Second Chances

Tomorrow is Pesach Sheni (the Second Pesach). Pesach Sheni takes place one month after erev Pesach, the time when the Pesach sacrifice was prepared and eaten. At the time when the Pesach offering was to be eaten in the desert, a group of men approached Moshe Rebeinu and complained that they were tameh (ritually impure) and, consequently, were unable to join in the mitzvah. They basically told Moshe that it wasn’t fair that they were unable to partake of the Pesach offering. The gemorah (Succah 25a) presents two opinions as to how these men became tameh. One is that they were the men who carried Yosef’s coffin out of Egypt and the other is that they were involved in the mitzvah of burying an unattended body they had found. (Meis mitzvah). Either way they were involved in an “important” mitzvah at the time.

Moshe brought their complaint to Hashem who responded by ordaining a new Yom Tov, Pesach Sheni. One month after erev pesach, all of those who had become tameh through contact with a corpse or who were too far away on the day preceding pesach can offer and consume the pesach offering. A second chance.

How often are we unable to perform a mitzvah for a good reason? We are sick in bed and are physically unable to arise for davening. Or, we are involved with a mitzvah which exempts us from a different mitzvah. Halachically, we are exempt from such mitzvah and may even be obligated to desist from it. But does the missing of the opportunity to perform that mitzvah pain us? Are we concerned that we may have lost an opportunity to come closer to Hashem and to perform His will? Or are we relieved that we had a good reason that we didn’t have to be “troubled” with the mitzvah.

I remember reading of a Rav who would stay up all night on the evening after Pesach. He had missed his tefillin so much that he couldn’t sleep and he wanted to be able to put them on at the earliest permitted moment. When I read that (I was a bit younger), I sadly thought, only half jokingly, “That’s how I feel about Pizza on the night after pesach!”

Through teshuvah, every Jew is given a second chance (and a third and a one thousandth…). In order to truly merit that chance, we need (especially as baalei teshuvah) to regret our lost opportunities and appreciate, indeed relish, our second chances.

Some have the custom to eat matzah on Pesach Sheni. If this is your custom, this year when munching your matzah, remember the merit of those who were truly pained by their lost opportunity and who were rewarded with a second chance. May we have such a merit for ourselves.