On the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel prepared to celebrate their first Passover as free people. God decreed that they should eat matzah and maror (bitter herbs) in commemoration of the great event, and, most importantly, that the Israelites should all partake of the Paschal lamb, the Passover lamb sacrifice.

However, on the eve of Passover, on the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt, a group of distraught men approached Moses pleading, “We are unclean because of the dead body of a man; why should we be held back so that we cannot bring the offering to God in its appointed time among the Children of Israel?” (Numbers 9:7)

According to Jewish law, death is the greatest defiler, and contact with the dead renders a person tamei, spiritually impure. Thus, any person who was tamei was forbidden to partake of the Paschal lamb.

In response to their plea, Moses sought instruction from God. God responded, declaring that any person who was tamei due to contact with death or who was on a far-away journey at the time of the original Passover offering (on the 14th of Nissan), is required to offer the Paschal lamb one month later, on “Pesach Sheni” (Second Passover), the 14th of Iyar.

Although chametz (any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and rise) was allowed on this make-up date, those celebrating Pesach Sheni had to eat the meat of the sacrifice together with matzah and maror, exactly as on a regular Passover.

Today, without a Temple, no one is able to bring an actual Passover sacrifice. Thus, the laws of Pesach Sheni have little practical effect in our day-to-day practice. However, there is a custom to eat some matzah on the 14th of Iyar, which is today, to mark the date of Pesach Sheni for ourselves and for future generations.

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