This week’s parasha is full of drama, so many interesting themes. Firstly, the lighting of the holy Menorah, the Eternal Light, then the commandment of celebrating Passover in the desert, the year after the Exodus. Then the complaints about the manna, Bnei Yisrael wanting meat, and the quail being sent. And the whispers of Miriam, the prophetess, to Aharon, her brother about their brother Moshe. Her punishment, the lesson Bnei Yisrael had to learn from all these episodes. Action packed.
What really caught my eye and made my heart flutter was a pretty straightforward passage that follows the commandment of commemorating Pesach in the first year after Yitziat Mitzrayim. A group of people came to Moshe and told him that they, for various reasons, they would not be able to celebrate Pesach at that given time and they asked what, if anything, could be done about it.
“God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai desert, in the second year of the Exodus from Egypt, in the first month, saying, let the children of Israel make the Pesach sacrifice at its proper time… And there were men who were impure due to contact with a dead man, and they could not make the Pesach [Passover] sacrifice on that day, and they came before Moshe and Aharon on that day. They said to him, we are impure due to contact with a dead man; why are we worse, that we should not bring a sacrifice before God in its time, among the children of Israel?” [Bamidbar 9:1-7]
They did not want to miss out on the opportunity of celebrating this momentous occasion. Moshe asked God and came back with the answer that “If a person will be ritually unclean or will be on a distant journey, now or in future generations,” he will still be given the opportunity to prepare the Passover offering. He will prepare it one month later, on the 14th of Iyar and eat it with matza and marror. No intense cleaning, no week long matza munching, just one day and they get back a lost chance.
The idea struck me as super powerful. A Second Chance. Real and Honest. An eternal message that there is forgiveness, that change is possible, acceptable and even desirable in the eyes of God.
What first blew me away was the extreme, endless understanding of the Torah for the human psyche. It’s never too late, there’s always a second chance. Take a moment to take that in. What music in those words, what empowerment. More than anyone, God knows that the Torah was given to humans, only human beings with human frailties and human failings. Humans who will fall, will fail, humans who will mess up. He could have offered the Torah to the angels. They are, after all, perfect in every way. But He chose us. Because, guess what?
God does not want perfection, He wants improvement. He wants forward movement. He wants ascension and eventually transcendence. He wants the slow steady climb of a soul that is searching and growing.
And human souls can make mistakes, they will make mistakes. And get this. They are supposed to make mistakes. As a matter of fact, that is the surest and fastest way to learn and grow and change. And after a fall, one rises up stronger, better, higher. Mistakes are built in to the chronic condition that all humans suffer from: that of being human. They can feel, they can regret, they can change their mind, have a change of heart. They can make amends, right wrongs. With the amazing gift that is teshuva, they can even figuratively turn back the clock.
In the inimitable words of Rabbi Nachman: If you believe you can damage and dismantle, then believe in equal measure that you can repair, rebuild. And start over. Nowhere is too far away. There is always a way back.
In a home where, God forbid, perfectionism rules and making mistakes is not an option and where compliance and criticism are the only language that children hear, then negativity reigns. Children grow up not believing in themselves or in the future. That is a sad place to be. A place with no hope, is no place at all.
Judaism is big on second chances, teshuva, if you will.
Sometimes they come as small incidents on otherwise uneventful days. Like having spoken hurtful words and apologizing. Or coming face to face with our inner selves and wondering why we were burdened with inherited traits or adopted behaviors that lead us so far from His will. The ritually unclean or on a distant (spiritual) journey. Why should we miss out on the real joys of life, a relationship with our Creator, serenity and emotional well being? In admitting our shortcomings, we renew ourselves and become reacquainted with ourselves and with God. Second chances are a gift.
The other deeply meaningful thing that caught my attention was how these men asked for a second chance. They were not willing to forgo the chance of a Pesach in their lives. They wanted it that badly that God said OK. Pretty impressive. And again, a topic for another time.
We have yet to get to know each other, but here goes. Full disclosure. This month marks our own personal second chance, a time when we felt so very personally, how God gives us some breathtaking second chances. This month marks the anniversary of our son’s kidney transplant. Thirteen years now. And we count and acknowledge and rejoice with every single one of them. God not only saved his life, He gave it back to him. And to us all. Why, you may ask, did He almost take it to begin with? That would be the topic of another spiritual journey. But to us this day means endless gratitude. Because not everyone gets the chance of being born anew. The idea of Pesach Sheini, this one day Peach do-over that is mentioned in the parasha, is that we bring ourselves to God, defects and all.
It doesn’t matter where we were or how far we’ve gone or where we were yesterday. Today He gives us another chance. Grab it , my friends and don’t let go…