Sanhedrin to Reenact Hezekiah’s ‘Second Passover’ Sacrifice on Mount of Olives

“There was great rejoicing in Yerushalayim, for since the time of King Shlomo son of David of Yisrael nothing like it had happened in Yerushalayim.” II Chronicles 30:26 (The Israel Bible™)

For the last ten years, the Sanhedrin has overseen reenactments of the Korban Pesach, the most important sacrifice that was brought in the Temple. This year, despite receiving all the permits required, the ceremony was not allowed to take place due to Health Ministry regulations restricting public gatherings. The Sanhedrin requested that a small ceremony of ten Kohanim (Jewish men of priestly descent) be permitted to take place at the Biblically appointed time on the Temple Mount but this request was also denied. Currently, no Jews are permitted to enter the Temple Mount even though the Waqf (Muslim authority) is holding public prayers in contravention of Health Ministry regulations.

But the Sanhedrin did not despair and the Torah makes provisions for just such a difficulty with the institution of Pesach Sheni, the day on which Jews who were unable to bring the Passover offering on the 14th of Nisan would bring their Passover lamb one month later.

Speak to B’nei Yisrael, saying: When any of you or of your posterity who are defiled by a corpse or are on a long journey would offer a Pesach  they shall offer it in the second month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Numbers 9:10-11

Another powerful precedent for the Pesach sheni offering took place when, in the first year of his reign, Hezekiah rededicated the Temple after a long period in which his father, King Ahaz, neglected and even contaminated the Temple. As is described in Numbers, the priests were ritually impure so the ritual was delayed. But in many ways, Hezekiah’s version of the Pesach sheni differed from the Biblically mandated version. In the Book of Numbers, the sacrifice is eaten but the seven day holiday is not reiterated with the prohibition against leavened bread. Hezekiah, nonetheless, observes all seven days of Passover and adds an additional seven days of celebration. 

Rabbi Hillel Weiss, the spokesman for the Sanhedrin, explained the meaning of Pesach sheni and why it is especially relevant today.

“The additional seven days was intended as a rededication of the Temple,” Rabbi Weiss said. “Reenacting it would be the first step towards the Third Temple.”

“In every other instance, bringing the korban (sacrifice) in its set time is essential,” Rabbi Weiss said. “Pesach sheni is the Biblical equivalent of a second chance, a rarity which especially relates to our current times. We need a second chance to fix the health of people around the world, to reset the economy, to return to our Biblical role of guardians of the planet. We need to step back from the excesses of liberalism which attempts to remove God and replace it with values that are actually anti-values.”

The rabbi noted that one of the chief motivations for Hezekiah to perform the Pesach sheni was to unify the nation, which is important to the nation of Israel which still has an uncertain political future, as well as the rest of the world in which the majority of people are polarized and disparate.

Rabbi Weiss noted that perhaps most significant for current times is that Chronicles states specifically that just as King David purchased the Temple Mount and performed a sacrifice to end an epidemic, the Pesach Sheni of Hezekiah also healed the nation. 

Hashem heard Chizkiyahu and healed the people. II Chronicles 30:20

This clearly has relevance for the current COVID-19 pandemi.

Even more surprising was that despite the korban Pesach being exclusively for the Jews, Hezekiah expressly invited the gerim (resident aliens) to take part in the Pesach sheni.

All the congregation of Yehuda and the Kohanim and the Leviim and all the congregation that came from Yisrael, and the resident aliens who came from the land of Yisrael and who lived in Yehuda, rejoiced. II Chronicles 30:25

The rabbi noted that one of the chief motivations for Hezekiah to perform the Pesach sheni was to unify the nation, which is important to the nation of Israel which still has an uncertain political future, as well as the rest of the world in which the majority of people are polarized and disparate.

The rabbi noted that in addition to anyone who was impure, any person that was too distant to arrive in Jerusalem to bring the Passover offering in its proper time was permitted to bring Pesach sheni.

“Today, we see that there are so many Jews around the world who have not heard the call to return,” Rabbi Weiss said, citing a verse in Zechariah. 

Thus said the lord of Hosts: In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold—they will take hold of every Yehudi by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you.” Zechariah 8:23

“We need ten people from the nations to grab every Jew by his clothes and drag him to the airport and put him on a plane to Israel. It may be that in a few months, international travel will be illegal and all those Jews will miss the final redemption.”

The practical arrangements for the sacrifice are all set to take place on the Mount of Olives on the eve of the 13th of Iyar (May 7). Rabbi Weiss emphasized that when the Jews returned from Babylonia, the Temple service was started immediately even before construction on the Second Temple began.

“We also requested permission from the government to perform the sacrifice on the Temple Mount,” Rabbi Weiss said. “No Jews or Muslims are permitted on the temple Mount so we could perform the ritual with a minimal number of Kohanim and adhere to social distancing. It would not disturb the Muslims who are not supposed to be on the Temple Mount right now.”