This coming Tuesday night and Wednesday is Pesach Sheni. What is its origin and how does it apply to us today?
“And G-d spoke to Moshe, in the wilderness of Sinai, in the second year from their exodus from the Landof Egypt, in the first month saying, ‘The Children of Israel shall observe the Pesach Offering in its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month (Nisan) in the afternoon; according to all its laws and ordinances are you to make it.'”
“There were men who were made impure by (contact with) a human corpse and could not make the Pesach Offering on that day; so they approached Moshe and Aharon on that day. Those men said to him (to Moshe), ‘We are impure because (of contact) with a dead body of a man, why should we be diminished by not offering G-d’s offering in its appointed time among the Children of Israel. And Moshe said to them, ‘Stand and I will hear what G-d has commanded concerning you.’ And G-d spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel, if any man will become impure (because of contact with) a human corpse or on a distant journey whether you or of your (future) generations, he shall make the Pesach Offering unto G-d. On the second month, on the fourteenth day in the afternoon shall he make it, with matzot and maror shall he eat it. They shall not leave over from it until the morning nor shall they break a bone of it; like all the decrees of the Pesach Offering shall they make it.'”
What makes the Korban Pesach so special that Hashem gave us a “make-up” date in the event we were not able to bring it on Pesach?
The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the Pesach offering stands as a clear and strong sign that our destiny is in the hands of Hashem. When we were taken out of Egypt, Hashem performed great miracles and changed “nature” in a spectacle that was open to all for the viewing. The whole world saw that Hashem is the one who runs the world and controls our destiny. At that time, we all believed in Hashem and recognized the role He plays in our lives. The fact that we witnessed such a display at the time of our exodus and recognized how Hashem controls our destiny is a pillar of our belief in Hashem. As the Pesach offering carries with it such great significance, Hashem wanted everyone to have the opportunity to demonstrate their belief. Therefore, one who was unable to bring the offering for a reason beyond his control had the opportunity to bring the offering a month later, in the month of Iyar.
Not just anyone was able to bring a “make-up” sacrifice on Pesach Sheni. The Torah mentions that the following can bring their sacrifice on Pesach Sheni: a person who was ritually unclean due to contact with a corpse at the time of Pesach; and, a person who was in a distant place at the time of Pesach. The Ramban says that all who miss bringing the offering at Pesach have to bring it on Pesach Sheni. However, only people who were in a situation where their inability to bring the offering was beyond their control were exempt from bringing it on Pesach (and therefore are not subject to any punishment.)
The offering brought on Pesach Sheni differed in some respects from the one brought on Pesach itself. On Pesach Sheni, it was permitted to have chametz (leavened bread) in the house. However, the offering, as on Pesach, was to be eaten with Matzo and Maror. It was permitted to remove the meat of the Pesach Sheni offering from the group of those who gathered together to eat it. It was not brought together with a Korban Chagiga (a festival offering). It was like the Korban Pesach as the meat had to be broiled, no meat could be left over, and bones of the offering could not be broken.
While the Leviyim did sing Hallel when the Korban Pesach of Pesach Sheini was being slaughtered in the Beit Hamikdash, Hallel was not recited during the Pesach meal by the members of the Chavura. “‘Why should we be diminished?’ We do not find anywhere that a mitzva, which was required to be observed at a specific time, could be “made up” at a later time. The sole exception is the Korban Pesach. Why? Because there were men in Israelwho exerted themselves and struggled to fulfill the mitzva. They pleaded before G-d and said, ‘Why should we be diminished?’ For this reason, their wish was granted – for them and for future generations.”
Pesach Sheni does not carry much practical significance with us as far as any performances or observances go. We do not say the Tachanun (a prayer of supplications which is normally not said on holidays) as Pesach Sheni was a day of rejoicing for those who did bring the offering on that day. Furthermore, some people have a custom of eating leftover matzo, to commemorate the offering that was eaten with matzo.