In the portion of Behaalos’cha,the Torah relates how the Jewish people sacrificed the Paschal offering on the fourteenth day of Nissan, one year after their exodus from Egypt.1 This was the only Paschal offering the Jews were commanded to bring during the forty years they spent in the desert.2

There were certain people who were ritually impure at that time and consequently could not bring the offering. They came before Moshe and Aharon and said: “Why should we be denied the privilege of bringing the offering?” G‑d thereupon told Moshe to tell the people that those who were unable to bring the offering at the appointed time could do so one month later, on the fourteenth of Iyar.3

The purpose of the Torah is not to serve as a history book, but to teach us how to live our lives. The events it records are therefore not necessarily listed in chronological order.4 However, when dates of events are specified and at the same time the events themselves are not listed in chronological order, there must be a reason for it.

The Book of Bamidbar begins by describing the census of the Jewish people that took place a year and a month after the Jewish people left Egypt. The events surrounding the Paschal offering, described in Behaalos’cha, the third portion in the Book of Bamidbar, took place one month earlier. This is also explicitly stated in the Torah. Nevertheless the Book of Bamidbar does not begin with this event, as it seemingly should.

Why, indeed, does the Book of Bamidbar not begin in chronological order, with the events surrounding the Paschal offering the Jews brought in the desert?

Rashi5 explains that “this is because this [event of bringing the Paschal offering] bespeaks the shame of the Jewish people; during all of the forty years that the Jews were in the desert, they brought the Paschal offering only once.” The Torah seeks6 to begin a new Book with “praises of Israel” and not with their shame; beginning the Book of Bamidbar in chronological order would have defeated this purpose.

The following objection to Rashi’s explanation may be raised: The reason the Jewish people brought the Paschal offering only once during their entire forty-year sojourn in the desert was simply that while in the desert they were never again commanded by G‑d to do so! How, then, was their failure to bring additional Paschal offerings an act that “bespeaks their shame”?

Although the Jews were indeed not commanded to bring additional Pesach offerings in the desert, this command was unlike other commands that couldonly be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael: G‑d simply did not command them to bring additional Paschal offerings in the desert — they were not forbidden to offer it there.

What’s more, when the few individual Jews who lacked the opportunity to bring the Pesach offering at its appointed time requested a chance to offer it soon after, they were given the opportunity to do so a month later — something not found concerning any other command or offering.

It therefore stands to reason that the Jewish people should have requested and demanded the privilege of bringing the Paschal offering in the subsequent thirty-nine years of their sojourn in the desert! That they did not do so pointsto their “shame.”

Had the Jewish people stated: “Why should we be denied the privilege” of bringing an annual Paschal offering — as was done during the first year in the desert by those individuals who lacked the opportunity to bring the Passover offering at its appointed time — G‑d would have acceded to their request.

But why did Moshe and Aharon and others of similar stature not request that the Jewish people be allowed to bring the Paschal offering during these thirty-nine years?

Jewish leaders are entirely dedicated to the good of all of Israel. The “shame” of the Jewish people not taking a lesson from those who said, “Why should we be denied the privilege,” was — up to that point — not especially grave. After all, we only find that G‑d acceded to the requests of those who desired to bring a compensatory offering.

Had the petitioning of Moshe and Aharon given rise to a new Paschal offering, the shame of the Jewish people would have been heightened: Why had only Moshe and Aharon and not the general population themselves not requested this?

Moshe and Aharon were ready to forego their own spiritual advancement (that would have resulted from bringing thirty-nine subsequent Paschal offerings) for the sake of the Jewish people. They did not want the Jewish people to be shamed any more than they already had been.

The “Eternal Torah”7 here teaches us an eternal lesson: Jews may always request, “Why should we be denied the privilege?” This request is especially apt now, in relation to our ultimate desire and request for the coming of Mashiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIII, pp. 62-72.