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Question: Why do some people eat matzah on Pesach Sheni?

Harry Koenig

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Answer: We find the following in a mishnah in Mesechet Rosh Hashanah (18a): “For six months, the messengers would go forth [to announce the new moon]: Nissan because of Passover, Av because of the fast [of Tisha B’Av], Elul because of Rosh Hashanah, Tishrei because of the festivals, Kislev because of Chanukah, and Adar because of Purim. When the Holy Temple stood, they would even go forth on Iyar because of Pesach Kattan.”

Rashi (s.v. “Pesach Kattan”) explains that Pesach Kattan is Pesach Sheni, which occurs on the 14th of Iyar, based on Numbers 9:9-11: “Daber el Bnei 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 – 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 offers one who was either ritually defiled or kept away from the Beit HaMikdash on Pesach an opportunity to bring his Passover offering on Pesach Sheni. Rashi seems to be the first person to refer to this minor Passover as “Pesach Sheni,” which literally means “the second Pesach.”

Rabbi Zev Cohen, in his sefer Bein Pesach L’Shavuos (Kitzur Hadinim 5:37-38), explains that the mishnah refers to it as Pesach Kattan – literally, little or minor Passover – because it’s only observed for one day, not seven as the regular Passover is. Also, many leniencies are associated with the second Passover. Thus, compared to the first one, it’s “minor.”

Rabbi Cohen adds that it’s proper to learn about Pesach Sheni (in Parshat Beha’alotcha) and its laws on the 14th of Iyar, when the Pesach Sheni offering was brought, and again on the following evening (the 15th of Iyar) when the offering was eaten.

Rabbi Cohen also writes, “Although Pesach Sheni is not a festival and one is permitted to perform labor, it is nonetheless proper to rejoice somewhat.”

Sha’arei Teshuvah (Orach Chayim 131), quoting the Sha’arei Tziyon, states, “Those who don’t say Tachanun on the 14th of Iyar because of Pesach Kattan do say it on the 15th. In Saloniki, they protest strongly against those who don’t 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 Chayim, ad loc.), who states that our custom is to say Tachanun on the 14th of Iyar as well.

The Eishel Avraham (Orach Chayim, ad loc.) had the custom not to say Tachanun on the 14th. He also comments that since we’re all considered virtually defiled via a corpse, and thus would not have been able to offer a sacrifice at the appropriate time, we fulfill our obligations on Passover at the Seder by reciting the Haggadah. (It would thus seem that Pesach Sheni is of no consequence to us.) Nevertheless, it’s correct to remind G-d of the merit of the Pesach Sheni, which was offered when the Temple stood.

Sefer Likutei M’harich also discusses the opinion of Hagashot Yad Shaul (Yoreh De’ah 401), which is as follows: Even though the Gemara (Pesachim 95) rules that the evening of Pesach Sheni (see Rashi) is not sanctioned as a festival and one does not say Hallel on it, we don’t say Tachanun.

The Gaon of Liske (Sefer Hayashar V’Hatov, vol. 2) did not say Tachanun for seven days starting on Pesach Sheni (even though Pesach Sheni has no tashlumin, i.e., additional days on which to bring one’s korban).

Hagashot Yad Shaul (ad. loc.) rules that one does not fast on Pesach Sheni even if one of the fasts of B’hab (lit., Monday, Thursday, Monday) falls on it. The Eshel Avraham (ad loc.) disagrees and rules that one fasts and says Selichot; Tachanun, though, is omitted just as it is when a brit occurs on a fast day.

Sefer Likutei M’harich notes that men of piety and great deeds customarily eat matzah on Pesach Sheni. He also notes that the Pesach Sheni offering was eaten on the evening of the 15th as well and asks: How can we commemorate that today? The Imrei Esh, as well as his father-in-law, Rabbi Dovid Deitch, actually did eat matzah on the eve of the 15th along with a cooked egg. They also studied the subject of Pesach Sheni in the Torah along with its halachot, as described in Sefer Zichron Yehudah.

It is our custom today to eat matzah at least at one meal on Pesach Sheni, even with chametz present, based on the Mishnah (Pesachim 95a), which states: “on [Pesach Sheni] a person may have both chametz and matzah in his house.”

In the sefer of Rabbi Z. Cohen (ad loc.), we also find three additional halachot regarding Pesach Sheni related to death and mourning: One does not say a eulogy or Tzidduk Hadin; one does not say Kel Maleh, hazkarat neshamot for the memory of souls; and unveilings of monuments for the departed are not done on this day.

(To be continued)

Q & A: How Does One Observe Pesach Sheni? (Part II)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.