Behaloscha: Is It Really Never Too Late?

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The holiday of Pesach Sheni (Second Passover) famously teaches that it is never too late. Is that also true of the worst sins and crimes? This is a story of someone who received a message from heaven that it was too late, and yet he still received another chance.

My father-in-law, the [Frierdiker] Rebbe, famously said: Pesach Sheni teaches us that it is never too late. You can always fix your improper conduct of the past.

There might be certain areas of your past behavior that were not up to par. You must know that it is not too late. You can still fix the past.

Since you heard this teaching of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, it applies to you. You can and must fix your past behavior. Do not think that this teaching is only directed at the Jewish nation at large. Yes, it certainly does pertain to everyone as a whole. However, the fact that you heard about it demonstrates that first and foremost, it applies to you.

If you want to fix the past, the first step is to realize that your past conduct was incorrect and to want to change that.

We see this in the Pesach Sheni story. When certain Jews were impure and were unable to bring the paschal sacrifice, Moses did not initiate the suggestion that a second paschal service be held. Rather, they needed to recognize what they lacked and protest, “Why should we lose out?” 

It was only once they were bothered by their situation that Pesach Sheni came into existence. Their protest was accepted, and they were given the opportunity to complete what they had missed.

This demonstrates the greatness of every Jew: Even if you are in a lowly state, you can raise your voice in protest, and ultimately your demand will be accepted.

At first glance, why did the Jews in the desert feel they deserved a second chance? They knew they were impure, and moreover, they were at fault!

The inside of a Jew is always pristine. Improper behavior is merely external and cannot change your essence in the slightest. Since a Jew remains lofty inside, they were able to demand that they not lose out.

At the same time, however, they needed to feel that something was wrong, spurring them to protest. Only then were they given the opportunity to effect a change.

An important rule when studying Torah is that if you are too embarrassed to ask, you will never learn. The same applies to repentance. Do not be embarrassed. Demand that you want to change the past, and G-d will enable you to do so.

The importance of demanding another chance is highlighted by Elisha son of Avuya (known as Acher), a personality mentioned in the fourth chapter of Ethics of Our Fathers.

Elisha was a scholar who entertained heretical thoughts. He then heard a heavenly voice stating, “Return, wayward sons—except for Acher.” Hearing that his repentance would not be accepted, he forsook Judaism completely. 

Acher’s reaction is understandable. After hearing such a grim statement, you would not expect anything different. So where did he go wrong?

Despite the dire prediction, Acher should have protested that he be given a chance to repent. If he would have pushed his way in and truly tried, his repentance would have been accepted, heavenly voices notwithstanding. 

Our Sages say that you should listen to everything your host tells you, with one exception: if he tells you to leave. On the same note, Acher should have disregarded the voice saying that his repentance would be denied. G-d Himself tells us not to listen when your host tells you to leave. Acher should not have listened to the divine “host” telling him to leave the realm of holiness!

This is where Acher went wrong. Instead of heeding the heavenly voice, he should have tried to repent. If he would have done his best and demanded that he be given another chance, his repentance would surely have been accepted. (Indeed, the sages Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yochanan ultimately succeeded in bringing rest to Acher’s soul.)

To summarize:

Pesach Sheni teaches us an important lesson. If your past conduct was lacking, not only can you change it in the present and future, you can change it in the past as well. The prerequisite, though, is that you must demand another chance, knowing how perfect you truly are inside. When you do that, G-d will heed your request and give you the opportunity for change.

Shabbat Parshat Emor 1982

(Toras Menachem 5742 vol. 3 pg. 1426)

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