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Mindfulness and Second Chances

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

What We Can Learn From Pesach Sheni: Mindfulness and Second Chances

In this week's Torah portion Behaalotecha, we encounter a unique event known as Pesach Sheni, or the "Second Passover."

According to the Book of Numbers (9:1-14), the Israelites were instructed to observe the Passover festival on the fourteenth day of the first month of Nisan. However, some people found themselves ritually impure and unable to participate in the Pesach Offerings. And yet they didn’t want to miss out, so they approached Moshe, seeking guidance and a chance to partake in the Pesach offering.

In their genuine yearning for connection and desire to make up for missing out, they petition Moshe, who then turns to G-d for an answer. The divine response was surprising: a second chance was granted. A new date was established, exactly one month later, on which these individuals could bring their Passover offerings and fully partake in the ritual offerings.

Pesach Sheni teaches us that redemption and growth are not limited to a single moment, but rather an ongoing journey. Sometimes we just need to be open to new possibilities.

This significant event carries profound implications for our daily lives. It serves as a reminder that we are not defined by our failures or missed opportunities but rather by our capacity to learn, grow, and seize new chances that come our way.

The people who missed the Pesach Offering were not passive. They didn’t throw up their hands and say , “Too bad, we missed out.” Instead they beseeched Moshe and asked most assertively “why should we be kept back just because we were accidentally made impure?” (Numbers 9:7 ) "ואמרו האנשים ההמה אליו , אנחנו טמאים לנפש אדם ; למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב את קרבן השם במועד בתוך במעד בתוך בני ישראל?” Mindfulness practice can help us to seize or make the most out of missed opportunities. By learning to cultivate our awareness of what we are experiencing through paying attention to our feelings, physical sensation and thoughts --with acceptance and kindness to ourselves-- we can acknowledge what we are feeling, and also not dwell on or ruminate on what could have been. We can allow ourselves to be present in the here and now, and notice and be open to possibilities around us. In our fast-paced and often chaotic lives, we may find ourselves consumed by regrets, dwelling on missed opportunities, or feeling trapped by past mistakes. However, Pesach Sheni reminds us that every day offers a new opportunity for growth and transformation. By practicing mindfulness, we develop the capacity to see beyond our perceived limitations and embrace the endless possibilities that exist in the present.

Try this short practice: Find a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be disturbed. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body. Feel the gentle rise and fall of your chest or the subtle movement of your abdomen. Allow your breath to anchor you to the present moment, grounding you in the here and now. (pause) As you continue to breathe, acknowledge any thoughts or emotions that arise. So if feelings of sadness, disappointment, or uncertainty arise as a result of any setback, difficulty or impasse you are experiencing, observe them without judgment. Recognize that it is natural to feel this way, and allow these emotions to be present without resistance. (pause) Notice any sensations in your body as you imagine the possibilities that lie ahead. Are there any areas of tension or tightness? Breathe into those areas, allowing them to soften and release. Allow yourself to be open and receptive to whatever you’re feeling in this moment.

And now remind yourself of your own resilience and inner strength. Recognize that you have overcome challenges before and have the capacity to do so again. Trust in your ability to navigate this new path and create a life that aligns with your values and aspirations. (pause) As you continue to breathe, bring your attention to the present moment. Let go of any thoughts or worries about the past or future. Instead, focus on the opportunities that exist right here, right now. What small steps can you take today to move forward and rebuild your life?

Our past limitations or circumstances needn’t define our future. What if we tried to look beyond our perceived constraints and embrace possibilities that exist now? How would you like to move on from a disappointment or misfortune in your life? Just as those who were ritually impure and unable to participate in the initial Passover offering were granted a second chance, we too can overcome obstacles and seize opportunities for personal and spiritual development. Pesach Sheni serves as a powerful reminder that second chances and taking a new path are inherent in our daily lives. Mindfulness can help us to be fully present and learn from our past experiences, recognize these openings, and create a future filled with growth and possibility.

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