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7 Iyar 5764 - April 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Second Chance: Understanding Pesach Sheini

by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

In Hashem's Hands

I was once in the Bucharim section of Yerushalayim waiting for a bus when I suddenly realized that I did not have any money with me. For a second I panicked, wondering what to do. Suddenly I caught myself and thought, "Is it really the money that allows us to travel? Isn't it ultimately Hashem who takes a person from one place to another?"

While I was pondering this newly discovered recognition, a car stopped and offered me a ride to my destination.

At times we get so involved with the practical aspects of life that we tend to forget that without Hashem's constant help we cannot as much as lift up our smallest finger. The korbon Pesach helps us to internalize the principle that G-d runs our lives.

A person may have made numerous preparations and have the best intentions, but if he becomes tomei or must be outside of Yerushalayim before Yom Tov he cannot bring a korbon Pesach. Only with Divine protection from these outside forces can one successfully fulfill this mitzvah.

Generally, once a person missed out on doing a mitzvah he has lost out. On the fourteenth of Iyar, Pesach Sheini, we have the unique opportunity to make up a mitzvah and bring the korbon Pesach that we missed. The "second chance" to do a mitzvah teaches us that Hashem controls everything, and instills within our hearts that even the fulfillment of mitzvos is under His jurisdiction. Just as He made a person tomei or distanced from the Beis Hamikdosh, He can give another chance to do this mitzvah.

Changes in Tefilloh

Surprisingly, the Shulchan Oruch and Rema do not mention Pesach Sheini among the special days that Tachanun is not recited (Orach Chaim 131:1). Gedolei haposkim agreed with this ruling, and the Chazon Ish said Tachanun on Pesach Sheini (Mishbetzos Zohov 131:15; Orchos Rabbeinu p. 68). However many later poskim write that it is not said on Pesach Sheini, and the general custom follows this ruling, and does not recite Tachanun in Shacharis or Minchah of Pesach Sheini (Sha'arei Teshuvoh 131:7).

Generally, even prior to the arrival of Shabbos or Yom Tov the afternoon beforehand is already affected by the kedushoh of the festival. Therefore the afternoon before Shabbos and Yom Tov is referred to as erev Shabbos and erev Yom Tov, literally a mixture of Shabbos (or Yom Tov) and weekday. For this reason on days that Tachanun is not said, generally it is not recited in the Minchah beforehand either.

Pesach Sheini is an exception to this rule. Since the korbon was only shechted in the afternoon of the fourteenth, the day before does not get this status. For the same reason, Tachanun is said on the fifteenth of Iyar, the day after Pesach Sheini. Although some communities do not say Tachanun on these days, the general custom is to recite it (Shaarei Teshuvoh ibid. and Luach Eretz Yisroel).

Musical Accompaniment

"Anyone who did not witness the simchas beis hashoeva (the ceremony of the drawing of the water on Succos), never saw simchah in his lifetime" (Succah 51a). During the week the joy of this ceremony was increased by the musical accompaniment of flutes. On Shabbos and Yom Tov it is forbidden to play instruments, and the simchah would take place without them (Succah 50a).

The shechitah of the korbonos of both Pesach Rishon and Sheini were also accompanied by instrumental and vocal music. The musical accompaniment was more than a nice ceremonial touch. The music of the cholil was considered one of the avodos in the Beis Hamikdosh, and if the shechitah took place on Shabbos the flutists also played.

Because of the change in sound that metal causes, the flutes played in the Beis Hamikdosh were made from reeds and not metal. The Beis Hamikdosh owned a special flute which dated from the days of Moshe Rabbenu. A king commanded that it should be overlaid with gold, and afterwards the sound was less melodious than before. After the gold plate was removed the sound returned to its original sweetness (Erchin 10b).

Listening to this music was a special experience, and the musicians did everything they could to make it even more uplifting. When the flutists finished their piece, one would play a little longer than the others, in order to add a special element of distinction and style to the conclusion of their performance (Erchin 2:3). Everything about this music was beautiful, and even the word used to describe this instrument, cholil, means sweet (Rashi, Erchin 10b).

Pesach Sheini Today

At the end of every tefilloh we daven that this should be the day that the Beis Hamikdosh is rebuilt. If our tefillos are answered between Pesach and Pesach Sheini we will have to answer the following question: Will the entire Jewish people be able to offer their korbonos on the fourteenth of Iyar, or will we have to wait until next year to bring the korbon Pesach?

The Talmud Yerushalmi discusses this issue: "If the Jewish people are given permission to rebuild the Temple, we will not be able to bring the korbon Pesach (Sheini). Rebbi Yehuda said that the entire Jewish people can bring Pesach Sheini if they missed Pesach Rishon, and that such an incident actually took place in the days of King Chizkiyohu" (Yerushalmi Pesochim 9:1). Should this transpire (G-d willing) we will have to see how the Rabbonim rule on this question.

In the times when the Temple stood, a ger who converted or a boy who became bar mitzvah between Pesach and Pesach Sheini, would bring a korbon on Pesach Sheini (Rambam, Hilchos Korbon Pesach 5:7). Their case differs from the above one, for both the ger and the bar mitzvah boy could have brought a korbon on Pesach with the rest of the Jewish people, only their personal circumstances did not allow it. When everyone does not bring the korbon Pesach because they are tomei, the halochoh differs.

Fasting and Eating

In the time of the Temple, miracles were commonplace among the Jewish people. In order to etch these days on our hearts, our Sages wrote them down in Megillas Taanis, and forbade fasting and eulogies on these dates. One of the days listed was Pesach Zeira, Pesach Sheini.

Our Sages set aside BaHaB (a Monday-Thursday-Monday after the Yom Tov of Pesach and Succos) as a time for repentance, lest one went overboard in the celebration of the festival. Many people recite special prayers during these days and some people fast. When Pesach falls out on a Shabbos, Pesach Sheini falls out on a Monday, and the fast is pushed off until the following Thursday or Monday (Maharosham 6:32).

The prohibition against eating or owning chometz on Pesach makes Pesach one of the most distinctive times of the year. Pesach Sheini differs radically from Pesach, and there is no prohibition against chometz (Pesochim 95a). Some have the custom to eat matzoh on Pesach Sheini to commemorate the matzoh eaten with the korbon Pesach.

Matzoh and Manna

"The Torah writes that the Jewish people ate Manna for forty years in the desert. However when we make the calculation, there is a month missing from this amount. During that month the matzoh that the Jewish people took out with them from Egypt tasted like Manna" (Rashi Shemos 16:35). We can only read these words of our Sages with wonder: what is the deeper meaning of Manna-flavored matzoh?

A person cannot just go from his everyday routine into Yom Tov. In order to prepare us beforehand, the halochoh suggests that thirty days before the festival a person should already start preparing for the chag. This way when the holiday comes he will be ready.

Manna was different from ordinary food. It was like the Torah in a physical form (Ramban Shemos 15:4). The Jewish people could not go straight from their regular diet to sustaining themselves with spiritual nutrition. Manna- flavored matzoh provided a thirty-day transition period between the spiritual and physical.

Rav Yaakov Emden writes that from Heaven it was revealed to him the deeper meaning of eating matzoh on Pesach Sheini. Every year the kedushoh of matzoh lasts for thirty days after Pesach, just as the matzoh had special holiness when the Jewish people left Mitzrayim. Pesach Sheini is the last of these days, and we eat matzoh in order to latch onto the last vestiges of holiness of this period (Siddur Yavetz).

The Zohar reveals another fascinating aspect of the thirty days between Pesach and Pesach Sheini: "If the sod of Pesach only applies during the month of Nisan, how can we bring the korbon Pesach in Iyar? After the Jewish people crown themselves with the Glory of the Shechinah on Pesach, this splendor remains with them for thirty days. On the fourteenth of Iyar, seven days before its departure, a Heavenly voice announces that whoever was unable to greet the Shechinah (with the korbon Pesach) should come and do so now" (Zohar, Ba'aloshchah 152b).

In the merit of keeping the halachos and customs of Pesach Sheini, may we merit to have the Beis Hamikdosh rebuilt, so we can offer the korbon Pesach and the other sacrifices on the upcoming Yomim Tovim.

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