"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pesach Sheni: A second chance

On Pesach Sheni (see Bamidbar 9:1-14) there were Jews who were ritually impure and unfit to offer the Pesach sacrifice in its time (14 Nissan). They came before Moshe Rabeinu and demanded a second chance to offer it. Moshe consulted with Hashem, Who told him that on 14 Iyar a second chance will be given to offer the Pesach sacrifice. This is Pesach Sheni, the “second Pesach.”

The lesson of Pesach Sheni, as discussed in HaYom Yom, is that es iz nishto kein farfalen—it’s never too late to rectify and make up for one’s misdeeds. According to some opinions, those who were ritually impure had put themselves in this state intentionally—and yet they were given the opportunity to rectify it. Likewise, even if one contaminated oneself by sinning intentionally, he can always rectify the damage he did.

One of the classic ploys of the evil inclination is to make the person feel that his situation is hopeless. He feels that the damage he has done is irrevocable and the opportunities lost are irregainable. He is tainted, corrupted, and irredeemable. History has been written. There is no rewind button, no time machine. Spilt milk cannot be gathered up. As the rhyme goes, once Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

There is validity to this feeling, for according to the natural state of the world one can only change the present and rectify thing from now on, not the past. Nevertheless, Hashem, Who created nature and therefore transcends it, grants one the power to overcome it. In particular, Pesach Sheni comes to teach that no matter how low the Jew has fallen and how much damage he has done to himself and others, may Hashem save us, he should never lose hope. Hashem has endowed him with the ability to transcend nature. He can change himself, make up for and rectify the past, and start anew.

Even before the person starts working on changing himself, this very awareness should infuse him with the greatest joy. When a sick person who thought that his illness was incurable is told that in fact an effective, affordable cure exists, he jumps with joy. Likewise, when one learns that instead of feeling doomed to be perpetually weighed down by regrets and guilt, the Torah says that he can take out a new lease on life, he is elated and joyous even before he has started to do anything!

But then one needs to start taking the necessary action to rectify the past, which is an individual matter that depends upon the sin that one committed.

However, there is one crucial condition for this rectification, purification, and cleansing. According to the Torah’s account, the Mitzvah of offering the Pesach Sheni was only given to those who came and demanded, ”Why should we miss out?” Similarly, one can’t rectify the past through a rote ceremony or out of a sense of duty. He has to desire it and yearn for it from the depth of his heart.

In summary, Pesach Sheni gives one the encouraging message that the past can be rectified. Once one knows this, however, the onus lies on the person. If he reflects appropriately on this lesson, and truly internalizes it, he will be energized with the confidence that he can and will change, and this will spur him to invest the effort necessary to become a new person, and with the help of Hashem, he will ultimately succeed.

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