The Chance for a Second Chance

We don’t need to wait for a Pesach Sheni or Lag B’omer to appreciate second chances

Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal ,

Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal
Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal
PHOTO: Jeff Cohn

In the home of my youth hung a decorative plaque with words that I will never forget. They are etched in my memory, not only due to their depth. More likely it was because that was what greeted me every time I entered or left my house.

“Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

The meaning is obvious. What happened yesterday, last week or a decade ago- is gone, finished. Today offers a new beginning, the chance to start over and improve on the past.

This week we celebrate 2 days that also represent Second Chances.

The first, Pesach Sheni, is an obvious example of the day of Second Chances. Some Jews at the time of the Exodus were unable to offer the unique Korban Pesach due to their being in a state of ritual impurity. Their desire to be part of this mitzvah motivated them to ask Moshe if there was any possibility to make up the lost opportunity.

Moshe turned to HaShem who revealed the laws regarding Pesach Sheni. All those who were ritually impure or physically distant on the 14th of Nisan (the day of the “real” Pesach) would have another opportunity to bring the Korban Pesach, just one month later on the 14th of Iyar.

The paradigm of Second Chances.

There is another, less obvious, commemoration of a do- over.

Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day in the counting of the Omer. Among many, there are 2 well known reasons for our observance of Lag B’Omer.

On Lag B’Omer the plague that took the lives of Rabbi Akiva’s students ceased. Additionally there is a tradition that Lag B’Omer is the Yartzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the 5 remaining students of Rabbi Akiva as well as one of the greatest sages of the Mishna.

Who was he?

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai made a public statement disparaging the Romans. As a fugitive, Rabbi Shimon escaped with his son Rabbi Elazar and hid in a cave for 12 years in the city of Piki’in. One day a heavenly voice came and announced that it was safe to leave. Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar reentered the world on an exalted level of holiness. The mundane was so repelling to them that anything they gazed upon was instantly ignited. Those on a lower level of holiness were not part of their new vision.


The heavenly voice returned and told them to go back to the cave for another year lest they destroy the world that God had created. During that year, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar were able to “tame” their zeal and exited once again with the realization that not everyone could be on their level.
Rabbi Shimon then sought a way in which he could “make the world a better place” and contributed to improving a major road in the area of Tiberias.

It’s all about Second Chances.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as one of the remaining students of Rabbi Akiva, was given a second chance several times.


He survived the plague of Rabbi Akiva’s students, he survived being hunted by the Romans, and was given the opportunity to go back into the cave and refine his state of holiness.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai represents the second chance for the students of Rabbi Akiva. The chance to treat each other with respect, unlike the 24,000 that perished.


He represents getting a “new lease on life” after escaping the judgement from the Romans.
He offers us the understanding that one always has the chance to adjust his/her worldview and be tolerant of others, even when they may be very different than us.

The reality is, however, that we don’t need to wait for a Pesach Sheni or Lag B’omer to appreciate second chances.

Each day when we wake up we say “Modeh Ani” with gratitude to HaShem for giving us another day.

Another day means another chance.

A second chance to improve our relationship with our spouse, our children, our friends ,co-workers, and yes, with ourselves. Another opportunity to contribute something to our family, our community and to the world at large.

Let’s not let that second chance pass us by. It’s here now. Today.

Always remember:
“Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

Carpe Diem!

Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, noted educator and speaker, is the Executive Director at Lema'an Achai.



top