Judaism: Pesach Sheni and the Airline Strike
Everyone knows the famous saying, usually associated with first dates or first job interviews, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ In Judaism, we have a similar concept. In the words of the Sages: “Avar zmano, batel korbano”, "if the time has passed, the sacrifice (offering) is voided." In other words, if you missed it, it’s too late to do anything about it. Or, as I have often heard it put succinctly: ‘If you snooze, you lose.’
This Wednesday, is a 'minor' holiday of Biblical origin, Pesach Sheni - the "Second" Pesach. To be honest, Pesach Sheni hardly gets any recognition. Aside from not saying Tachanun (the supplication prayer said on regular days, but not on festive ones) and the tradition to eat a little leftover matzah on Psach Sheni, it hardly seems to warrant any (second) thought. But maybe there is more to Pesach Sheni than meets the eye.
The source for Pesach Sheni can be found in The Book of Numbers (9:1-14), Moshe announced that the Passover sacrifice (Korban Pesach) may only be eaten by people who are ritually pure. One who was ta'mei, ritually unclean, was not allowed to bring and partake of the Paschal Offering.
We then read that a group of people approached Moshe and Aaron at the time the first offering was brought after the exodus. They, because of the fact they were ritually unclean from contact with a corpse, were not able to bring the offering. This group asked Moshe and Aaaron: "Why are we being prevented to bring the offering with the rest of Israel, in the proper time?'” Moshe turned to God who ordained that anyone who missed the Pesach sacrifice on the correct date, through no fault of their own, could observe a Pesach Sheni (a second Pesach) as a makeup, and bring this offering, on the 14th of Iyar, a full month later, and hence fulfill this special commandment.
As mentioned above, under normal circumstances, the timeline for each offering is precise; if the prescribed time of day for a particular offering is missed, the opportunity is forfeited. Nonetheless, in this case, God allows a second opportunity to bring the paschal offering.
In Chassidic philosophy, especially as expounded upon by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, Pesach Sheni is about second chances, since the original Pesach Sheni was in response to people who had been unable to be included in the Pesach observance and were granted another opportunity to do so exactly one full moon after the first Pesach.
This brings me to this week’s strike at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport. Fortunately, the strike was short-lived, following an agreement reached between the government and Israel's national airline El Al, and flights finally resumed. Those of us who live in Israel are used to these kinds of strikes that have shut down our banks, airports, trains, garbage collection, etc. We are annoyed, but we accept it as a fact of life and just try to ‘deal’ with it till eventually a settlement is reached and everything returns to normal. Living in Israel, we have learned to cope.
But what about those who don't live in Israel, those who come to Israel as tourists? Do we expect them to be as 'understanding' and 'patient' as we are? The tragedy of the strike is not so much that many Israelis were forced to delay their trips abroad or postpone their return to Israel, but what happened to foreign tourists, Jews and non-Jews alike.
We have to think about those tourists who couldn't land here due to the strike, so their planned trip to Israel did not get off on the right foot. We should also consider the effects on those who had a wonderful trip to Israel but their subsequent strike delayed departure left them with a sour taste in their mouths. In an era where Israel needs all the tourists it can get, why jeopardize the potential very positive impressions of those who do come to visit?!
First impressions of Israel, when you land at Ben-Gurion Airport, are important, but so are last impressions, moments before you are set to board your flight to leave.
The story of Pesach Sheni shows us that even God offers second chances to those who deserve it. The question is, will those tourists negatively affected by the Israeli airline and airport strike give Israel a second chance (another visit)?
Arutz Sheva and Israel's Channel 2 News interviewed many passengers who were grounded by the strike, some of whom were literally 'camped out' for up to 24 hours at Ben-Gurion airport waiting till they could get a flight home. Some expressed the sentiment that although they had a wonderful trip to Israel, due to the bad experience caused by the strike as they tried to fly home, they would have to think long and hard before considering another trip to Israel.
The strike may have come to an end quickly, but the real damage, to those tourists and to Israel's image by those tourists, may already be done and it may be too late to repair.
To those tourists, the negative experience was not like a day at a baseball game. For them, it just might be, one strike and Israel is out.