I’m personally dedicating this Dvar Torah and its message to the new Bogrot of 5782 (!) and to all the bogrot who are forever part of the HaRova family and who have made HaRova their home.
In the midst of the detailed and lengthy instructions for how and when Bnei Yisrael will be traveling in the desert, God ‘unexpectedly’ tells Moshe that the nation must perform a Pesach offering:
“And God said to Moshe in the Sinai desert, during the second year after they had left Egypt, on the first month, saying, ‘and Bnei Yisrael will offer the Pesach in its proper time. On the 14th of this month, in the twilight, they will offer it in its proper time; according to all its laws and rules they will offer it'” (9: 1-3)
In light of God’s original command to offer the Pesach in Egypt prior to the nation’s exodus, this charge in the desert is very puzzling. In Egypt, Moshe stated:
“You shall observe this [Pesach offering] as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants.
And when you enter the land that the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.” (Shemot 12: 24-25)
When God stated that the obligation to perform the Pesach offering was to be observed ‘for all time’ in pasuk 24, it would seem to have obviated the need for God to then explicitly command it again during the first year of that ‘for all time’ in the desert! However, it is also possible that God meant that the ‘for all time’ only began ‘when you enter the land’, as stated in pasuk 25 – but then He shouldn’t have commanded it to be offered in the desert at all!
To strengthen this question, even the language God employs for and the description of Bnei Yisrael’s subsequent acceptance of this charge conveys a tone of ‘spontaneity’ and ‘immediacy’:
- (9:1-2)”And God said to Moshe in the Sinai desert, during the second year after they had left Egypt, on the first month, saying, ‘and Bnei Yisrael will offer (ויעשו) the Pesach in its proper time (במועדו)’” – They will offer it, right now, at this right time;
- (3) “’On the 14th of this month, in the twilight, they will offer it in its proper time (במועדו)…they will offer it (תעשו)’”– The right day and, again, the right time, and also, right now;
- (4) “Moshe instructed the Israelites to offer the Pesach“– Moshe then immediately tells them to offer the Pesach…
- (5) “And they offered the Pesach in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai…”– And they responded immediately, offering the Pesach, at exactly that right time…
Additionally, the Torah then states in the next pasuk that there were some who ‘were impure…and were unable to offer the Pesach on that day‘ – it seems that even some of Bnei Yisrael were totally caught off-guard by this ‘sudden’ and ‘unexpected’ command!
And to add to the enigmatic nature of this bewildering scene, it’s not even recorded at the moment when it actually occurred! The Torah itself states that God commanded this Pesach offering during the (beginning of the) first month of their second year out of Egypt; but the entire book of Bemidbar – of which this episode appears in the ninth chapter – begins in the second month of that same year! In fact, according to the Torah’s own records, this command actually happened right after the Mishkan was completed (at the end of Sefer Shemot (!)) – on the first day of that first month of the second year.
So, 1) why did God decide to specifically command the Pesach to be offered in the desert (for either He didn’t need to because the eternal obligation of this mitzvah was already established; or He shouldn’t have because it was only meant to be performed only once having entered Eretz Yisrael); and 2) why was it ‘misplaced’ in the Torah’s timeline?
When God first commanded the building of the Mishkan back in Shemot, declaring ‘make for Me a temple and I will then dwell amongst them’, Bnei Yisrael responded with an overwhelming desire to answer God’s call, actively and fervently inviting Him into their midst. For the Torah reports that the people donated so much material to accomplish this goal that the builders and artisans of the Mishkan told Moshe there was more than enough; necessitating Moshe’s public declaration for the nation to immediately halt their donating (Shemot 36:4-7). However, this wasn’t the first time that Bnei Yisrael responded so enthusiastically and devotedly to God’s call for the nation’s ‘welcoming’ of Him into their midst. At Har Sinai, just prior to the call to build the Mishkan, God appeared to the entire nation and demanded their exclusive worship and devotion. Their immediate response then, too, was powerful and resounding: ‘the entire nation answered in one voice: ‘all the things that God spoke we will do!” (Shemot 24:3)
It is not surprising, therefore, that following the completion of the building of the Mishkan, God ‘spontaneously created’ one more opportunity for this Divinely inspired people to express their deepest devotion to their God and the national entity He had created. He had offered them a nationally centralizing Divine contract at Har Sinai; He had then offered them a nationally centralizing Divine temple with the Mishkan; and He would now offer them a nationally centralizing Divine service with the command to offer the Pesach. Whether it was never actually the original plan to offer the Pesach while in the desert to begin with, it was nonetheless apropos to actively instruct it now, because of the two overwhelmingly powerful expressions of faith the entire nation had previously demonstrated! The time was right to ‘spontaneously generate’ one more opportunity to repeat their twice-expressed laudable behavior!
Does it work? Do Bnei Yisrael continue their streak and accomplish a three-timed, three-pronged, patterned behavior of Divinely inspired, nationally devoted responses? After most of the nation fulfill God’s command and offer the Pesach, the Torah reports that there were some who were impure and therefore unable to perform the Pesach offering. They immediately present themselves before Moshe and Aharon and make the following statement:
ז וַ֠יֹּאמְר֠וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֤ים הָהֵ֙מָּה֙ אֵלָ֔יו אֲנַ֥חְנוּ טְמֵאִ֖ים לְנֶ֣פֶשׁ אָדָ֑ם לָ֣מָּה נִגָּרַ֗ע לְבִלְתִּ֨י הַקְרִ֜יב אֶת־קׇרְבַּ֤ן ה’ בְּמֹ֣עֲד֔וֹ בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
“…We are impure because we have touched the dead, (but) why should we be prevented from offering the korban of God, at its set time, with the rest of Bnei Yisrael?”
There is no one who wants be left out of this nationally centralizing Divine service; no one wants to miss out on this opportunity to come close to God (קרבן) as part of the greater national entity (בתוך בני ישראל)! A hat-trick of perfect responses from God’s chosen nation; just as God had ‘hoped’.
A third and final question can be asked, whose answer will also assist in explaining why this scene was placed, anachronistically, in the beginning of Bemidbar instead of at the conclusion of Shemot. When God institutes Pesach Sheini in response to the complaint of the impure of the nation, He declares that for all time, whoever is impure or on a distant path – and therefore unable to offer the Pesach in its proper time – will have the chance to ‘make it up’ a month later. When the people presented their case, however, they (logically) only stated their impure status as an impendent to performing the Pesach offering on time; why then, when God officially canonized the law of Pesach Sheini in direct response to their complaint, did He also add in the variable of ‘a distant path’ as a reason to take advantage of the ‘second’ Pesach opportunity? The previously established rule concerning all people in an impure state was the excommunication from the national camp until a return to purity had been achieved. So, when God establishes the Pesach Sheini, He is creating a second chance for all who have been distanced, for whatever reason, from the core national entity – whether because of excommunication due to impurity or long-distance travel. And this, of course, is exactly the reason God initially demanded the Pesach in the desert to begin with! This offering was the third opportunity where each member of Bnei Yisrael successfully declared their desire to be an included part of the greater national whole, and God, therefore, reciprocated perfectly.
And this is why He “dis-placed” this episode at the beginning of Sefer Bemidbar – right in the middle of God’s directives on how the nation will be traveling through the desert to Eretz Yisrael. The establishment of the Pesach Sheini declares that no matter how far a member of this unified nation will travel, no matter how distant one may feel from their ‘greater’ family, and no matter how far they may have ‘traveled’ from their God, there will always be an avenue for them to find their way back Home: to their land, to their people, and to their God.
 In all likelihood, based on the immediacy of the subsequent performance of the Pesach offering by Bnei Yisrael – and catching some seven-day impure people ‘off-guard’ – this command was probably given close to the end of the second week (or even the 14th itself!) of the first month of that second year; at least two weeks prior to the time its recorded to have happened.
 When this Pesach scene actually happened.
 This is the only time in all of the Torah where the Pesach is referred to as a קרבן – a vehicle to come close (קרב) to God. (It’s usually either just פסח, or זבח פסח).
 Bemidbar 5: 1-4