Shalom Friends, this coming Sunday is the holy day of Pesach Sheni, a unique holiday which is explained in the second drasha below. kol tuv and Shabbat Shalom,Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2012View Source
Shalom Friends, this coming Sunday is the holy day of Pesach Sheni, a unique holiday which is explained in the second drasha below.
kol tuv and Shabbat Shalom, Rav Leshem
PARSHAT EMOR: SERVICE OF THE INCOMPLETE
Rav Zvi Leshem
One of the laws of the Temple service is that a Kohen who is a baal mum, physically deformed, may not actually participate. The Torah gives a long list of physical deformities to which this law applies, and Rashi adds that even those not listed disqualify the Kohen. According to certain sources, these blemishes even include being left-handed! Rashi also states that as soon as his deformity is cured the Kohen is fit to resume his participation. Explaining this prohibition, the Sforno quotes the verse from Esther that states that a person “may not approach the king’s gate dressed in sackcloth.” This means that only an individual who appears fully dignified can approach, rather than one who is deformed.
Rav Hirsch discusses this prohibition in relation to a parallel law that disqualifies deformed animals from being sacrificed. According to this law, neither the sacrifice nor the person who brings it can be anything less than physically perfect. This is because if this were not the case, people would receive the mistaken impression that the purpose of the altar is to cure the sick and deformed, when in fact, as Rav Hirsch states, “life and strength, not death and weakness, live at the altars of God.” The Meshech Chochma points out that the sacrificial laws are chukim, seemingly illogical laws. It is therefore possible that a Kohen might not really believe in them, in which case his service would be invalid. God therefore gives physical deformities to those priests whose service might otherwise be secretly invalid, preventing this problem. The Mai HaShiloach’s son, Rav Shmuel of Biskovitz, writes in Neot Desheh that if such priests were allowed to serve, people would arrive at the dangerous assumption that one can achieve spiritual perfection through sadness. Therefore only one who appears to be complete (and presumably happy) is allowed to serve in the Temple .
Even after all of these explanations, however, we may still retain an uneasy feeling that an injustice has been done. As the Mai Hashiloach writes in Part Two of his work, “There is a complaint in the hearts of the disfigured priest; why has he been distanced from the service?” As the Mai Hashiloach goes on to explain, we are not discussing a priest who disqualified himself through sin, in which his responsibility is clear. As this priest may have been born with a deformity, which is no fault of his own (despite the difficult words of the Meshech Chochma above), why should he be sent away from serving God like his brethren? The answer comes at the end of these verses when we are told that this priest, although prohibited from offering sacrifices, is allowed to eat from the sacrifices and all of the consecrated foods. The Mai Hashiloach continues his explanation: “Internally you lack nothing … if it is God’s will that he not serve he should not be angry, for thus is God’s will fulfilled, but inside he is not distant and eats the hallowed foods.” He further explains in Part One that we all need to realize that if we serve Hashem truly for the sake of Heaven, then even if we perceive that we are being sent away by God, then we actually are serving Him by refraining from service because that is His will at this time. In other words, we need to internalize the truth that the service of God has to be on God’s terms (as expressed through Halacha) and not on our terms. Putting our own spiritual desires first may in fact be an ego trip bordering upon idolatry!
The Mai Hashiloach’s grandson, in Sod Yesharim, continues this line of reasoning and explains that even though externally this priest appears to be incomplete, the fact that he eats the hallowed food shows that internally he is entirely holy (unlike the interpretation of the Meshech Chochma). From here we learn two crucial spiritual lessons. Firstly, we should not pass judgment based upon externalities. It is what is going on inside that really counts. Secondly, in a world focused upon self-gratification, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are here to serve Hashem, and not ourselves. Sometimes we perceive that that the Halacha somehow excludes us. If so, we should understand that on a deeper level we are being asked to serve Hashem in a different, but not inferior way. When we truly internalize this deep message, we will be not only better servants of God, but will feel much happier with our lives.
PESACH SHENI: HOLIDAY OF THE SECOND CHANCE
Rav Zvi Leshem
Pesach Sheni is a unique holiday. As recorded in Parshat Behaalot’cha, it all began in the desert when people came to Moshe with an unusual complaint. They had been temaim, ritually impure, at the time of Pesach and were not able to offer the korban Pesach. They felt that they had missed out on something important and wanted to make amends. Moshe did not know how to answer, and he went to ask Hashem. (This is one of the incidents from which we learn that, unlike the other prophets, Moshe had constant access to Hashem.) God’s response was no less than to create a new holiday - Pesach Sheni.
Pesach Sheni takes place on the 14th of Iyar, exactly one month after the korban Pesach had been offered on the 14th of Nisan. Anyone who had been tamay or far away, and was therefore unable to make it on time, was given a second chance to offer the sacrifice. This holiday was given in response to the desire of simple Jews to want to serve God. What makes this especially extraordinary is that those Jews who had been ritually impure or far away were actually under duress and exempt from the mitzvah, and had no need to make it up. Today, the custom is to eat matzah on Pesach Sheni. What are the deeper implications of this special day?
Pesach Sheni falls during Sefirat Haomer, the fifty days leading from the Exodus on Pesach to receiving the Torah on Shavuot. According to the Zohar, on Pesach Sheni special gates open up in the heavens to help us prepare for Shavuot. In addition, Pesach Sheni falls on the 29th day of the Omer, corresponding to the sefirah of chessed she’bhod. Hod is the week associated with Aharon the Kohen, and it culminates four days later with Lag B’Omer, on hod she’bhod. Rav Tzaddok Hakohen explains in Pri Tzaddik that this is a special time of repentance, associated with the concept of the Oral Law, which is also connected with Aharon. When the Jews left Egypt they were accompanied by special lights and were nourished by the matzah they had brought with them. After thirty days passed, the light of the Exodus faded and the matzah was finished. It was now time for something new to happen. The manna replaced the matzah, and instead of Divine inspiration from above the process began through which the Jews would inspire themselves from below. Why did these Jews feel so driven to do a mitzvah from which they were exempt? Rav Tzaddok explains that while one may have a good excuse for not performing a certain mitzvah, the holiness achieved by that mitzvah will still be lacking. A real servant of God is not satisfied just to be yotzei, to technically fulfill his obligation; he yearns to fulfill the mitzvot as a way of getting closer to Hashem.
The Netivot Shalom teaches that the two categories of impurity and distance represent the two major tests of our generation, which precedes the Final Redemption. Impurity is symbolic of pgam habrit, sexual immorality, and distance implies pgam ha’emunah, lack of faith in God. These two factors influence each other and are crucial to the definition of a proper Jewish state of being. On Pesach Sheni, as we move even closer to receiving the Torah on Shavuot, let us redouble our efforts in these two crucial areas and make ourselves truly worthy of epiphany.