Pesach Sheni gives those who did not offer the Pesach sacrifice the first time the opportunity to do so a month later. Its message is that nothing is irretrievable, that a Jew can always rehabilitate himself. On whichever level a Jew may be, he should always strive to advance further in his apprehension of G‑dliness.

A year after the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people brought the Pesach offering on the fourteenth day of the month of Nissan. Not all Jews were able to do so. The Torah relates:1 “There were some men who were ritually unclean from contact with the dead, and were unable to prepare the Pesach offering on that day; and they came before Moshe and Aharon that same day. Those men said to him: ‘We are ritually unclean from contact with the dead. Why should we be deprived of bringing the offering of the L‑rd at its appointed time among the children of Israel.’ Moshe said to them: ‘Stand by, and I will hear what the L‑rd will command concerning you.’ G‑d spoke to Moshe... ‘If any person of you or your future generations shall be ritually unclean from contact with the dead, or be on a distant journey, he shall still make the Passover-offering to the L‑rd. He shall make it on the fourteenth day of the second month....’”

A Jew who did not offer the Pesach sacrifice in its right time2 on the fourteenth of Nissan is given the opportunity to do so on the fourteenth of Iyar. The fourteenth of Iyar is therefore called Pesach Sheni, the Second Pesach, on which day it is customary to eat matzah.

Nothing is irretrievable

Although the original Pesach Sheni was instituted for those who were unclean or could not otherwise offer the Pesach sacrifice in its proper time, its concept applies to all Jews in all times,3 even now, when the Pesach sacrifice cannot be offered.

One clear lesson from Pesach Sheni is that a Jew need never give up hope. In the words of the Previous Rebbe:4 “The idea of Pesach Sheni is that nothing is irretrievable; we can always rectify our behavior. Even one who was ritually unclean or who was on a distant journey — even willingly5 — can still rehabilitate himself.”

A Jew is intrinsically good, his soul “a part of G‑d Above.”6 Sin is completely antithetical to his nature.7 If he does transgress, it is an aberration that cannot touch his essential self. He may be temporarily unclean, but he is of the loftiest levels. Thus no sin, no omission of service to G‑d, is irretrievable. A Jew can always return to his real identity.8

The power of Pesach Sheni extends even further. The penalty for deliberately not offering the Pesach sacrifice (i.e., although one was clean and not on a journey) is kores, spiritual excision of the soul. Yet, even in such a situation, if a Jew repents and offers the Pesach sacrifice on Pesach Sheni, he will not be punished with kores.9 Such is the power of repentance as exemplified by Pesach Sheni.

Indeed, Pesach Sheni in one respect is loftier than repentance in general. If a person sins thinking he will later repent, repentance will not help him.10 Pesach Sheni, on the other hand, helps even if he did not bring the first Pesach offering because he relied on the fact that he would offer it on Pesach Sheni.

Pesach is the only festival for which such a second chance is specifically given, and this is because Pesach marks the birth of the Jewish nation.11 The exodus from Egypt was the beginning of a process which culminated in the giving of the Torah, the process of transforming the Jews into a Torah nation.12 Since the Pesach offering is inextricably bound up with the exodus,13 its omission would mean the exodus was not whole. G‑d wanted that every Jew, even one who deliberately did not offer the Pesach sacrifice the first time, be given the chance to do so — for if there is no birth, there is no existence. A Jew’s Torah identity would be missing.

Higher level of service always required

The original Pesach Sheni was instituted for those who were unclean or could not otherwise offer the Pesach sacrifice in its proper time. The proper observance of Pesach renders Pesach Sheni unnecessary. What reason, then, is there for a Jew who has celebrated Pesach properly to commemorate Pesach Sheni?

A Jew constantly yearns for and awaits Moshiach’s coming,14 when the Beis HaMikdosh will be rebuilt. Should the Beis HaMikdosh be rebuilt in the period between Pesach and Pesach Sheni, the Jewish people will be required to bring the Pesach offering on Pesach Sheni.15 The expectation of the imminent arrival of Moshiach obligates a Jew, immediately after Pesach, to begin preparations for Pesach Sheni. And, even if Moshiach has not come by Pesach Sheni, it is proper to at least commemorate Pesach Sheni.

The above parallels a Jew’s personal service to G‑d. When G‑d commanded the building of the Sanctuary, He said:16 “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me and I will dwell within them.” It does not say “within it,” but rather, “I will dwell within them” — meaning, within each and every Jew.17 This personal sanctuary within each Jew can never be destroyed, and hence, although the actual Sanctuary no longer exists, a Jew performs, spiritually, all its practices and sacrifices.

A Jew should never remain content with his current spiritual status, regardless of how lofty it may be. Just as G‑d is infinite, a Jew’s service, through which he comes close to G‑d, is also infinite. New, higher levels are possible and must be striven for. Thus, when a Jew has perfected his present level of service — has completed the services of his inner sanctuary — a new sanctuary is required, and a commensurate higher level of service demanded of him.

This principle applies to all matters of Torah and mitzvos, including Pesach. Pesach means “leaping over,”18 and Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, which is cognate to the word Meitzorim, which means limits. A person’s character, his upbringing and mode of life, indeed nature itself, act as constraints on his cleaving to G‑d with unbounded enthusiasm, preventing a person from climbing higher in Divine worship. The exodus from Egypt in spiritual terms means a Jew must leap out of the limits of his previous level of service and enter a hitherto inaccessible plane of sanctity.

But even then a Jew must go further, for what was good on one level is inadequate for a higher level. His observance of Pesach, although complete at the time, has now become inadequate. He becomes obligated to observe Pesach Sheni.

Different degrees of sanctity

That a Jew need observe Pesach Sheni although he has observed Pesach properly, is in harmony with the original reason for Pesach Sheni, which was instituted for those who could not observe Pesach because they were ritually unclean. There are various degrees in ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness.19 The degree of ritual cleanliness necessary for maaser sheni, the tithe eaten in Jerusalem, is insufficient to eat terumah, the portion of produce belonging to the kohanim. Thus a person who is considered clean in regard to maaser sheni is unclean for terumah. In turn, the degree of cleanliness necessary for terumah is inadequate for partaking of the sacrifices in the Beis HaMikdosh. Similarly, although one may be fit to partake of the general sacrifices, he may be unclean in regard to the parah adumah, the red heifer, which demanded an extraordinarily high level of ritual cleanliness. In short, cleanliness on one level is uncleanliness on a higher level.

Although a Jew may have observed Pesach to the best of his abilities, that service becomes insufficient in comparison to the new heights reached after Pesach. It is “unclean,” and he must ascend to new levels of cleanliness, build a new sanctuary. A second Pesach is needed.

This is the true meaning of teshuvah, repentance. Teshuvah is not just regret for sins and the resolve to start afresh. Teshuvah literally means the return of a Jew to G‑d.20 Even a Jew who has never sinned must strive to come closer to G‑d, and since G‑d is infinite, a Jew can rise ever higher in his apprehension of G‑dliness.

A Jew always seeks to do better

An essential condition in teshuvah is that a person must feel that his past conduct was insufficient, and therefore want to rectify it.21 This, too, is reflected in Pesach Sheni. Jews sacrificed the first Pesach offering in the month of Nissan because so G‑d commanded. Not so with the second Pesach in the month of Iyar. It was not originally commanded by G‑d; it was not even proposed by Moshe; it resulted from the complaint of those Jews who could not offer the Pesach sacrifice in its appointed time. They came to Moshe and demanded of him, “Why should we be deprived of bringing the offering of the L‑rd?” They felt their lack and desired to rectify it. G‑d immediately responded to their heartfelt cry and told them that they may still bring the Pesach offering on the fourteenth of Iyar.

This demonstrates the greatness of a Jew. A Jew is not content to be on a low spiritual level, but seeks — demands — to be given the opportunity to raise himself.

It is this yearning for improvement that will bring the ultimate perfection of the Messianic Age. The complaint of Jews, “Why should we be deprived of bringing the offering of the L‑rd” — the Pesach offering in the third Beis HaMikdosh — is heard by G‑d, and very soon, “we shall eat there of the sacrifices and Pesach offerings.”22

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, pp. 216-220 Shabbos Parshas Emor, 5738