Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Using Pesach Sheini To Touch Eternity


The Ramchal in Derech Hashem famously teaches that the oros – eternal lights of every event – return every year at that time. This means that each one of us has the opportunity to access tremendous potential and spiritual power if we make the effort. What exactly can we gain from Pesach Sheini, which falls on Erev Shabbos this coming week?

On the surface, it would seem that it references the Divine gift of correcting something we missed or should have done. We all experience the sadness and remorse of lost opportunities and Pesach Sheini reminds us that if we truly care, Hashem will often provide us with “make-up days” and alternatives.

However, a number of gedolim and seforim reveal that there is more to this special somewhat unnoticed day on our calendar. Rav Gedaliah Schorr (Ohr Gedalyahu, Moadim, page 75) initially frightens us somewhat. He points out that at the end of Megillas Esther, it is recorded that Mordechai was abandoned by some members of the Sanhedrin (Rashi 10:3 from Megillah 16b) because he was so involved in his new diplomatic and governmental duties that he had to reduce his Torah studies. Now it is absolutely clear that Mordechai had no choice but to perform these tasks and that they were life-saving for Klal Yisroel. He surely made a kiddush Hashem through his efforts and did nothing wrong. Yet, some of his colleagues were critical. Why?

Rav Schorr explains that everyone has to make a cheshbon hanefesh – a personal spiritual assessment – of why Hashem led them down a certain path. When someone was once totally devoted to limud haTorah and is then put in the position of being unable to continue at that level, he may be receiving a message that he was unworthy or had fallen spiritually in some way.

However, Rav Schorr then points to what happened with those who couldn’t offer the Korban Pesach because they were involved in a mitzvah. They did indeed search their souls, concluding that they had done nothing wrong, to the extent that they were able to sincerely ask, “Lama nigra – Why should we be diminished?” (Bamidbar 9:6). The question seems to be disingenuous, since they themselves admitted that they were defiled and incapable of the offering. Yet, the answer to them is that they had the merit of “bringing down” a new halacha for eternity.

The Korban Pesach Sheini exists because people cared enough to be mortified that they had missed a mitzvah opportunity. As Rav Schorr concludes, this was actually a Torah Shebaal Peh (Oral Law) phenomenon. Although Pesach Sheini is clearly a solid part of Torah Shebiksav, Rav Schorr explains that the process by which Pesach Sheini became a part of Klal Yisroel is akin to Torah Shebaal Peh, since it came through a question and answer resulting in a new halacha. He goes on to give us the chizuk that our learning Torah with amelius and yegiah – toil and great effort – can also bring about tremendous accomplishments for ourselves and all of Klal Yisroel.

The Chiddushei Harim (quoted in Likkutei Yehudah, Pesach, page 29) adds an explanation to the lama nigora complaint and result. They admitted that they were indeed tomei, but their point was that since they were engaged in a mitzvah, the result should have been more mitzvos, as we are taught that mitzvah goreres mitzvah, one mitzvah brings another. The answer was indeed that they were going to establish a new mitzvah in the Torah, not just have the opportunity to do something temporary. Thus, not only were they rewarded, but they received much more than they ever could have imagined.

Rav Yechzkel Levenstein (Ohr Yechezkel, Middos, page 320) derives another positive eternal lesson. He notes that tragically, four-fifths of Klal Yisroel did not leave Mitzrayim because they had lost focus of what is important and what is trivial (Shemos Rabbah 14:3). They had (surprisingly!) all achieved some kind of prominence and status in Egypt. Despite the crushing slavery and painful bondage, these people thought that they had discovered some kind of personal serenity and security and so were not worthy of geulah. However, those who carried various meisim because that is the mitzvah were appropriately rewarded with the new mitzvah of Pesach Sheini. They became part of nitzchiyus Yisroel – the eternity of Klal Yisroel – because they chose selflessly and correctly. This, too, is one of the lessons of Pesach Sheini that we can access every day, not just in the month after Pesach. As Reb Chatzkel teaches us, when we opt for matters of elevation and substance, we are amply rewarded with more than we could have ever dreamed of receiving.

The Alter of Kelm (see Daas Torah, Parshas Balak) also notes that when Rashi says that the ones who claimed lama nigora are considered meritorious and therefore brought about a new mitzvah, their zechus was that they asked for something properly. The Gemara (Megillah 6b) states that if someone tries to do something good, he is rewarded, and conversely, if someone is negligent, he has things taken away. The people who carried meisim through the desert so they could reach burial actually created a mitzvah through their valiant efforts.

We should take great encouragement from the fact that these gedolim all teach that we, too, can be like the tzaddikim who added a section to the Torah because of their trust in Hashem that they were doing the right thing and would not suffer because of their apparent loss of the Korban Pesach.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein (Sefer Mitzvos B’Simcha 1:118) relates that a secular Israeli man was invited for the Seder to the home of a rov in Eretz Yisroel. In telling the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the rov told the well-known Medrash (Rashi from Mechlita Shemos 18:4) that when Paroh’s henchmen attempted to decapitate Moshe Rabbeinu, his neck turned to marble, literally saving his neck and life. The guest expressed skepticism to his host about such an “outlandish” story, but the rov insisted that Chazal do not exaggerate, let alone make things up. It is all true.

A few days after Yom Tov, the Israeli businessman ended up in a dangerous situation, since unbeknownst to him, he had stumbled into an underworld gang, who thought that he was an interloper. They calmly informed him that that they were going to execute him, turning a cold deaf ear to his protests of innocence. The time for his death by the sword arrived and he was tied down and given five minutes to live. Not being accustomed to prayer, he remembered the rov’s words at the Seder and made up his own tefillah. “The Elokim Who saved Moshe Rabbeinu from the sword in Egypt, I now turn to You as well to save me from these murderers.” Suddenly, the wife of the chief of the marauders entered, screaming, “This is the person you wish to kill? He’s the one who saved our son’s life recently. Free him immediately.” Of course, the chastened criminal backed off and untied the grateful victim.

It turns out that several weeks earlier, the young son of the chief had been saved from a snow avalanche by a good Samaritan. Our friend knew nothing of all this and wasn’t the hero, but he naturally went along with the mistake and was miraculously rescued himself. He soon went back to the rov, begging to be helped to begin a true Torah life.

One of the messages is that every part of the Torah, be it the new halacha of Pesach Sheini or Moshe Rabbeinu’s own saving from the ax, is eternal and can help us in every generation and situation.

Pesach Sheini should provide us with at least a moment to consider how important it is to think of the larger picture and not just of crass personal concerns. When we do the right thing, everything begins to fall into place. Sometimes it brings about a new mitzvah and sometimes a miraculous salvation, but it always reaps beautiful and welcome fruits for all who simply do their very best in every situation that faces them. Touching eternity may be easier than we think.




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