Second Chances!

(Torah Portion Emor) Second Chances!

In the beginning of the Torah when G-d’s name is first mentioned He is referred to as Elokim, which connotes strict Judgment. Later on, the Torah refers to Him as Hashem, which connotes mercy, along with the Name Elokim which connotes judgment.

Our Sages teach us that at first G-d created the world to work with a system of strict judgment. However, He saw that the world could not possibly exist, and He therefore decided to rule the world with a blend of mercy and judgment.

The literal interpretation of the Torah rule for one who blinds the eye of another is that he is punished by taking an eye for an eye. This is a reflection of the initial intent of strict judgment.

However, because G-d blended mercy with judgment, our Oral Torah which was taught to our leader Moshe at Sinai, explains that it is not to be interpreted that we exact punishment tit for tat. Rather, an eye for an eye means that the responsible party must pay the monetary value of the eye as restitution for the eye he blinded. This is a classic example that shows that the written Torah cannot be taken at face value without the interpretation of the Talmud, our Oral Torah.

The famous and brilliant Vilna Goan (1700’s) explains that the language the Torah uses in the aforementioned verse hints at the fact that the punishment is monetary rather than physical.

The literal translation of the verse of the Torah reads as follows: “An eye under (Tachas) an eye.” Says the Vilna Goan, the Hebrew word for Eye, Ayin, also means “search”. Therefore, in a literal sense, the verse can be understood to mean, “Search under the eye.”

When you search at the three Hebrew letter of our Alef-Bais that follow (is under) the letters that form the word Ayin – eye,you will come up with the letters that form the word Kesef, which means – money.

The verse can thus be understood as follows: In order for you to know what the Torah means regarding the restitution for blinding another’s eye – look under the word Ayin – and the letters will form the word Kesef,informing you that the Torah wanted the person who blinded another to be punished with monetary compensation and not with blinding his eyes.

In synagogue, upon returning the Torah scroll to the Ark we recite a verse from King Solomon’s Proverbs, “Its [the Torah’s] ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.”

It is interesting, when you look at other religions in the world, you will find two extremes; either, radical judgment and punishment, or excessive mercy, forgiveness and absolution. The way that G-d established the Torah for us to observe and follow are pleasant and peaceful. This came about through G-d’s blending of mercy and judgment together.

This Sunday is Pesach Shaini – Second Pesach
One of the requirements of participating in the Pascal lamb was that one must be ritually pure. If for example one had come in contact with a dead body, became ritually impure, and did not achieve purification (a seven day process) by the time the Pascal lamb was offered, he could not participate in the ritual.

When Moshe instructed the Jews these laws, there were those who had come in contact with the dead and were ritually impure.

They didn’t sit back and say, ‘Great, it is one less thing to worry about, or, one less thing to do.’ They actually went to Moshe and protested, ‘Why should we be left out of performing such a wonderful and meaningful observance, just because we were performing the Mitzvah of caring for the dead?’

Moshe heard their complaint and asked G-d what to do. G-d commanded Moshe to tell them that they have another chance. The 14th day of the next month, Iyar, will be designated for those who could not perform the Mitzvah at its prescribed time.

What is amazing about this is; usually, when an observance has time constraints, if the time for its performance has lapsed, there is little to be done to rectify it.

Pesach is different. Because they had such a strong feeling and connection to G-d for His loving protection and miracles He performed on behalf of the Jews in Egypt and throughout the various phases of the Exodus, they felt it was inconceivable that they should be excluded from participating. When G-d heard such a sincere objection borne out of their love and commitment toward performing the Mitzvah, He established a makeup day for those who were left out, called Pesach Shaini, the second Pesach.

Pesach Shaini teaches us that G-d gives us additional chances and is always there to welcome us back when we sincerely seek to reconnect to Him!

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks