Pesach Sheni: The Holiday of Second Chances
It’s never too late to come home.
Sometimes we have to experience missteps before we can travel in the right direction.
We make a left when we should take the road on the right; we say yes when we should say no; we stay when we should leave, and we withdraw when we should engage.
A step forward, a step back, a side step, and an inching forward slightly once again. This is the dance of life and embedded within this dance are second chances.
On the 14th day of the Jewish month of Iyar, one month after the holiday of Passover, Pesach Sheni, a second Passover makes its appearance. It’s time for a second chance.
On the day before Passover, the Paschal Lamb was brought to the Holy Temple to be offered as a sacrifice. Anyone who came into contact with a dead body and became ritually impure could not bring this sacrifice to the Holy Temple. Nor could someone who was stuck too far away to make it to the Temple in time.
But there was an issue. These citizens also wanted to participate in this pivotal holy service. They wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves, something that would connect them to their community and to God. So they approached Moses and Aaron and declared,”Why should we be deprived, and not be able to present God’s offering in its time, amongst the children of Israel?”
Moses asked God what to do, and God replied, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: Any person who is contaminated by death, or is on a distant road, whether among you now or in future generations, shall prepare a Passover offering to Gd. They shall prepare it on the afternoon of the 14th day of the second month, and shall eat it with matzahs and bitter herbs...." (See Numbers, 9:6-12)
God said I will give you a second chance despite your status, despite your present state. When you do what you need to do to change, I will change the rules. I will wait for you until you are ready.
What does being “contaminated by death,” and a traveling on a “distant road” have to do with us?
These terms point to deeper concepts. A state of disconnection from God is a type of death. A distant road is place where we are far away from who we really are supposed to be. This is something most of us can identify with.
When we are influenced by “death”, when we are traversing along a distant road, cut off from our truth and our source, we have the power to change directions and come home.
How? By accessing this unbelievable gift of second chances.
Life gives us many second chances.
How do we know when we are far away from our homestead, when we are wandering and cut off?
A sense of disconnection is a place where we have lost touch with our essential self. On this road there is a chasm between what we really are and what we are becoming.
When we are not the person, partner, or parent we should be, often, somewhere deep inside, we know we are far from home. Maybe it’s a vague feeling, detached and blurred. Perhaps it’s an explicit feeling, weighty and robust. In all cases it often leads to confusion and a robotic way of life.
Disconnection is often a byproduct of unconscious living. When we let our conditioning be our compass so that our paths never change, neither will our landscape. Whether it’s in relation to ourselves or to others we will feel disconnected from the inroads that lead to our essential self.
But life gives us many second chances. And each time we choose to live consciously and move from judgment to compassion, apathy to care, idleness to activity, we begin to reconnect and travel towards home.
Pesach Sheni, the Second Passover, thus represents the power of rerouting to our core, to our Divine connection. This is the essence of teshuvah – the power of return. Teshuvah is defined as repentance but it encompasses something far greater. It is the power to embrace comprehensive change, the power to shift from one state to another. It is the power to change our dance.
Changing our waltz, samba, or freestyle is not easy. But it can be done. No matter how distant, no matter how disconnected, God gives us the power to repair and rebound. Our brush with “death” can give us life. Our “distance” can lead to greater closeness to both ourselves and to God.
Pesach Sheni, the holiday of second chances, reminds us that we can always change our steps and return home.