Today, Friday May 5th, the 14th day of Iyar, is a special day in the Jewish calendar –it’s Pesach Sheni, the Second Passover. While we were in the wilderness, about a month after celebrating Pesach, a group of people approached Moses and said they were legitimately unable to participate in the holiday of Pesach, it’s not fair that they miss out and don’t get to celebrate. Is there no way to ‘do it over’ just for them? Moses consults with God, and Pesach Sheni, the Second Pesach, is set.
In today’s world, the very question seems baffling. Why would anyone ask to do Pesach later if they legitimately couldn’t do it the first time? If Judaism allowed them to miss it (for example, health concerns), would someone today ask a rabbi if they could stop eating bread and only eat matzah one month later? What are we missing today that our people in the ancient world understood? Why is this group asking for a ‘do-over’?
Having ‘do-overs’ is something we all experience as children. I remember being in school and playing jump rope at recess. If you missed your step and the rope stopped during your turn, you were officially ‘out’. But you could ask for a ‘do-over’, an arbitrary moment of compassion, where you will be granted your turn again. You have asked for a free turn to…well…do it over. The decision is made by the owner of the jump rope. It’s a moment of power and privilege to the owner of the rope, a request for compassion to be granted from the ‘owner’, the one higher than you. It’s both a political and theological metaphoric moment in the school playground. As kids, we don’t process all that, we just want the ‘do-over’.
Jewishly, we actually don’t want do-overs because mistakes and errors are part of what shape us. Teshuvah, repentance, learning to correct and move forward, are important moments we don’t want to give up –important Jewish skills we want to learn. But while we don’t want the ‘do over’, we do want the ‘do again’. I want to be in the moment under my chuppah with my chosen partner… again. I want the moment I met each of my babies…again. I want the bear hugs of my father and the cuddles of my mother…again. I don’t want to miss out on wonderful things, and that is exactly why a group of people approach Moses and ask not to miss out on celebrating Pesach. To them, it’s a wonderful thing.
There’s the detail that opens everything for us. We’re supposed to enjoy our rituals. Judaism should be a good thing in our lives, a positive and solid foundation from which we encounter the world. Ritual should be celebratory — something we don’t want to miss. The moment we question why there would be a Pesach Sheni is an indicator that we may want to reposition Judaism in our lives. It should always pull us to joy and celebrations.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.