The opportunity for a “make-up” exactly a month later. The ability to take the worry away, to lift the heavy weight off one’s heart, knowing that there is a second chance.
“Whether you, or your generations…..” A message not just for the generation of the Exodus, but for all time. A message that speaks to us today, relevant in the 21st century as it was thousands of years earlier.
Those “spiritually impure through a human corpse, or on a distant road…” Pesach Sheini, a second chance is for everyone. While only those who were ineligible because they were spiritually impure appealed for a special dispensation, HaShem broadened the group to include those on “a distant road”.
Second chances are for everyone. No one is ever too far removed, too distant from HaShem, that they can’t have a second chance. HaShem gives us the opportunity to draw closer to Him. We may have taken distant paths in life, but HaShem’s gates are always open. Like a parent who leaves the door open all night, anxiously waiting for their child to return home, HaShem’s door is always open.
Those who addressed Moshe exclaimed “Lama nigara…. Why should we be left out…?” Clearly, they were not looking for a “free pass” but had a genuine yearning, a love and desire to keep mitzvos. These words can also be understood as a question that at times we must ask ourselves. Do we ever give up the opportunity to grab a mitzvah? Do we “go into hiding” when someone is collecting tzedakah? Are we a bit too relieved when others volunteer for chesed projects? Or do we exert the extra effort so that another mitzvah can be “ours”.
Pesach Sheini is this Friday, May 5, the 14th of Iyar. It is a custom to enjoy some matzah, as a symbolic remembrance that second chances are always here.
Pesach Sheini teaches us that there is a second chance for self-improvement, both spiritually and in our relationship with our fellow man. If our davening wasn’t as it should be, it’s a time to begin. Add another tefillah, concentrate a little harder on the meaning of the words. Maybe we can increase our Torah study. Do more chessed. Give more tzedakah. Be more forgiving of others who may have slighted us. There are so many ways to apply the gift of Pesach Sheini to our daily routine.
It was Erev Pesach. I was a young married with little ones, packing up to spend Yom Tov with my in-laws.
The phone rang. Expecting a “have a good Yom Tov” call from a friend, I lunged to pick it up. “A good Erev Pesach” I called out, but this time it was my mother. Her voice was broken and cracking. The words came tumbling out. “Zeide just had a stroke… is in the ER…. I’m packing up and going to the hospital for Pesach….. I need you to come and help finish cooking… to be here for Yom Tov.”
A change of plans. We were heading to my parents’ home.
I told Ema that we would all daven, that HaShem would help, and Zeide will have a refuah. Iy”h, everything will work out.
My father was out delivering matzah and charosses to members of the shul, a custom he had for many years. It was pre-cell phone days. No way to get in touch. My siblings helped my mother pack up the essentials, a Seder plate, Haggadah, matzah, charosses, wine, and some food for Yom Tov.
My mother spent the Seder nights in a cold, sterile hospital room, reading the words of the Haggadah and softly singing the familiar Seder tunes at Zeide’s bedside. With HaShem’s help, Zeide recovered and was able to return home several weeks later. As the 14th of Iyar drew closer, my mother seized the opportunity to gather the family for a “second chance” Seder. We gathered at my parents’ home, where we had a “mini Seder” complete with matzah, wine, the recitation of the Mah Nishtanah by my son Yosef Dov, and daughter, Tziri, who were just toddlers at the time, followed by a delicious dinner.
It was our time to say, “Thank you, HaShem, for giving our family a second chance.”
Let’s not allow HaShem’s gift of second chances to slip by. If you really think about it, every day is a day of second chances.
Chaya Sora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written L’zecher Nishmas / In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l