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 Passover sacrifice (lamb).

On the eve of the second Passover, Moses was approached by a group of distraught men. “We are unclean because of the dead body of a man; why are we being 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, that any person who was tamei due to contact with death or who was on a far-away journey at the time of the Passover offering (14th of Nisan), would be required to offer the Pascal lamb one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. Although chametz was allowed on this make-up date, those celebrating “Pesach Sheni” (Second Passover) 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 a Passover sacrifice. Thus the laws of Pesach Sheni have little practical effect in day-to-day practice. However, there is a custom to eat some matzah on the 14th of Iyar to mark the date of Pesach Sheni for ourselves and for future generations.

This year, the 14th of Iyar, Pesach Sheni, is Thursday evening and Friday, May 7-8, 2020.

This Treat was originally posted on May 7, 2009.

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