Paschal Prerequisites

In the portion of Behaalos’cha, the Torah relates1 how the Jewish people brought the Paschal offering in the desert on the fourteenth of Nissan , one year after their Exodus from Egypt. At that time, certain individuals were ritually impure and so could not bring their offering.

In response to their lament “Why should we lose the privilege of bringing the offering,” G‑d said that those unable to bring the Paschal offering on the fourteenth of Nissan could do so one month later, on the fourteenth of Iyar. This “makeup” offering is known as Pesach Sheni , the “Second Passover.”

In the simple context of the verse, there are three elements that may prevent one from bringing the Paschal offering at the appointed time. These are:

a) the individual was ritually impure during the time of the offering;

b) the person was outside the Courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash ;

c) the individual’s chametz was still in existence.

Why are these three elements prerequisites to offering the Pesach Rishon , the “First Passover”?

All sacrificial offerings, korbanos , possess three general components. First and most essential is — as indicated by the name korban, which is derived from the root karov , or near — that of drawing close to G‑d.2

The second aspect of korbanos is that they elevate that which is below to the higher spiritual realms. This applied particularly to the portion of the korban that was consumed by the heavenly fire which descended upon the altar.3

The third element in korbanos is they draw down G‑dliness from above. This applies mainly to the portion that was eaten by the priests, or by the individual who brought the offering. By consuming the korban, its sanctity permeated the individual, becoming his very flesh and blood.4

With regard to the Paschal offering, these three elements exist to an even greater degree, for the following reasons:

The closeness to G‑d accomplished by the Paschal offering is far greater than that achieved by other offerings. This is because the spirituality attained is not merely an advance from level to level, but rather — as the name Pesach (Hebrew for “leaping”5) implies — that a Jew is thereby empowered to “leap” out of his previous existence, becoming an entirely new entity. The Paschal offering thus surpasses other offerings, after the bringing of which a person remains essentially unchanged.

The elevation of that which is below to a higher spiritual realm is also greater in the Paschal offering than in other offerings, for the elevation is accomplished even in that portion that is eaten. This is because that part as well is to be “roasted over fire.6 Fire — rising as it does from lower to higher — echoes the elevation from below to above.

So too with regard to the G‑dliness drawn down through eating the Paschal offering. It too is greater than that afforded by other offerings, for “the Paschal offering originated for the purpose of being eaten.”7

In order to accomplish these three things, it is necessary

a) for the person’s chametz to have been destroyed;

b) that he be ritually pure; and

c) that he find himself within the confines of the Beis HaMikdash.

Chametz denotes arrogance.8 Since G‑d says of a haughty individual that “We cannot dwell together,”9 the possession of chametz precludes drawing close to G‑d, something that is integral to the Paschal offering.

The state of ritual impurity counters the elevation contained within the Paschal offering. Ritual impurity is an intangible; it cannot be grasped physically or even intellectually.10 It consists of a change in a person’s spiritual status, whereby a soul’s spirituality is diminished. It therefore hinders a person’s ability to lift himself out of the physical world and become part of the spiritual one.

Being outside the Beis HaMikdash involves the physical body. Although a person may desire to be inside the Beis HaMikdash , and consequently — because of his heartfelt desire — in a spiritual sense he indeed is inside,11 his physical self is still outside. This is the opposite of the drawing down of G‑dliness accomplished by eating the Paschal offering.

Pesach Sheni teaches us that even when one is lacking in any, or even all, of these three elements, and thus cannot bring the Paschal offering in its appointed time, “it is never too late; one can always rectify the past.”12

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. VIII, pp. 67-74.