Path of Least Resistance?
By now you have surely recovered from Pesach (Passover) so we can break the news to you that there is also a Second Pesach. But don’t worry; you won’t have to do it all over again.
This week’s Parsha tells the story of a group of men who were unable to bring the Passover offering on Erev Pesach (the day preceding Passover) in the wilderness and approached Moses with a sincere request. “Why should we lose out?” It so happened that they had been occupied with a good deed – according to some it was nothing less than carrying the remains of Joseph from Egypt en route to his final resting place in Shechem – and because of their contact with the dead were spiritually unfit to participate in the Paschal lamb service.
Moses consulted G-d and was told that, in fact, the men were quite right. Henceforth, those who were spiritually impure or far away at the time the Passover offering was brought on the 14th of Nissan would be given a second chance exactly one month later on the 14th of Iyar to make good their lost opportunity.
There are many important lessons from this law, known as Pesach Sheini, such as “It’s never too late.” There are second chances in life for all of us. Or, that G-d sometimes waits to see if we really want something badly enough to demand it and only then does He give it to us. But now I’d like to share with you an important message I once heard from the former Rosh Kollel of Johannesburg, the late Rabbi Mordechai Shakovitzky olov hasholom (of blessed memory.)
He said that what those men in Moses’ day did was actually quite inspiring. You see, they didn’t really have to come and plead with Moses for a second chance. After all, they had the perfect alibi. They could have simply said, “Sorry, we were busy with another mitzvah.” They were tamei (ritually impure) and spiritually unable to participate. They had no reason to feel guilty. They couldn’t be faulted. And yet, it did bother them. They felt left out and genuinely desired to be together with their brethren in the observance of another mitzvah, the Pesach offering. People who had every opportunity to be free of obligation and wilfully choose to actively seek obligation are indeed deserving of honorable mention. It is right that they should be singled out in the Torah for their sincerity and devotion to the word of G-d.
Lots of us make excuses lots of times. It’s too cold, too hot, too expensive, too difficult etc, etc… Too many of us take the path of least resistance. Parents arranging a Bar Mitzvah for their son sometimes look for the easy way out. “Can we have it at Mincha (afternoon prayer), Rabbi? That will be less demanding on our son. He’s very active in the school sports program and won’t have that much time to learn.” Brides and grooms don’t always appreciate the beautiful way of life Judaism can offer our most intimate relationship. “Do we have to attend the classes, Rabbi? Is the Mikvah compulsory?”
“The difference between a success and a failure is that a failure makes excuses and a success makes a plan.”
Let’s not look for excuses. Don’t opt for the easy way out. Let us learn from the men in the wilderness who could have had every excuse in the book and yet happily chose to look for a new mitzvah (commandment) and to share in the good deed of their community.