I was deeply saddened last week to hear about the passing of Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, zt”l. I didn’t know him personally, but I was inspired by him. He was a legend. He gave hope to so many girls who had challenging life situations, be it abuse or addictions. He was a beacon of hope. An article in Ami Magazine last week quoted him as saying, “My whole mission in life is to inspire girls not to lose hope.” He always said, “You can’t choose the family you were born into or many other life settings, but you can choose what to do with your reality. You can choose to wallow in depression, stay in bed, take drugs, or…you can face your challenges and give encouragement to others in similar situations.”
This message of finding hope echoes in our parsha. This Sunday, the 14th of Iyar, no tachanun will be said as it is the Yom Tov of Pesach Sheini. It’s a “holiday” that wasn’t in the original list of Yomim Tovim set forth in this week’s Parshas Emor. During klal Yisrael’s first year in the desert, a group of people were tamei meis (impure via contact with a dead person) and were not permitted to offer the Korban Pesach. They approached Moshe and said, “lama nigara”—why should we be left out of this mitzvah? Hashem told Moshe to instruct them regarding a new Yom Tov, Pesach Sheini, to give them a second chance to bring a Korban Pesach and eat matzah one month later. This gave them sufficient time to purify themselves.
This group of Jews had felt left out. It wasn’t their fault they were temporarily impure, and they yearned to be part of the mitzvah of Korban Pesach. They asked for a second chance. Hashem answered by creating a new reality for them and for all future people in the same predicament.
The Arizal talks about seven sefiros (attributes) of Hashem that correspond to the seven weeks of the Omer and, in turn, to each of the seven days of the week. The concept of the fifth sefira of Hod (splendor), and the new opportunities Hashem provides through this attribute, is expressed in the second paragraph before Shema. This paragraph lists the qualities of Hashem corresponding to a different sefira (list of Hashem’s attributes). The fifth one is “Borei refuos”—Hashem creates new cures to sickness. The word “borei” specifically describes creating something from nothing, which only Hashem can do.
Pesach Sheini is the start of the fifth week of the Omer, which is Hod. And the fifth day of this week is Lag B’Omer, corresponding to the sefira of Hod. Rabbi Avrohom Schorr explains Hod means to give glory, splendor. It also is from the same word of hoda’ah—to give thanks. Specifically, it’s giving thanks to Hashem for providing something that is entirely a bonus. The Midrash says Leah was the first person to offer thanks to Hashem for receiving something “extra.” Leah named her fourth son Yehuda (thanks to Hashem), as she expected she would give birth to three out of the 12 shevatim (tribes) so all four wives of Yaakov would each bear the same number of children. When Yehuda was born, her fourth child, she realized she received more than her due, from her beseeching Hashem.
Pesach Sheini provides the lesson that when it seems there is no option for a desired result, turn to Hashem and ask…with a full and a sincere heart. Although there is no Beis Hamikdash and there is no Korban Pesach, Pesach Sheini is still a Yom Tov and no tachanun is recited. Hashem is telling us there is always room for a second chance.
Hashem creates new cures. One example in 2014 was the first successful uterus transplant. This now gives new hope for many women to have a child! New treatments and procedures are being discovered in so many areas.
We all have struggles and problems that can lead to despair. The answer is to ask Hashem for relief. We should open a book of Tehillim and say Chapter 121, “Shir hamaalos…mei’ayin yavo ezri”—from where will come my help. The word mei’ayin literally means “from nowhere.” I have no one helping me. The next line is “Ezri mei’im Hashem”—help comes from Hashem.” Hashem can create something positive from nothing and from nowhere.
Rabbi Wallerstein radiated this message. It might seem that you are helpless, but there’s always hope. He helped so many people move on in life, providing them with new and sometimes unbelievable opportunities. We can do the same, helping one another see an opportunity for relief either naturally or through prayer to Hashem. May Hashem answer our prayers by granting us new opportunities when we need them.
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.