380. Rain Date: The obligation to offer the Pesach sheini
In the second month, on the fourteenth day…he shall make it… (Numbers 9:11)
As we saw in Mitzvah #5, offering the korban Pesach (Passover offering) was a mitzvah for every member of the nation. Unfortunately, circumstances would occasionally render a person unable to participate at the designated time. The things that might preclude a person from offering the korban Pesach on the designated day include (but are not limited to) being in a state of ritual impurity and a physical inability to get to Jerusalem on time. Therefore, those who for whatever reason did not offer the Passover sacrifice on 14 Nisan were given a “make-up date” of 14 Iyar. This is called “Pesach sheini,” “second Passover.”
If a non-Jew coverts to Judaism or a minor becomes bar mitzvah in between 14 Nisan and 14 Iyar, he would offer the Pesach sheini, even though he was not yet obligated in the korban Pesach on its designated day. (See Talmud Pesachim 93a.)
There are many differences between first and second Passover, not the least of which is that Pesach sheini is not eaten on a Yom Tov or attached to a week-long Festival (see Talmud Pesachim 95a). On the other hand, there are many similarities between Pesach sheini and the regular korban Pesach, as we shall see in subsequent mitzvos.
The reason underlying this mitzvah is that God wants to enable His people to offer the korban Pesach and it’s inevitable that some won’t be able to do so on the proper day. (Did you ever try to get even a small group of people together? It’s not easy. It’s simply realistic to recognize that when an entire nation has to be in a certain place on a certain day, some are going to be unable to appear.) It is an act of great kindness on the part of God to give His people a second chance at participating in this important mitzvah.
This mitzvah applies only when the Temple service is in effect. It is mandatory for men and optional for women. In the Talmud, it is discussed in the ninth chapter of tractate Pesachim, starting on page 92b. It is codified in the Mishneh Torah in the fifth and sixth chapters of Hilchos Korban Pesach and is #57 of the 248 positive mitzvos in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos.