Baalotecha 5779

Our parsha this week is Behaalotecha, the third parsha in the Book of Numbers. We are introduced this week to the second Passover or Pesach Sheni which falls on the 14th of Iyyar, exactly one month after Passover. Pesach Sheni allowed those who were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice at the appointed time the chance to do so. Much has been made of this second chance holiday, which is still observed today in some circles. Why maintain this holiday at all without a Temple? How do we turn something that was all about making up for a very important missed sacrifice into something relevant to our lives?
Much has been made of the spiritual significance of second chances. Just as Pesach Sheni was instituted to allow those who were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice at the appointed time—the 14th of Nisan—the chance to do so, we, too, often find ourselves wishing we had a second chance at any number of things. How many of us spend precious time, energy and brain space ruminating about events in our past, replaying sequences of events in our heads, as if by doing so, a different outcome will emerge? So many of us yearn to change the past, to do things differently, all of those would-haves and should-haves consuming so much of our daily energy and drive. We know, intuitively and subconsciously, that we cannot change the past, and that the present moment is all we have and yet, we continue our fruitless quest. Pesach Sheni offers us a container within which we can reflect upon those opportunities we missed; those things we wish we’d done differently. Our tradition understands Pesach Sheni to have been instituted on behalf of those on a journey and unable to offer the Passover sacrifice as well as those in a state of ritual impurity. Just as those states are temporal and not definite, so, too, do our lives and circumstances constantly change and shift. This is indeed reminiscent of the famous Buddhist teaching of impermanence and non-attachment. Change is itself permanent, stasis is, often leading to a state of spiritual and emotional stuckness is to be avoided. May we utilize the spiritual container offered to us through Pesach sheni as an opportunity for reflection. In those moments of stuckness, may we remember that second chances are not as fleeting as we tend to think.

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