Today is Pesach Sheni, or Second Passover, a day ordained by the Bible as the silver medal for those who can’t win the Passover gold.
Basically, on Passover God commanded the people to offer a paschal sacrifice. Pretty simple. But what about the guys who happened to be impure on the first day of Passover, because they had been in contact with a corpse, and thus weren’t allowed to offer a sacrifice? Were they just SOL? Nope. The guys went to Moses and asked how they could fulfill the mitzvah, and Moses asked God, and God said they should just come back in a month and make their sacrifice then. That day a month later is Pesach Sheni. Yay, hooray, everyone gets to make their paschal sacrifice.
Some people think of Pesach Sheni as a symbol of second chances, of opportunities to do things over that we didn’t do really well to begin with. If, for some reason, Passover didn’t feel particularly redemptive this year, today is the day to give it another shot. Eat a piece of matzah and some bitter herbs. Think about the exodus.
Weirdly, Pesach Sheni is prescient for me this year. I didn’t feel redeemed over Passover this year. I felt oppressed and sad and more than a little whingy. And guess what I’m doing today, on Pesach sheni? Going to sit with a family whose mother is in hospice.
The woman who is dying was close friends with my mother, and is suffering from the same thing that killed my mother. She has two daughters, one who’s my older sister’s age, and one who’s my age. She worked in Jewish education (like my mother) and she’s no longer awake. I’m going back to Chicago to say goodbye to her, and to sit with her family, and yesterday in the grocery store I had this sudden and random thought about what I want to say to this woman when I see her lying in bed. I don’t know that she’ll be able to hear me, but I want to tell her how important her life was to so many pre-schoolers whose lives she changed at school. How much I used to love going over to her house to eat her famous pudding pie. How impressed I am at how long and hard she fought her cancer diagnosis. How grateful I am for all of the support she gave my mother. And also–and this is where I started crying in the grocery store–I want to tell her that if/when she sees my mother I need her to tell my mother that I miss her every day, pretty much every minute. That I have a million questions for her. That I love her so much. That I should have said that a lot more often.
I guess it kind of is a day of second chances.
Pronounced: PAY-sakh, also PEH-sakh. Origin: Hebrew, the holiday of Passover.