A year after the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, they were commanded to bring the Passover sacrifice once again (on Passover eve) as they did the previous year. In order to participate in the Passover sacrifice, one must be rendered clean of spiritual impurities. There was a group of people who were not able to purify themselves in time for the sacrifice, and they were disappointed. These people approached their leaders, Moses and Aaron, and said, “Why should we be left out from offering the sacrifice?” Moses then forwarded their request to God, and God answered that indeed, there will be another opportunity exactly one month later to bring the sacrifice, for them and for anyone else who couldn’t bring the Passover sacrifice at the proper time. This new clause was instituted as a permanent law and is known as “Pesach Sheini,” the second Passover.
This exchange would seem to be somewhat strange. What were these people thinking when they approached Moses and Aaron? Regardless of whether or not it was their fault, the facts were that they were missing the qualifications to participate in this sacrifice. Perhaps the following year they would be qualified and have the opportunity to do so then. Why did they even bother bringing attention to their disappointment? They were not aware at the time that a Pesach Sheini would be granted. This could be compared to someone who wants to enroll in a certain college course but is missing the prerequisites. If you don’t have what it takes you just can’t do it. When you are qualified, that’s when you can pursue that which you desire.
At times in our lives we decide to do something, but we are then faced with an obstacle making it impossible for us to advance further. When this happens, we react in one of two ways. Either we give up and say, “It just was not meant to be.” Or, we continue to push on with our goal and work tirelessly to figure out how we can come through with that which we desire. When we choose the latter, we try whatever we can and we will often even pursue avenues which don’t make any sense, in hope that maybe they will bear fruit. When do we display the former attitude and when do we follow the latter? When we were never really motivated in the first place, rather we were just doing what we felt we should do or had to do, we are likely to stop our efforts in the face of an obstacle obstructing our way.
However, if we truly desire our goal, we will not give up easily and we will try all kinds of ways to reach our goal, even when the odds are against us. The Jews who could not participate in the Passover sacrifice were not content with being absolved from this obligation. On the contrary, they were severely pained by the fact that they couldn’t partake in this special service. Therefore, they could not stop themselves from expressing their disappointment to Moses and Aaron in the hope that just maybe there could be some way for them to make it up, even when it seemed impossible. And indeed, Pesach Sheini enabled them to participate in the service at later date. When God sees that someone earnestly yearns to do good even when it is impossible, very often God will eventually give that person the opportunity to achieve that which he desires.
As our Sages have told us (Tractate Makos 10b), “A person is led upon the path which he desires to go on.” There was once a boy studying at Telshe Yeshivah (a school for Talmudic study) who was not very gifted at studying Talmud. He was well liked, street smart and a talented individual, but academically was extremely delayed in this area and made very little progress over the years. One time an older married fellow in the yeshivah who learned with this boy once asked him, “What’s your plan? You are trying so diligently to advance in learning but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Where do you suppose you will end up?” “It’s like a dam,” answered the boy. “I will continue to try again and again until the pressure will break through the dam and I will start to excel in my studies.” Sure enough, a few years later the dam broke. Heaven had granted him that which he sought after so persistently, and he is now an educator, well versed in Talmud. From time to time we decide to pursue a good deed or take constructive action in some area we feel we should, and a challenge arises, blocking our way. This is often a test from Heaven to see how sincere we are about our convictions. If we stop in our tracks and say “We tried, and that’s it,” we have failed the test. But if we persevere and show God our sincere desire to accomplish, just like Pesach Sheini, very often we will eventually be granted the opportunity to achieve that which we desire.
By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber