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5 Iyar 5762 - April 17, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Understanding the Background of BaHaB and Pesach Sheni

by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

BaHaB -- A Time For Teshuvoh

Hallel, new clothes, mitzvos, and seudas. The yomim tovim overflow with simcha. Here lies an opportunity for tremendous ascent in one's spiritual level.

At the same time, inherent in every possibility for growth lies an equally great chance of moving in the reverse direction. Little does one suspect that a droshoh can be fertile ground for transgression, if men and women congregate there together. Our Sages established BaHaB (an acronym for Beis, Hei, Beis [i.e. Monday, Thursday, Monday] the days that this minhag encompasses) three days of teshuvoh and tefillah after yom tov, in case one stumbled in the course of his exuberance (Tosafos, Kiddushin 81a; Tur 492).

As its name implies, chol hamoed includes aspects of weekday and festival. Because of its dual nature, chol hamoed can easily give rise to numerous errors. Our Sages foresaw this possibility, and instituted three days of teshuvoh after the chag (Elya Rabba 492,3).

In addition to the possibility of spiritual malady, the time after the yomim tovim is predisposed to physical ailments. Both Pesach and Succos come at times of the year when the weather undergoes radical change. The sudden highs and lows in temperature can easily result in ill health. Our Sages set up these days of teshuvoh in order to help deter the possibility of illness (Levush 492,1).

Along with the change in weather comes a shift from the rainy season to the dry season, and vice versa. A smooth transition from one season to the next is vital, since an overabundance or lack of rains could severely damage agricultural output. Our Sages established three days of teshuvoh to insure that the crops would indeed be plentiful (Mordechai, Taanis 629 and other Rishonim).

Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Har Sinai to receive the second set of luchos on a Thursday, and returned with them forty days later on a Monday. Hashem's decision to give Moshe these luchos clearly implied that the Jewish people were forgiven for the cheit ho'eigel. As a result Monday and Thursday became days of repentance and Divine favor for the Jewish people (Tosafos Bava Kamo 82a).

The establishment of BaHaB initially involved fasting, and recitation of Selichos and Ovinu Malkeinu. The minhag was patterned after the three- day BaHaB fasts that the gemara describes for times of drought (Taanis 10a). Today most people do not fast, nonetheless BaHaB remain days of teshuvoh and tefillah (Response Mishneh Halachos 3,15). Observed properly, BaHaB can be a source of brochoh for the entire year. (Sephardim generally do not keep BaHaB).

Starting BaHaB

In general, we should fulfill a mitzvah as soon as it becomes possible to do so (Pesochim 4a). According to the first three reasons, it is preferable to observe BaHaB as soon as possible after the yomim tovim. Since our Sages originally established BaHaB as days of fasting, and we do not fast in Nisan or Tishrei, we observe BaHaB at the beginning of Iyar and Cheshvan.

The fourth reason for BaHaB relates to the shift in the seasons, which does not always take place immediately at the beginning of Cheshvan. Therefore the date for starting BaHaB should occur later. Some poskim in fact rule that BaHaB should not begin until after the seventeenth of Cheshvan, the date set by our Sages for beginning to fast during a drought season (Maharil, Ra'avyah, and Mahari Viele as cited in Taz 492,1).

In practice we accept the first reason for BaHaB as the primary one. Therefore we do not wait to begin BaHaB (Ramo, Mogen Avraham, Mishneh Berurah 492).

Even according to the first reason, we do not necessarily observe BaHaB during the first Monday- Thursday-Monday in Cheshvan and Iyar. BaHaB must be preceded by a mi shebeirach after the Shabbos morning Torah reading. Unlike all other fast days, for which the exact date is already known to everyone, BaHaB falls on different dates each year. Thus it must be announced (Tosafos Yom- Tov, Taanis 2,9).

The Chazan recites the mi shebeirach after krias HaTorah after Ashrei while holding the sefer Torah, in order to be mevorech the congregation with the merit of the Torah (Levush).

Siman Tov Umazel Tov

Since a certain amount of sadness is associated with these days, we do not recite the mi shebeirach for BaHaB during a time of simcha. Shabbos Mevorchin (the Shabbos on which we bless the upcoming new month in shul) falls into this category, so the mi shebeirach for BaHaB is pushed off until the following Shabbos.

A bris miloh also constitutes a reason for simcha. However, since we do not want to push off the mi shebeirach for BaHaB yet another week in one or more shuls, the mi shebeirach on the day of a bris miloh is recited in the afternoon during Mincha (Mogen Avraham 492,3).

At one time, the custom was to read the special haftorah of Sose Osis on the Shabbos preceding a chosson's wedding, at his Aufruf. This was considered to be a simcha equal to that of a bris miloh, so the mi shebeirach was delayed until the afternoon. Today this practice is no longer followed. Although many have the minhag of singing and throwing candies at a chosson, this is not sufficient reason to push off the mi shebeirach until Mincha. Therefore the mi shebeirach is said in the morning as usual (Igros Moshe 1,106). In most Ashkenazic communities, no weddings are held after Pesach, in any case, until Shavuos.

Other Chagim

Should we observe BaHaB on other chagim besides Pesach and Succos? According to the halochoh which follows the first reason for BaHaB, there are grounds to institute BaHaB after other festivals. Nonetheless, since Shavuos only lasts one day, there is no "official" BaHaB (Beis Yosef 429). Some exceptionally righteous people do fast after Shavuos, because of the first reason (as noted in Chok Yaakov, Bircei Yosef 492, and many other poskim). Although Chanukah lasts eight days, it was not established for mishteh and simcha and people need not take time off from work, so there is no BaHaB (Levush 492).

Even though Purim is a one day festival, the nature of its celebration makes a strong case for instituting a BaHaB. The extreme simcha that accompanies Purim can be dangerous. The Maseches Sofrim cites a minhag to fast BaHaB after Purim, in memory of the three days that Esther fasted (Tur and Shulchan Oruch 686,3).

Pesach Sheni

The days of BaHaB often coincide with Pesach Sheni, the fourteenth of Iyar. Pesach Sheni afforded a second opportunity to bring the Korbon Pesach for someone who was unable to do so on the fourteenth of Nisan, e.g., someone who was tomei mes or who was "far away" from the Beis Hamikdash. Without the Beis Hamikdosh, Pesach Sheni has no practical observance. Nonetheless, some small vestiges of the original day remain.

If one of the actual days of BaHaB falls out on Pesach Sheni, the minhag is not to fast or to say Selichos. The fast can be made up on the following Thursday or Monday (Mahrasham 6,33; Luach Eretz Yisroel). As on other yomim tovim, eulogies are not said. Therefore one should not plan a hakomas matzeivoh for Pesach Sheni, since eulogies generally accompany this ceremony (Response Minchas Yitzchok 3,53).

Some have a minhag to eat matzoh on Pesach Sheni, recalling the Korbon Pesach which was eaten with matzoh (Siddur Beis Yaakov of Rav Yaakov Emden). Some poskim rule that Tachanun should not be said on the morning and afternoon of Pesach Sheni (Sha'arei Teshuvoh 131,19, Kaf HaChaim and Luach Eretz Yisroel). However since the Jewish people only offered the Korbon Pesach in the afternoon of the fourteenth, we recite Tachanun on the thirteenth of Iyar. Others claim that Tachanun is said on Pesach Sheni (Mishbetzos Zohov 131,1).

The Korbon Pesach differs from other korbonos because one can make it up even after the prescribed time has passed. The Torah recounts the reason for this phenomenon (Bamidbar 9:6-12). After the Jewish people left Mitzrayim, those who were disqualified from bringing the Korbon Pesach on the fourteenth of Nisan complained that it was not just that they had been denied the chance to bring the korbon. Their good intentions caused the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni to be attributed to them. We learn from this episode that Hashem deals with us according to the desires of our hearts.

In the merit of properly observing BaHaB and Pesach Sheni, may we merit to see the fulfillment of our deepest desire, the final redemption and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh speedily in our days, Omen.

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