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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Bemidbar: Parashat Behaalotecha: Pesah Sheni

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In this week's parasha of Behaalotecha, we read about the people of Bnei Yisrael who came forward to Moshe Rabeynou and said:

"We have become unclean because of the deceased, but why should we be kept from presenting Hashem's offering [Qorban Pesah] with the other Israelites at the appointed time?" (Behaalotecha 9:7)

These individuals asked Moshe Rabeynou a very direct question. They had become ritually impure because of their contact with the deceased, yet still wanted to serve Hashem and bring the sacrifice of Qorban Pesah. Generally, qodashim, holy animal sacrifices, can only be brought by ritually pure, or "tahor", individuals.

Seemingly, this is an odd question. Because they are ritually unclean or "tameh" they are excluded from bringing a sacrifice, simple qorbanot 101. Why did they think that they could simply go around the halacha? And moreover, how could they ask to perform the sacrifice after the time of the holiday had already passed?

First, let's understand what they were thinking. The Gemara in Masechet Pesahim 77a teaches that the qorban Pesah is to be brought even in tumah, or ritual uncleanliness. For the verse states: "Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time (bemodado)" (9:2), and Gemara understands this as during its appointed time no matter what, even in tumah. However, the Gemara is referring specifically to the Tumah of the entire qahal. If the majority of Bnei Yisrael are ritually unclean, then all the duties of the Mishkan or Bet Hamiqdash can still be performed in tumah.

[aside: from this principle extends the famous question of Hanoukah, why there was a need for the Kohanim to acquire pure oil, if the majority of Bnei Yisrael were already impure due to the causalities of the war.]

These individuals believed that this concept was true even for individuals. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Only communal tumah is ignored, while individual tumah is adhered to. Therefore, Moshe had them purify themselves, and perform Pesah Sheni, bringing the sacrifice of the holiday on a new appointed "makeup" date, i.e. Pesah Sheni.

Even though these individuals did not have a clear view the halacha, there is so much to learn from their actions. Their will, their desire to perform the missvah of qorban pesah was so great, that it overshadowed anything else. They went right to Moshe and demanded to have a part in this missvah no matter how limited it may be. The entire establishment of Pesah Sheni serves as a testimony to those strong-willed members of the qahal, who strive beyond all else to perform the missvot with full furvor, and operate Leshem shamayim. May Hashem bless us with the ability to ignite in ourselves the passion for performing the missvot, as the individuals who helped create Pesah Sheni.
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