Yom revi'i, 14 Iyar 5771.
Today is Pesach Sheni. I ask the Dearly Beloved for ideas to share with my Ahavat Yisrael group this evening. He's getting ready to give a guitar class; so I tell him that I just need an idea or two. I see the little gray cells starting to work, as he scoots his big office chair over to the bookshelf. "It would be good if it could focus on how ahavat Yisrael and Pesach Sheni might be related," I say to him.
His face brightens. "It's all about ahavat Yisrael!" he responds enthusiastically. And then he sets about explaining to me the two very special features of this "second chance" mitzvah that Hashem revealed to our forefathers in the Midbar.
In order to participate in the Pesach offering, it was necessary for the desert generation to be ritually pure. Coming into contact with the dead rendered one impure; and the process of purification was long enough to preclude them from being able to participate in the sacrificial ritual. But let me tell you how precious were the people who were our forebears.
There are a few different versions given for what was the mitzvah these people were involved with that prevented them from being able to participate in the Pesach offering. Perhaps they were carrying the coffin of Yosef. Perhaps they came across the remains of an unidentified corpse, and took upon themselves the mitzvah of burying it. Perhaps they were involved with the burial of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron HaKohen. In any case, they were fulfilling the mitzvah of burying the dead, which is the purest form of ahavat Yisrael a human being can achieve. This mitzvah is so dear, because one performs it knowing that the recipient cannot pay him back, cannot reciprocate. It is the highest form of ahavat Yisrael.
Of course, these great men could have said, "Since we were involved in this mitzvah, we will just wait until next year to offer a Pesach sacrifice. After all, one is exempt from a mitzvah when in the performance of another mitzvah."
But they not only loved their fellow Jew. They loved Hashem, and couldn't bear to be left out of the opportunity to serve Him in this great mitzvah of bringing the Pesach sacrifice.
Hashem "made an exception," and gave them a second chance to bring the offering. Of course, we learn many things from this act of Hashem. One comes first to mind, as I think of the special group of women I meet with on Wednesday nights, who leave their homes and families for an hour seriously to discuss how we can help to repair the world.
Second chances are not just in the realm of G-d. Who has let me down, who could stand a second chance? After all, how many "second" chances has Hashem given me?
I am honored to be part of a family that cares so much about the mitzvot as to have asked for a second chance to honor our Creator. And I am humbled and honored to be on the giving end of a second chance, just like my Father in Heaven.
Pesach Sheni: a second chance to offer the Passover offering, exactly one month after Passover
Ahavat Yisrael: love of a fellow Jew
Mitzvah: commandment from G-d; also refers to a good deed
Midbar: desert; Biblically refers to the generation of the giving of the Torah
Aaron HaKohen: Aaron the Priest, brother of Moses