Behaalotcha - 5778

Dear Congregant,

If your life is at all like mine, there are times when you find the twenty-four hour day seems impossibly constraining, when even multi-tasking and racing from place-to-place fails to gain you any traction relative to an ever-growing “to-do” list and making all of your commitments would require being teleported from place-to-place (or possibly, cloned).

It is tempting to chalk these pressures up to the unrealistic demands of modern life, but what if the conflicts that perpetually snarl our calendars were not the product of our present hyper-connected society?  What if they were instead an innate facet of the human condition, of our diversity of roles and allegiances and the necessary outgrowth of our (admirably) ambitious expectations of ourselves?

This is the reading suggested by this week’s Torah portion.  Parashat Baha’alotcha speaks, among other things, about a ritual institution known as Pesach Sheni (literally, “second Passover”).  An improbable insertion amidst a religious code that at times appears impervious or inflexible, Pesach Sheni is a halachically sanctioned “second chance” for individuals who were unable to observe Passover (our most sacred rite) on the prescribed date to do so later, one month later to be precise.  

While at first blush Pesach Sheni hardly seems remarkable, its underlying logic is, in fact, revolutionary.  It is effectively a Divine admission that life really can be “impossible” at times, that we can’t always do all the things we feel or we are told we must do – at least not in the manner or time frame that was first envision.  Sometimes there has to be an “Option B” or, in place of that, a more realistic and compassionate “to-do”list. 

By including Pesach sheni a priori in our most foundational text, our tradition and its Source prioritize making thoughtful choices and using our time and energy in meaningful fashion over rushing around mindlessly in order to tick the most possible boxes.  Many of life’s most meaningful “missed” oppor­tunities will re-present at a different time or in a different guise, and if we retain our sense of priorities we will have the opportunity, in time, to capitalize on them.


Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Rachel Safman