Sunday, 22 September 2013

Pesachim 95 a, b

Today's daf is much more straightforward and less esoteric than yesterday's, where we looked at the measurements of the world as determined by the journey of the sun.  Daf 95 focuses on differences between Pesach rishon and Pesach sheni.  If a person is unable to bring his/her offering on the first Pesach due to his/her journey or due to ritual impurity, the offering can be delayed until the second Pesach one month later. 

On both dates, the Paschal lamb is offered, roasted and eaten.  It is eaten together with matzah and marror on both dates.  As well, both occasions supersede the laws of Shabbat if the 14 of Nissan or the 14 of Iyyar should fall on that day.   However, the offerings differ in a number of ways.  Hallel is said only on the first Pesach (thought the Gemara comments, how could Jews do mitzvot like roasting the korban or shaking the lulav on Sukkot without saying Hallel?!).  The text alludes to many other differences, some mentioned in notes offered by Steinsaltz from the Jerusalem Talmud.

The rabbis wonder about the recitation of Hallel.  Why would it not be recited on the second Pesach?  They find a poem that suggests connections to the night and to Festivals.  And thus because the second Pesach is not one of the Festivals (we are commanded to observe but we are allowed to work, cook without restriction, etc.), Hallel is not sung.

I can't help but wonder about the melodies used for Hallel thousands of years ago.  I love the melodies used today in my congregations. but it is difficult to imagine that the same melodies were used so long ago.  What melodies were used?  How did they differ from our melodies?  When did the changes happen and how did newer melodies catch on with the larger population?

As far as I know, the modern Jewish community does not mark 14 Iyyar as a day of significance.  When did this shift occur?  We did not have the Temple back in the days that the Talmud was written, and 'the first Pesach' continues to be celebrated - why not the second Pesach?  Certainly it could be based on the mitzvah: we are commanded to recall the exodus from Egypt in very particular ways on that first Pesach.  But so many other minor holidays are celebrated in modern times; how did it evolve that the second Pesach was put aside?

The second Pesach appeals to me as it offers a 'second chance'.  For those who were challenged physically or mentally, for those who were deemed ritually impure, for those who tried but were not able to be present for the first Pesach, the second Pesach allowed another opportunity to be connected to the larger community.  The punishment for not participating in the offering was karet.  Karet seems to be defined as anything from 'death' to 'exclusion from the community'.  Both a form of death, truly.  Clearly the stakes are high.  So why erase that second opportunity to 'offer'?

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