Second Month Passover, also know as Pesach Sheni, appears in Parashat Beha’alotcha. In Numbers 9, we read about a group of men “could not celebrate Passover because of being defiled by a dead body.” (Num 9:6) They came to inquire of Moses about their situation since their performance of a good deed (a mitzvah) had made them ritually unfit to present an offering to HaShem at the appointed time.
This offers us a different perspective on God’s commandments. Their attitude was one of expectancy—they earnestly wanted to present their offering, along with the rest of Bnei-Yisrael, but they were going to miss out. It was important to them; they were not acting like this was something that they “had” to do—it was something that they wanted to do!
Moses inquired of HaShem and the “second month Passover” was established for those who “becomes unclean because of a dead body, or is away on a long journey.” (Num 9:10) There are specific requirements—this isn’t a case of HaShem giving us a choice of when to observe His appointed times. Rather He is making a way for everyone who wants to present an offering to do so, even if their circumstances interfere.
How did these men become ritually unfit? Torah does not give us the details, but the Talmud suggests three possibilities:
- They were the ones carrying Joseph’s bones up from Egypt (cf. Gen 50:?);
- They were the relatives of Aaron, Mishael and Elzaphan, who dealt with the bodies of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-4); or
- They had come upon an unattended, unidentified corpse and performed the mitzvah of burying it (cf. Deu 21:23).
The last of the three brings us very naturally to Jn 19:31, “It was the Day of Preparation, and the next day was a festival Shabbat. So that the bodies should not remain on the execution stake during Shabbat, the Judean leaders asked Pilate to have the legs broken and to have the bodies taken away.” Breaking their legs would hasten the death of any who were still alive. In keeping with Deu 21:23, even the condemned, including our Messiah, Yeshua, should receive a timely and proper interment. When the soldiers came to Yeshua, they saw that he was already dead and did not break his legs (cf. Ex 12:46; Num 9:12; Psa 34:21(20)).
Continuing in Jn 19, we read the account of Yeshua’s burial by Joseph of Aramithea and Nicodemus in Jn 19:38-40 (parallel accounts in Mt 27:57-60; Mk 15:44-46; Lk 23:50-53). By tending to our Master’s body, Joseph and Nicodemus made themselves ritually unfit to celebrate Passover with the rest of Bnei-Yisrael. As wealthy men, they could have had their servants attend to Yeshua’s body, but they took this mitzvah upon themselves to honor their Master, their Messiah, one more time.
And this brings us full circle, because these two disciples of Yeshua, who were contaminated by a dead body, were entitled to participate in Pesach Sheni as HaShem had commanded. I wonder if they celebrated it together?