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QUESTION: What is the significance of Pesach Sheni, which seems to be just another notation on the calendar?
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ANSWER: Pesach Sheni is indeed more than just a mere notation on the calendar. We find the following in a mishna in Tractate Rosh Hashana (18a): “For six [different] months, the messengers would go forth [Rashi explains s.v. "shisha chodashim" that this was in the earlier times, before our pre-calculated calendar was put into use, when Beit Din would send messengers, upon whose testimony they relied, to report if a new moon was present in order to calculate the start of the months and holidays]; Nissan [calculations were made] for Passover, Av for the fast [Tisha B'av], Elul for Rosh Hashana, Tishrei for the setting of the Festivals. Kislev for Chanukah, and Adar for Purim. When the Holy Temple stood, they would go forth even on Iyar for Pesach Kattan (lit., little Passover, meaning that this was a minor festival).”
Rashi s.v. “Pesach Kattan” explains this as referring to Pesach Sheni [which occurs on the 14th of Iyar, based on the verses in Parashat Beha'alotcha, Numbers 9:9-11] “Daber el B’nei Yisrael lemor, ish ish ki yi’hiyeh tamei lanefesh, o b’derech rechoka lachem, o l’doroteichem ve’asa Pesach L’Hashem bachodesh hasheni b’arba’a asar yom bein ha’arbaim ya’asu oto al matzot u’merorim yochluhu - [G-d told Moses] Speak to the Children of Israel saying, if any man will become impure through a corpse or [will be] on a distant road, whether you or your [future] generations, he shall make the Passover offering for G-d in the second month [Iyar], on the 14th day in the afternoon shall they make it, with matzot and bitter herbs shall they eat it.”
Thus, the Torah offered one who was either ritually defiled or who was kept away from the Beit Hamikdash another opportunity to bring his Passover offering, on Pesach Sheni. Rashi seems to be the first to refer to this minor Passover as ‘Pesach Sheni,’ lit., the second Pesach.
As to the mishna’s referring to the day as Pesach Katan, meaning little or minor Passover, Rabbi Zev Cohen, in his sefer Bein Pesach L’Shavuos (Kitzur Hadinim 5:37-38) explains that it is only observed for one day and not seven, as the first Passover is. Also, the second Passover has many leniencies. Thus, compared to the first Passover, the second is ‘minor’.
Rabbi Cohen adds that it is proper to learn about Pesach Sheni (in Parashat Beha’alotcha) and its laws on the 14th of Iyar, when the offering was made, and again on the following evening (the 15th of Iyar) when the offering was eaten.
Further, R. Cohen states, “Though Pesach Sheni is not a festival and one is permitted to perform labor, it is nonetheless proper to rejoice somewhat.”
We find other halachos pertaining to Pesach Sheni, as well, including those regarding prayer. Sha’arei Teshuva (Orach Chayyim 131), quoting the Sha’arei Tziyon, states, “Those that do not fall Nefilat Apayim (lit., the falling on one’s face) in prayer and say Tachanun on the 14th of Iyar because of Pesach Katan, do so on the 15th. In Saloniki they protest strongly against one who does not do this, and such is the custom as well in Kushta, in Israel and in Egypt – to say it on the 15th.”
Sefer Likutei M’harich (p. 113) mentions the above, and also quotes Pri Megadim, Orach Chayyim (ad. loc.), who states that our custom is to say Tachanun on the 14th of Iyar as well. In addition, Likutei M’harich discusses Sefer Eishel Avraham (Orach Chayyim, ad. loc.) who had the custom not to say Tachanun on the 14th. Eishel Avraham further comments that as we are t’mei’ei meitim - all considered as virtually defiled via a corpse, and thus we would not have been able to offer a sacrifice at the appropriate time, we fulfill our obligations on Passover at the seder with the recitation of the Hagada. [It would thus seem that Pesach Sheni is of no consequence to us.] Nevertheless, it is correct to remind G-d of the merit of the Pesach Sheni, which was offered in the time the Holy Temple stood.
Sefer Likutei M’harich also discusses the opinion of Hagashot Yad Shaul (Yoreh Deah 401) which is that even though in the Gemara (Pesachim 95) we rule that the evening is not sanctioned as a festival and one does not say Hallel (Rashi ad. loc. defines the evening as that of Pesach Sheni) nevertheless, neither do we say Tachanun. The custom of the Gaon of Liske (Sefer Hayashar V’Hatov Vol. 2) is also mentioned. He did not say Tachanun for seven days (on Pesach Sheni and afterward). Hagashot Yad Shaul (ad. loc.) further rules that as regard the fast of B’hab (lit., Monday, Thursday, Monday), referring to the custom of fasting on
these three days following a festival, if this occurred on Pesach Sheni, one would not fast.
Eishel Avraham (ad. loc.) disagrees and rules that not only would one fast, but Selichot would be recited as well; however, Tachanun would be omitted just as we are accustomed to
doing when a brit occurs on a fast day.
Likutei M’harich then notes that it is the custom of people of piety and great deeds to eat matza on Pesach Sheni, the 14th of Iyar. He poses a question: Was not Pesach Sheni observed by eating the sacrifice on the next evening (the 15th) as well, and how can that be commemorated today? The explanation provided is that indeed, the Gaon Imrei Esh, as
well as his father-in-law Rabbi Dovid Deitch, would eat matza on the eve of the 15th as well, together with a cooked egg, and they also studied the subject of Pesach Sheni in the Torah
along with its halachot, as described in Sefer Zichron Yehuda.
It is our custom today to eat matza at least at one meal, even with chametz present in the house [at the table]. This is based upon the mishna (Pesachim 95a), ‘… on the second (Pesach Sheni) one may have in his house both chametz and matza.
In the sefer of Rabbi Z. Cohen (ad. loc.), we find three other halachot regarding Pesach Sheni, dealing with death and mourning: One does not offer a eulogy or say Tzidduk Hadin. One does not recite the Kel Maleh, hazkarat neshamot for the memory of the souls. Finally, unveilings of monuments for the departed are not performed on this day.
In the merit of this discussion, may we again rejoice in our Holy Temple with the bringing of the Passover sacrifices. May it be built speedily in our days.
About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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