But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the LORD’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?” — Numbers 9:6-7
The Torah portion for this week is Behaalotecha, which means “when you raise up,” from Numbers 8:1–12:16, and the Haftorah is from Zechariah 2:14–4:7.
This week’s reading finds us exactly one year after the Exodus from Egypt. In the desert, the Israelites celebrated the second Passover in history. From that time onward, Passover would be celebrated every year in an unbroken chain of tradition.
However, unlike other holidays prescribed in the Bible, there is something unique about Passover. Scripture teaches that if someone was unable to celebrate the holiday at the designated time – which in those days meant bringing the Passover offering along with the other traditions still observed today – they could celebrate the holiday one month later.
In Temple times, there were certain conditions that designated a person as unfit to bring a sacrifice, such as coming into contact with a dead body. Or perhaps someone simply wasn’t able to make it to the Temple on time. In those cases, individuals were given a second chance to observe the holiday. In Hebrew, the date of this “Second Passover” is called Pesach Sheni, and it is a day that we remember even today.
Yet, the question begs to be asked: Why is this holiday given a make-up date when no other holiday on the Jewish calendar is afforded such a convenience? There is no second Day of Atonement, no second Day of Judgment, no second Feast of Tabernacles. If you missed it, you missed it.
The answer is very simple. A look at Numbers chapter 9 reveals that the people asked for it. There was a group of people who weren’t able to celebrate Passover during its designated time, but their desire to serve the Lord in this manner was so great that they begged Moses for a second chance. After checking with God on the matter, the request was granted.
Consider the fact that the sincere desire of these people to serve God had the power to literally shape the Word of God! Had they never asked, the day would never have existed. Had they never ached to serve God, the opportunity would not have been created. That’s the power our desire to serve God has!
Thousands of years ago, there was a Torah academy that only admitted students who truly desired to serve God. How could the Jewish sages tell who was sincere? They placed locks on the doors of the study hall. Those who really wanted to learn figured out a way to get in. Nothing stood in their way.
In Judaism, there is a saying, “Nothing can stand in the face of one’s will.” If a person really wants to accomplish something, nothing can stand in his or her way. Next time you perceive an obstacle in your way, know that you can overcome it. All it takes is desire, determination, and most importantly, the will to persevere.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President