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12 Iyar 5762 - April 24, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Meaning of Pesach Sheini

by S. Bilgrei

The development of Pesach Sheini is described in Chumash Bamidbor, which is a unique Chumash in that it is actually comprised of three separate Chumoshim, each emphasizing a separate hidden and important message. According to Chazal there are, altogether, seven "Chumoshim," seven books of the Torah, as is stated, "Chochmos bonsoh beisoh, chotzvoh amudeho shiv'oh" (Mishlei 9:1).

The three Chumoshim within Chumash Bamidbar are as follows: First there is the description of the formation of Am Yisroel's four-section camp, each one with its individual degel in the Desert, that resembled an eagle flying over the clouds, with the Shechina in the center represented by the Mishkon and the Leviim in the midst. This is followed by the account of Pesach Sheini and the subsequent departure of Bnei Yisroel from "Har Hashem" which, Rashi explains, was a departure from their closeness to Hashem.

The next Chumash within sefer Bamidbar is comprised of only two pesukim that begin with, "Vayehi binso'a ho'Oron vayomer Moshe: Kumoh Hashem . . . " -- [Whenever Am Yisroel began to journey] the Oron would travel forth and Moshe Rabbenu would declare, "Arise Hashem and scatter our enemies from before us. And when they encamped, once again, then Moshe Rabbenu proclaimed, "Shuvoh Hashem rivevos alfei Yisroel." Rashi explains that this was inserted to divide between one pur'onus (transgression) and another.

The third Chumash deals with the complaints of the Jews (mis'onenim), their demand for meat, onion and garlic. This was an expression of yearning for gashmiyus, purely physical pursuits. The Jews were provided with Manna every day, which possessed every beauty and every taste possible. It was the color of glittering diamonds.

Following the complaint, Moshe Rabbenu begged to resign, saying, "Lomoh harei'oso le'avdecho" -- I can't take it, I don't have meat! Hashem did not disagree with Moshe, but advised him to gather seventy elders, who would not possess the same leadership as Moshe, but would comprise the new concept of the Sanhedrin. The Jews were punished for their complaint, and every posuk thereafter relates the chain of sins of the Jewish people, as in parshas Shelach (the Meraglim), parshas Korach (the rebellion against Moshe Rabbenu), parshas Chukas (when Moshe Rabbenu hit the stone), parshas Bolok (intermarriage) -- until Pinchos saves Am Yisroel.

The stark contrast from the first Chumash of Bamidbar, which presents an elevating image of the entire nation carried on eagle's wings, provided with their every need, to the subsequent description of the continuous transgressions and their repercussions, is heightened by the story of Pesach Sheini.

Hashem commanded the Jews to bring the Pesach sacrifice on the Fourteenth of Nisan. There were some Jews who were tomei at this specific time but they realized the unparalleled opportunity this sacrifice offered and voiced their desire to Moshe and Aharon to participate as well, saying, "Lomoh nigora, Why should we be left out?" Their request emanated from a real appreciation of the value of an individual mitzva, because in reality each and every mitzva completes our spiritual makeup. If we lack the fulfillment of even a single commandment, we are left incomplete eternally. Of course, there may be a legitimate heter absolving us of our responsibilities, but the absence of that mitzvah will nonetheless leave a blemish forever.

Moshe Rabbenu turned to Hashem for a solution and Hashem made Pesach Sheini so they could bring the korbon the following month on the fourteenth of Iyar. Rashi marvels at Moshe's status, "Ashrei yelud ishoh, Fortunate is the human being that can speak freely at all times with the Shechina." Today, if one was not able to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, his rabbi can't make a special allowance for him, because we have only talmidei chachomim who must abide by what is written. But when one can turn directly to the Source, well, Hashem can do anything and make allowances as He deems fit.

A contrast was when the Jews desired meat, representing base, physical pursuits. The opposite of meat is milk. Meat is red, signifying the blood. Milk too, is actually blood, but it is purified. Milk is a more spiritual nourishment being miraculously manufactured to provide an entire nutritious meal designed specifically for the most delicate digestion. Chazal say that mother's milk has every taste condensed in it. It is more spiritual, therefore it is unlimited in its taste. However, meat tastes like the animal. Being more physical, it has a limited taste.

When Moshe Rabbenu was governing, it was like a child nursing milk -- straight from Hashem. When the Jews needed food, it came straight from Hashem and included every color and every taste. Eating mann was living directly from Hashem. When one sits at Hashem's table and one is lacking something, he just asks for it. Hashem never says, "No. Too bad." That was what Pesach Sheini was all about.

However, the asafsuf, or eirev rav, said, "It's beautiful, but it's too much for us to live in such proximity to Hashem." They rationalized that it is like one who is invited to the Chasam Sofer's house and is constantly in his presence. He can never relax. How can one sit in an easy chair with a newspaper in such a setting? "We want to have a good pizza once in a while! We can't eat the Mann all the time and be holy, because then we have to live with Hashem all the time."

They wanted a more physically mundane lifestyle. Mann, they claimed, is bread for angels. It was totally absorbed in the body without causing any waste. And when you're in Hashem's presence, you have to watch your words. One false word of loshon hora will bring instant retribution. It's too hard.

Eldad and Meidad, who prophesied, "Moshe will die and Yehoshua will take us into the Land," understood the root of their discontent. They saw prophetically that the Jews rejected Moshe because they desired a more base, physical lifestyle with meat instead of Mann. The greatness of the Jews that could be realized through the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu would not take place, and they meant to admonish the Jews that since they rejected Moshe Rabbenu and the proximity to Hashem that he represented, Moshe would pass away and not take the Jews into Eretz Yisroel.

Cheit Hameraglim had the same root: rejection of a lofty life with utter dependency on and closeness to Hashem. The meraglim complained about giants in the Land of Canaan. But what threat do giants really pose for someone who has witnessed the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea? For Hashem to remove a nation of giants is simple. But the root was that the Jews rejected this close relationship and wanted to live a more natural lifestyle. Therefore, they were afraid of the giants -- on their own, under natural laws, they could not cope with them.

Korach also rebelled against Moshe Rabbenu's leadership, and in parshas Bolok we see the degeneration that results from this rejection: immorality, intermarriage, and finally the terrible plague which nearly destroyed the entire Jewish nation.

We continue this battle in our times as well, with the same secular refusal to succumb to Hashem's supreme rule, and forcefully "taking their fortune into their own hands" instead of begging Hashem to send Moshiach and living on His terms in close proximity as befitting the elite Jewish Nation.

After nearly two thousand years of living a natural life not in close proximity to Hashem, we have hopefully learned by now that it's not attractive. Never again will we be persuaded by the eirev rav and other shallow people to depart from the Shechinoh, because in its stead there is only oceans of bloodshed, heartache, depression and failure.

Pesach Sheini is the light of the heights that we will reach when Moshiach comes and we will once again be able to hear Hashem's words daily, advising us on everything, and we will have Moshe Rabbenu as our leader, and nurse, as it were, directly from Hashem.

This article is based on a lecture by HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l.

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