Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Beha'alotcha
To dedicate this lesson

Entering Israel Through the Passover Sacrifice

The Torah states that whoever is impure or far away on Passover may offer his sacrifice later, on the "Second Passover." This is puzzling. Is there any other commandment that allows us a second chance, an opportunity to make up for what we missed?


Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel

The Torah relates that while in the wilderness, the Children of Israel offered the Passover sacrifice at its designated time, on the fourteenth of Nisan. Nonetheless, "And there were certain men who were defiled by the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day; And those men said to him . . . Why are we kept back, so that we may not offer an offering to the Lord in his appointed season among the people of Israel? And Moses said to them, Wait, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you." (Numbers 9:6–8).

We are familiar with what follows: God rules that whoever is impure or far away on Passover may offer his sacrifice later, on the "Second Passover" (the fourteenth of Iyyar).

This whole matter is puzzling. Is there any other Torah commandment which allows us a second chance, an opportunity to make up for what we have missed? If a person has no Ethrog on Sukkot, he is not permitted to fulfill the commandment the following month. If a person misses the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, he is not permitted to blow it on Yom Kippur. Why, then, should our case be any different?

In fact, from this ruling we can see just how important the matter of the Passover sacrifice is. "Sefer HaChinukh" (mitzvah 380) explains:

"The precept of Passover is a powerful, clear sign [attesting] for all who see the sun, to the creation of the world out of nothing. For then, at that time, God (blessed is He) wrought for us great miracles and wonders, and changed the [workings of] nature in the world before the eyes of many peoples . . .
"Then, at that time, all believed – and so would all who came into the world after them believe – in truth, that He (blessed is He) created the world out of nothing at a time that He desired . . .
"Now the concept of the creation of the world as a new entity [not pre-existing] is a mighty pillar in our faith and our Torah . . .
"It was therefore His desire (blessed be He) to make every Israelite meritorious by this estimable precept [of bringing the Passover offering], and to let no accident or distance of location restrain him from observing it . . . And because it is a great fundamental in the religion, the obligation extends also to a proselyte who becomes converted between the first Passover and the second, and so too if a child has grown [to his age of obligation] between the two Passovers – these have the duty to present the second Passover offering."

"Sefer HaChinukh" gave us a brief explanation. Ramban explains more fully the educational value of the story of the Exodus. Here is some of what he has to say:

"Now I shall tell you a principle that relates to the meaning of many Torah commandments. From the time that idolatry appeared on earth, sound religious understanding began to deteriorate. Some people [began to] claim that the world is primordial (that it has no Creator) . . . Others denied God's knowledge (of the deeds of human beings) . . . Others admitted God's knowledge but denied His providence (to give reward and punishment, to save human beings from perilous circumstances), and they looked upon humans as if they were fish in the sea, over whom God does not extend His providence."

Ramban continues:

"And when God desires and performs a miracle and wonder, changing the laws of nature, the nullification of these beliefs will become clear to all. And if such a miracle is first decreed and announced by a prophet, the veracity of prophecy, the fact that God speaks with humans, will also become clear, and the entire Torah will thus be substantiated (it will become clear that God also spoke with Moses).
"It is hence written (regarding the Exodus from Egypt), 'So that you will know that I am God in the midst of the earth' (Exodus 8:18), to inform us regarding God's providence, that He did not leave us to chance. It is further written, 'So that you will know that the earth belongs to God' (ibid. 9:29), to inform us regarding the creation of the universe from nothing. And it is written, 'So that you will know that there is none like Me on the entire earth' (ibid. 9:14), to inform us regarding God's omnipotence, that He rules supreme and nothing stands in His way. Any less than this and the Egyptians would have denied or doubted."

And Ramban concludes:
"God (therefore) commands us to forever make a remembrance and sign for that which our eyes saw, and pass it on to our children, and they to their children, and so on, until the end of all generations. And He was very strict in this respect, making the consumption of chametz and the abandonment of the Passover sacrifice punishment by "karet" (excision, premature death)."

The "karet" punishment applies principally to a person who violates certain negative commandments. When it comes to positive commandments, only two of them – ritual circumcision and the Passover sacrifice – carry the "karet" punishment.

In addition, this was the first commandment which the nation of Israel fulfilled on a communal level (Exodus 12:3). The commandment to sanctify the month was given to the Jewish courts alone, but every single one of us took part in the Passover sacrifice. Similarly, the commandment of ritual circumcision was the first commandment performed by Jews on an individual level, in their personal lives. It too was the first commandment for the Children of Israel in Egypt. The sages hence teach, "On account of two kinds of blood were Israel redeemed from Egypt – the blood of the Passover sacrifice and the blood of circumcision" (Shemot Rabbah 17:3). All of life is a continuation of a successful beginning.

In light of all this, we are now able to understand a puzzling comment by Rashi (based on the Mechilta) on Exodus 12:48: "One might think that this verse implies that anyone who becomes a proselyte must keep the Passover offering immediately after his circumcision (even though this has not taken place just before Passover), therefore Scripture states 'but he shall be as a native of the land.' How is it in the case of a native? He brings the offering on the fourteenth! So, too, a proselyte must bring it only on the fourteenth!

In other words, we might have thought that when a convert joins the Jewish people he must at that same time bring a Passover sacrifice. But why should he do this in the middle of the year? Yet, based upon what we have seen in "Sefer HaChinukh," and even more so in Ramban's commentary, everything makes sense. Of such great importance is the Passover sacrifice that if a person is unable to offer it at its appointed time, God gives him an alternate date in order to spare him this loss.
Some of the translated biblical verses and Talmudic sources in the above article were taken from, or based upon, Davka's Soncino Judaic Classics Library (CD-Rom). The Sefer HaChinnukh translation was taken from the Feldheim edition (translated by R' Charles Wengrov).
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר