1. Pesach Sheni is unlike any other mitzvah. The giving of Torah and mitzvos to the Jews was, in general, unrelated to any effort by its recipients. True, the Jews began preparing for Mattan Torah (Giving of the Torah) from the time of the exodus from Egypt, to the extent that, because of their longing for the Torah, they counted the days until Mattan Torah — the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. Nevertheless, even after these seven weeks of preparation, the Torah was infinitely beyond their grasp, and therefore G‑d had to take the first step and give it to them from above.

This applies to all the Torah, as stated: “G‑d spoke all these words saying.” It includes the command to bring the Pesach offering, and indeed, the Pesach offering emphasizes the idea of G‑d taking the first step more than Mattan Torah in general. Before Mattan Torah, the Jews at least prepared for seven weeks. But before the command to offer the Pesach sacrifice, they didn’t prepare at all. On the contrary, the mitzvah of Pesach (and milah) was given to Jews precisely because they were devoid of mitzvos.

The mitzvah of Pesach Sheni, on the other hand, was not (openly) given on the sixth of Sivan as were the other mitzvos, but, as related in Scripture (Bamidbar 9:1), came into existence “in the second year after their exodus from Egypt.” When G‑d commanded the Jews to offer the Pesach sacrifice, there were people “who were ritually unclean and could not offer the Pesach on that day.” They complained to Moshe: “Why should we be deprived of bringing G‑d’s offering in its appointed time among the children of Israel?” Because of their complaint, G‑d gave the Jews the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni — “In the second month, on the fourteenth day, towards dusk, they shall make it....”

We see, then, that the first Pesach was commanded directly by G‑d; it came from Above. Pesach Sheni came into being through Jews’ efforts — because they complained they didn’t want to be deprived. This caused the commandment concerning Pesach Sheni to be given to all Jews for all generations.

The lesson from this is that although the Jews who were ritually unclean knew why they couldn’t bring the Pesach in its appointed time (because the Pesach has to be offered in ritual cleanliness), this did not prevent them from strongly proclaiming their desire to bring the Pesach. This teaches that a Jew should never be satisfied with his present spiritual standing, but must always seek to rise higher, as the Torah instructs: “One must always ascend in holiness.” For, although “one who is happy with his lot” is a good character trait to aspire to, it applies only to physical things. In spiritual matters, one must always strive to do better.

In a more light-hearted vein, we can learn the same lesson from the verse, “in the heavens above and upon the earth below.” “Earth” corresponds to physical matters, “heavens” to spiritual matters, Torah and mitzvos. In “earth matters” one should look “below”: to look and see that there are others who are in a worse economic position than he, and therefore be “happy in his lot.” In “heaven” matters, one should look “above:” to look and see that there are Jews on a higher spiritual plane than he, and to therefore desire to rise to a higher level.

Because spiritual matters are connected to G‑d, the Giver of Torah and mitzvos, then, just as G‑d is infinite, so too a Jew, no matter on how lofty a level he presently is, can always rise higher.

2. In addition to the above lesson derived from the reason for Pesach Sheni, there is a lesson to be taken from Pesach Sheni itself. “Pesach” means to “pass over” or to “leap,” from the phrase, “G‑d passed over (possach) the houses of the Jews ... when He struck Egypt.” This teaches that a Jew’s service should be in a manner of “leaping,” beyond all limits. This lesson from “Pesach” derives principally from the first Pesach. Pesach Sheni (the second Pesach), because it follows the first Pesach, must, consonant to the command, “ascend in holiness,” add to this lesson.

Pesach Sheni teaches that one can “leap” in service even in regard to the “leap” of the first Pesach. The first Pesach (and its accompanying lesson that one’s service must be in the manner of leaping) came about, as explained previously, because G‑d commanded it and gave the strength to do so. Pesach Sheni emphasizes the person’s service, meaning a Jew has been given the ability to “leap” over even the service of the first Pesach.

There are, of course, advantages possessed by the first Pesach not possessed by Pesach Sheni. But in regard to the aspect of being able to increase in the service of the first Pesach because Pesach Sheni comes from the person’s service, Pesach Sheni is superior.

This is particularly emphasized now, in the time of exile. When the Bais HaMikdash existed, and the Pesach sacrifice was actually brought, the superiority of the first Pesach was evident (for there were many details present at the first Pesach offering omitted in the offering of the Pesach Sheni); and the distinction of Pesach Sheni was only in the spiritual sphere (a second “leap”). In exile, when Pesach is generally observed only in the spiritual, the superiority of Pesach Sheni is emphasized.

In other words, those parts of the Pesach sacrifice which, in the times of the Bais HaMikdash, were not present in the offering of the Pesach Sheni, are now, in exile, absent also in the first Pesach. Thus, the spiritual superiority of Pesach Sheni (which, although existing also in the time of the Bais HaMikdash, was overshadowed by the open absence of some physical details in the offering of the Pesach Sheni compared to the first Pesach), is emphasized in the time of exile.

The lesson from this: When the evil inclination tries to dissuade us from performing Torah and mitzvos by telling us that we cannot in any way fully observe Torah and mitzvos in exile, the answer comes from Pesach Sheni. Just as its distinction is evident only in exile, so too, when we perform Torah and mitzvos in exile, we produce more spiritual light than was possible when the whole world was filled with light in the time of the Bais HaMikdash.

Thus, it is specifically through our service in exile that we have the idea of “the superiority of light which comes from previous darkness.” It is our service now (“from previous darkness”) which produces the revelations of the future (“the superiority of light”).

Moreover, not only does the future revelation depend on our deeds now, but we have the ability to also reveal them — for Mashiach’s coming (when the revelation will come into effect) depends on our proper service now (teshuvah, etc).

To return to our main point: Pesach Sheni teaches that service to G‑d must be in the manner of “leaping” (Pesach) — and not just to suffice with one “leap” (first Pesach), but to “leap” further (Pesach Sheni — the second Pesach). And, because G‑d asks only what we are capable of, we have the ability to perform our service in such a manner.

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3. Although the term “Pesach Sheni — the second Pesach” indicates that a Jew must make a second “leap” (in addition to the “leap” of the first Pesach), it does not mean only two “leaps.” Just as G‑d is infinite, so, too, a Jew can make an infinite number of “leaps” in Torah and mitzvos which are connected to G‑d. What it does mean is that there are two general categories of “leaps”: 1) the first Pesach, which is a “leap” transcending all orderly progress in service; 2) Pesach Sheni, a “leap” compared even to the “leap” of the first Pesach. In each of these two categories there are an infinite number of levels, and a person is able to rise ever higher.

For example: There are different types of service — “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Service “with all your might” is infinitely higher than the previous two. Simultaneously, however, it is service “with all your might,” indicating that compared to a higher level, it is a limited service (commensurate to “your” might). Thus, although service today may be “with all your might,” tomorrow, when a person becomes a new being, he must reach a higher level of service. The service of “with all your might” of yesterday — which was an infinitely high level — has become finite compared to the level he must reach today.

Similarly, the service of teshuvah is “double strength.” As our Sages say, if a person was accustomed to learn one chapter, he should now learn two chapters. But it is obvious that “double strength” doesn’t mean only twice the amount, but one must constantly be increasing. Thus, even if one has properly repented, he must rise to a yet higher level of teshuvah, or, as our Sages put it, “all his days [should be spent] in teshuvah.”

So, too, with the service of “leaping.” Although it is divided into two general categories, one can, and must, always keep on “leaping” in his service to G‑d.

An example: There are an infinite number of levels in Gan Eden. In general, however, they are divided into two categories: the lower Gan Eden, and the upper Gan Eden. Thus the infinite number of levels in the lower Gan Eden all belong to that category, and the infinite number of levels in the upper Gan Eden all belong to the category of the upper Gan Eden.

In other words: Consonant to the rule, “one always ascends in holiness,” the Pesach celebrated in the year 5743 is loftier than that of 5742, and that of 5744 will be loftier than that of 5743. That is, there are an infinite number of levels in Pesach, although Pesach itself is the idea of an infinite leap in service. Simultaneously, there are two general levels: the first and second Pesachs — with each containing an infinite number of levels. Thus, the differences between the first Pesachs from year to year are in the category of the first “leap,” and the differences between the second Pesachs (Pesach Sheni) from year to year are all in the second category (a “leap” after the “leap” of the first Pesach).

Although the idea of the “second leap” is emphasized on Pesach Sheni, this concept applies to the whole year — the strength for which comes from Pesach Sheni. Thus, it is not limited only to today, the 14th of Iyar (Pesach Sheni), but applies also to tomorrow, the fifteenth, and to all the following days.

This is stressed by the fact that the day after Pesach Sheni is the fifteenth of Iyar, when the “moon is at its fullest.” The fullness of the moon indicates the peak of perfection, greater even than the lofty distinction of Pesach Sheni on the fourteenth.

Indeed, this farbrengen is taking place on the night between the fourteenth and fifteenth of Iyar, a time which belongs to both days. The Pesach Sheni, offered on the fourteenth, was eaten at night — and thus the night belongs to the fourteenth in this respect. On the other hand, this night also belongs to the following day, as we see that the Sefirah of the fifteenth day is counted on the previous night.

In general, the day follows the night in some matters, and night follows day in others. In matters pertaining to the world, which conceals the light of G‑dliness — darkness (night) — the day follows the night, for the purpose is to convert the darkness of night into the light of day. In matters of sanctity, the night follows the day, indicating that even non-holy matters should follow sanctity.

This is the difference between the Pesach sacrifice (night following day) and Sefiras HaOmer (day following night). The Pesach offering is a holy thing, a sacrifice; and even after the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed, its spiritual meaning still exists. Thus, the night follows the day in the case of Pesach Sheni.

Sefiras HaOmer is the idea of refining and elevating the animal soul, which is why the Omer offering was brought from barley, food for animals. In other words, the idea of Sefiras HaOmer is to refine the world, to shed light into it and illuminate its darkness. And therefore the day follows the night in the case of Sefiras HaOmer.

Because now is a time associated with both the fourteenth and fifteenth, it is appropriate to explain both the distinction of the fourteenth (Pesach Sheni) and the fifteenth (when the moon is at its fullest). Pesach Sheni teaches that service should be performed in a manner of “leaping” (with an infinite amount of “leaps”). That the fifteenth immediately follows Pesach Sheni teaches that this applies also to the days after Pesach Sheni, beginning from the fifteenth of Iyar, when an additional distinction is emphasized — “the moon is at its fullest.” Although on Pesach Sheni one has made a radical leap in service, he must make yet another leap the next day.

4. Pesach Sheni is only a few days apart from Lag BaOmer, the Yahrzeit of Rashbi; there is therefore a connection between the two. One such connection is in regard to Sefiras HaOmer, which is the service of refining the seven soul characteristics (middos/sefiros). Each middah encompasses the seven middos and therefore there are 49 middos (7x7), each one corresponding to one of the 49 days of Sefirah. As we say in the prayer after counting the Sefirah: “May it be Your will ... that in the merit of the Sefiras HaOmer which I counted today, the blemish that I have caused in the sefirah (the sefirah of that night) be rectified, and I may be purified and sanctified....”

The sefirah of Lag BaOmer is “Hod she’beHod,” and the start of the rectification of the sefirah of Hod is “Chessed shebeHod,” which is the sefirah of Pesach Sheni.

Another connection between Pesach Sheni and Lag BaOmer is that it is Rashbi who gives the strength to every Jew to carry out the service of Pesach Sheni. Pesach Sheni, we have previously explained, is the idea of a second “leap” — a “leap” even in comparison to the “leap” of Pesach. This is a very high level of service indeed. Rashbi was the one who abolished the division between the exoteric and esoteric aspects of Torah, and synthesized the two. Because everything in the world derives from the Torah, Rashbi’s revelation of the deepest secrets of the Torah also affected the world — a Jew’s service could now reach the highest levels, “leap after leap.” Thus, the strength for the service of Pesach Sheni comes from Rashbi who revealed the esoteric — and whose Yahrzeit is on Lag BaOmer, when his works and service are revealed below in perfection.

Because everything in the esoteric is paralleled and reflected in the exoteric (since the esoteric and exoteric are as soul and body), it follows that the connection between Pesach Sheni and Lag BaOmer (Rashbi’s Yahrzeit) is also seen in the exoteric aspect of Torah. There is a difference of opinion between R. Yehudah and R. Shimon (Rashbi) whether a congregation (in contrast to an individual) makes Pesach Sheni. R. Yehudah is of the opinion that it does, whereas Rashbi says a congregation cannot make Pesach Sheni. Thus we find in the exoteric a law said by Rashbi (whose Yahrzeit is on Lag BaOmer) concerning Pesach Sheni.

However, all is not clear: According to Rashbi’s opinion, that a congregation cannot make Pesach Sheni, it seems that, if the congregation does not bring the Pesach the first time, it will miss out on offering the Pesach sacrifice altogether!

It is even more perplexing that this is Rashbi’s opinion, who was the one who said, “I am able to absolve the whole world of judgment.” Rashbi did not say this out of vanity, G‑d forbid, but so that every Jew should know that despite the state of the world, there is always a “tzaddik who is the foundation of the world” who can absolve it of judgment. How then could Rashbi say that a congregation cannot make Pesach Sheni, depriving them of the Pesach without any hope of rectification — the exact opposite of the idea of absolving the world of judgment?

However, when Rashbi said that a congregation does not make Pesach Sheni, he meant a congregation doesn’t need the Pesach Sheni — and therefore may not bring it. That the congregation does not offer the Pesach does not mean it has missed out. Because of the wondrous distinction of a congregation, it is enough that they cry out, “why should we be deprived” (when they don’t bring the first Pesach). This itself effects the concept of Pesach, without actually having to bring a Pesach Sheni. As in teshuvah, where “sins become as merits,” it is specifically the sins which lead a person to long to come back to G‑d and repent. So, too, here the non-bringing of the first Pesach awakes a longing for the Pesach to the degree they do not actually have to bring it — it is effected automatically of itself, because of the longing.

As example: Tachanun, the confessional prayer, is the idea of teshuvah. Those days when we do not say tachanun does not mean we lack teshuvah. These days we do not need to say tachanun — because they are “auspicious days,” that which is effected through tachanun is effected by the day itself. Indeed, because the teshuvah of these days is not dependent on man’s service (as it is when we say tachanun), but is effected through the power of Torah — the effect is on a much loftier level.

Likewise, when Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbos, we do not blow the shofar. This does not mean we are lacking the effect of the shofar, but instead, Shabbos itself, without man’s effort, automatically effects those things which the blowing of the shofar normally does. And, because the shofar is blown through man’s efforts, dependent on his service and intentions, its effect cannot compare to that produced by Shabbos, which is independent of man’s efforts.

So, too, in our case: According to Rashbi, a congregation does not observe Pesach Sheni because its concept is automatically effected without the actual bringing of the sacrifice.

It follows from the above that there is an advantage to the Pesach Sheni being automatically effected (in the case of a congregation) over the Pesach Sheni being offered by man (in the case of an individual). When an individual must offer a Pesach Sheni, there is a time lapse between his complaint that he is being deprived until he actually brings the sacrifice. He feels deprived on the fourteenth of Nissan, when he cannot bring the first Pesach. He must then wait a full month until he can bring the Pesach Sheni on the fourteenth of Iyar.

When a congregation complains, “why should we be deprived,” Pesach Sheni is effected spiritually, without an actual sacrifice being necessary — and this happens immediately, without a month of waiting.

Now we can understand why it is specifically Rashbi who says that a congregation does not make Pesach Sheni. The Alter Rebbe writes that when Rashbi was hiding in a cave from the Romans for thirteen years, he was not able to perform a number of mitzvos, such as eating matzah on Pesach, making kiddush, esrog, sukkah, etc. However, during this period he effected through spiritual means everything that these mitzvos usually effect. Thus Rashbi, true to his position, holds that Pesach Sheni is also effected spiritually, without needing an actual sacrifice.

Another point: Rashbi was the leader of his generation, and a leader is united with the people to the extent that his concepts are reflected in them. Thus, when Rashbi looked at a Jew, he saw in him the level of Rashbi. Because Rashbi’s way of service (for 13 years) was that he didn’t need to actually perform mitzvos, but effected them spiritually, it was Rashbi who revealed this quality in Jews — that a congregation need not, and therefore may not, make Pesach Sheni.

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5. The above applies to Pesach Sheni every year. In addition, there are lessons to be derived from the day of the week on which Pesach Sheni falls this year (Wednesday), and from the daily portion of the weekly parshah (Emor).

Today’s portion of Chumash talks of the festivals, which includes the verse: (Vayikra 23:4) “These are the festivals of the L‑rd, holy assemblies, which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.” From the words, “which you shall proclaim,” the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 25a) learns that the sanctification of the month (on which the date of the festival depends) is given into the hands of Bais Din — “You [fix the months] — even if you make a mistake, you — even if you err deliberately....” That is, G‑d and the heavenly court, so to speak, are dependent on the earthly court as to when the new month will be set. This is the connection of the daily parshah to Pesach Sheni — it too is effected through the complaint of Jews, just as the festivals are established by Jews.

The connection between Pesach Sheni and Lag BaOmer is emphasized by Pesach Sheni this year being on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the fourth day of creation, the “luminaries” were placed in the heavens. The “luminaries” of the esoteric aspect of Torah are Rashbi’s teachings — whose Yahrzeit is Lag BaOmer.

There is also a connection between Pesach Sheni and Lag BaOmer emphasized in the daily portion of Chumash. Sefiras HaOmer is mentioned in the section on the festivals: (Vayikra 23:15) “You shall count ... seven complete weeks” — and the “festivals” in the Sefirah days are Pesach Sheni and Lag BaOmer.