The Second Pesach is a festival established for anyone who was unable to bring the Pesach offering on its appointed time in the previous month:
HaShem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the children of Israel saying, Any person who becomes “tame” from [contact with] the dead, or is on a distant journey, whether among you or in future generations, he shall make a Passover sacrifice for HaShem. In the second month, on the fourteenth day, in the afternoon, they shall make it; they shall eat it with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs. (“Bamidbar”, 9:9-11)
From the Rebbe’s explanations:
– Pesach Sheni occurs in the month of Iyar, called “the second month”. In his famous Chassidic discourse (based on the teachings of the Alter Rebbe) the Tzemach Tzedek explains that it’s not just a matter of numbering – but rather an indication of its spiritual role.
The festival of Pesach falls on the first month of the year, the month of Nissan. It represents the first stage of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus) – both historically and spiritually. On the spiritual level, the journey from Mitzrayim is a journey from the boundaries that limit us – an exodus from the ‘meitzarim” (the narrow straits) of habit, external circumstances and ego to the “good broad land” – the infinite potential implicit in the divine essence of the human soul.
If the festival of Pesach is the beginning of everyone’s personal “Exodus”, Pesach Sheni represents the second stage of this journey. This corresponds to the two stages of spiritual work hinted to in the verse:
“Shun evil and do good” (Tehillim, 34:15).
So first came the Pesach and the Exodus which made it possible for the people to “shun evil”. As explained in Tanya, at that stage the people had to flee from the evil which was still dominant in their souls. Afterwards they could approach the second level: ‘… and do good.’ These two approaches are similar to the Divine service described in the Chassidic teachings:
- iskafia – suppression of the darkness (stage one)
- and then ishapcha – transformation of darkness to light (stage two).
To clarify: there is an halachic aspect of Pesach Sheni which applies only when the duty to offer a sacrifice – Korban Pesach – was not fulfilled on the “first Pesach”. When conditions prohibited an individual from bringing his Korban on the 14th of Nissan, he had a chance to make amends on the 14th of Iyar.
However, in all other areas of Pesach (the prohibition of chametz, the requirement to eat matzah) the Divine service of Pesach leads to and is complemented by Pesach Sheni – and thus this journey is relevant to everybody, whether he had a chance to make a Pesach offering or not.
Consequently, the Chassidic interpretation of Pesach Sheni as being the second stage in Divine service, which comes after the first stage of the first Pesach, relates to every individual and in all times.
… One thing comes through clearly: even the most righteous in the time of galut (exile) will still find some aspects that need mending and remedying. In which case the lesson of Pesach Sheni tells us that nothing is irretrievable, and we can always make amends in an even loftier way than previously possible, quantitatively and qualitatively…
Based on the Rebbe’s talk on Pesach Sheni, 5744 (1984).
How to celebrate?
• Nowadays, even though we cannot bring the Passover offering, we can still mark the Second Pesach by eating matzah/
• Tachanun prayers are omitted on this day.
• According to the Rebbe’s recommendation, it is customary to hold farbrengens – chassidic gatherings on the days between Pesach Sheni and Lag B’Omer (and the successive days). Let the atmosphere of happiness and joy during these days help every one of us realize what kind of a ‘second chance’ we need in our lives and how to use it.