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A second Passover – A second chance

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Success is sweet. We feel fulfilled when everything falls into place and our dreams are achieved to perfection.

But life includes moments of missed opportunities. We fall and fail. There are those days of disappointment when we have made the wrong choice, or when we’re disillusioned by circumstances that deny us success.

What do we do when we confront a disastrous situation at work, or when a relationship has taken a bad turn? How do we react when our dreams have been dashed by the pain and sadness that comes with failure or loss?

A year after we were liberated from Egypt, G-d instructed our people, Israel, to relive the exuberance of the exodus and the joy of our emancipation by celebrating a pascal banquet with our families. It was an opportunity to express our gratitude and national joy on the anniversary of our newfound freedom.

The Torah tells us that a group of people were denied the opportunity of participating in the mitzvah and the celebration because of a technicality. They had contracted ritual impurity, which precluded them from bringing the pascal offering. They were deeply pained and disappointed.

They turned to Moshe Rabeinu and Aaron the high priest, and cried, “Lama nigara?” (Why are we denied the opportunity of participating in the pascal offering amidst our people?)

G-d responded to their cry from the heart. He presented a new commandment. In the event that there were any people who were ritually impure, who had been far away, or who had erred or sinned, resulting in them not participating in the pascal celebration, they would be afforded a second opportunity to bring the Pesach offering. Thirty days after Pesach, on the 14th day of Iyar, they would be able to celebrate the festival of Pesach Sheni, the second Passover.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe derived a broader life message from this plea to Moshe, and G-d’s response. Pesach Sheni, he said, teaches us that it’s never too late, we’re never trapped in the despair of loss. We always have a second chance.

The mitzvah of Pesach Sheni is unique in that its origin didn’t emanate from Hashem‘s instruction, as do the other commandments of the Torah. This mitzvah, which symbolises the fact that we have a second chance and we can always pick up the pieces of failure, emanated from a cry from the pained hearts of those who had been excluded from the Pesach experience. Their cry, “Lama nigara?” turned the tide. This mitzvah was born in their desire and determination to be involved and not lose the responsibility and opportunity of participating in a national experience alongside their brothers and sisters.

On Friday, 5 May/14 Iyar, we celebrate Pesach Sheni, a day to focus on our response to lost opportunities. We take strength in knowing that there’s always a second chance. We’re never defined by failure. We can and must pick ourselves up and turn disappointment into stepping stones of growth.

Pesach Sheni reminds us that G-d is always waiting for us to care enough. When it bothers us to the core and we’re really committed to investing in a relationship that’s on the rocks or to realise that our dreams are slipping away, we can and must – with G-d’s help – muster the strength to turn a negative situation around and take a second chance to succeed.

  • Rabbi Dovid Hazdan is the rabbi at Great Park Synagogue and the dean of Torah Academy.

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