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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Beha'alotcha

An Individual Who is a Community

The mishkan (Sanctuary) gave an opportunity for the public “display” of the Divine Presence.
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Several times in the past we clarified the difference between the laws of an individual and those of a community. We have also discussed the approach of the Gra’s students, who distinguished between the spiritual level of Bnei Yisrael in the period after the giving of the Torah and before the sin of the Golden Calf and between their level after the sin. This can explain differences between the way the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was foreseen and the way it was implemented. This time we combine the two theses, based on the approach of Rav Meir Simncha of Dvinsk.

Our parasha includes the matter of Pesach Sheni, the opportunity to make up a missed Korban Pesach (Pascal lamb). This is the only mitzva from the Torah that deals with making up for a missed mitzva. Several commentators deal with the question of why the Torah does not discuss this matter until Bamidbar, the fourth book of the Torah.

The mishkan (Sanctuary) gave an opportunity for the public "display" of the Divine Presence. Both at the initiation at the time of Moshe and that of the Beit Hamikdash at the time of Shlomo, fire came down from the heavens onto the altar. The Seforno says in several places that the need for this type of display arose after the sin of the Golden Calf. Before that time, the people were on such a high level that Hashem could relate to them without a medium such as a mikdash. The mikdash was needed to allow the Divine Presence to interact with the people when it was possible only in an especially holy place.

This distinction has impact regarding the matter of Korban Pesach as well. The Mechilta D’Rashbi says that karet for lack of bringing a Korban Pesach applies to an individual and not to the community as a whole. There is also a concept of tumah hutra b’tzibbur, that when the community (or its majority) is impure and should thus be prevented from bringing a Korban Pesach, they bring the Pesach despite the impurity. Based on these ideas, Rav Meir Simcha explains as follows.

Had Korban Pesach been observed before the sin of the Golden Calf, the individual in Bnei Yisrael would have been treated as a community in and of his own because of his high level. As such he would have been able to bring the Pesach even if he were impure, and he would have not have been liable for karet for failure to bring the korban for the same reason. Therefore, there would have been no need for the second chance of Pesach Sheni. Only in the second year did people return to the status of an individual, prompting the Torah to teach the possibility of Pesach Sheni.

Interestingly, the first people who brought the Pesach Sheni were Mishael and Eltzafan, who became impure when removing the bodies of Nadav and Avihu from the Mishkan. The latter’s deaths were atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, which caused the need for that special korban.

May we merit returning to the mitzva of Korban Pesach and to the high levels of spirituality before the sin.
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