Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Second Chances

Today is Pesach Sheni. The origin of this semi-holiday is quite fascinating. On the first anniversary of Yetzias Mitzraim, while all the Jews were occupied with preparing their lambs for the annual Korban Pesach, Moshe was approached by a small group of Jews who were ritually impure and thus excluded from offering, or partaking of, the Pesach offering. They weren't satisfied with their "exemption" from this mitzvah. "Why should we be deprived?" they exclaimed. "We, too, want to experience the spiritual freedom gained by participating in the service!" Moshe agreed to convey their grievance to the Almighty, and incredibly, the heartfelt wishes of this small group caused G-d to add a mitzvah to the Torah. Hashem instructed that from that year and onwards all those who weren't capable of offering the Korban Pesach in its proper time on the 14th of Nisan, due to impurity or distance from the Temple, should offer it exactly one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. The day thus represents a "second chance".

It's never too late. There's always a second chance.

Is there….really?

My big boy was 5. Maybe 6. He woke up one morning in pain, his left cheek swollen. It was a Friday, and I remember thinking about the bad timing. There's never a good time for something like this, but that day was particularly inconvenient. Maybe I was really busy…maybe I had a lot planned….maybe I hadn't done any of my Shabbos preparation…I don't remember. I also don't remember what arrangements I made for the other kids. But, somehow, we ended up at the dentist, who referred us to an oral surgeon. His tooth had to come out.

So many years later, I still feel a pang when I think about that episode. I was asked to remain in the waiting room, while a nurse whisked my son away. He was taken into a room where the surgery was to take place. He was given general anesthesia, the tooth was removed, and he was brought out to a cubicle to rest before going home. Only then was I able to be with him.

He went in there all by himself. He was given the anesthesia…and I wasn't there to hold his hand…to reassure him….to make sure he knew he was not alone. And I wasn't there when he awoke. How did I allow that to happen? How could I not insist on accompanying him until the drugs take effect? How did I let him go through that all by himself? He must have been so scared. He had to be. He was so little.

I wonder if this experience scarred him in any way. I wonder if he even remembers.

He seemed ok. He didn't cry. I hugged him before he went in, and he smiled at me. He seemed so mature. He seemed older than his five years. He always did. He was the oldest of three, at the time, and I'm not sure I realized just how little he really was. He was my big boy then, just as he is now. But he was really only a baby.

My youngest is 9. My relationship with him is so different than it ever was with my big boy. He's my baby, and that's how I relate to him. I wish I can go back and let my big boy be a baby for a little bit longer. He was a big boy too soon. Did I spend enough time with him? Did I expect too much from him? Did he grow up too fast…and did that harm him in any way?

I can't go back and redo any of it. There's no second chance.

Is that what is meant when we talk about a second chance? Is it the ability to be transported to a previous point in time and do it the right way this time? Is it the opportunity to fix all our mistakes? Would I even want to do that? Would I want to live my life all over again so that I can do things differently? And…if I lived my life again…would I do things differently?

He's still my big boy. Still mature and responsible. He's an adult now, but he still needs me. He still needs my time. He still needs my advice. He still needs my love. And I'm going to make sure he gets that. I can't go back in time and fix my "mistakes", but it's comforting to know that those mistakes, and the consequences, can be springboards for growth and change.

I'm grateful for my Pesach Sheini.


  1. Just reading this post touched me.

    Amazing how it always tends to be the most incredible caring devoted mothers who are so prone to introspect.

    Of course he's fine, Mystery. Having a mother that still agonizes over something so long ago guarantees that your son is well nurtured, well balanced, and truly loved. Kol Ha'kavod!

  2. I just wanted to add-we don't get a second chance to relive our lives. We cannot change the past but we can change the deepest parts of who we are. What we do have another chance to change is ourselves-and THAT is what Pesach Sheini is all about!

  3. You sound like a wonderful mother. Really. A human mother but a great one nonetheless.

    I'm sure your son didn't suffer any harm. I am the oldest girl in my family and naturally had way more responsibility than my younger siblings but I'm so grateful for it. I'm happy that I was taught from a young age to be responsible and grown-up. My parents took care of me very well, just as you do of your children, but yet I was taught something invaluable at a young age and that's not something to regret at all.

  4. Bernie and Half Shared...

    Thank you. Maybe all of that is what contributed to his becoming the mature, responsible adult he is today. Maybe I'm actually not doing my little boy a favor by allowing him to be a baby.
    Do we EVER get this right??


    Thank you for sharing that.

  5. Excellent lesson, time goes by so fast, it's important for us to be there. And so true about learning from our mistakes in order to grow. That's our second chance

  6. I had surgery when I was 8 years old and no one was with me in the OR..and I turned out just

    The best thing I ever did was leave for out of town yeshiva when I was 15.
    But I guess it's hard to generalize.

  7. DOL...

    Maybe THAT'S why you're writing those sick stories! Maybe you're not so fine after