Passover in the Desert

May 31, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בְמִדְבַּר־סִינַי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן לֵאמֹר׃

Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, on the first new moon of the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, saying:

Numbers 9:1

וְכִי־יָגוּר אִתְּכֶם גֵּר וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח לַיהֹוָה כְּחֻקַּת הַפֶּסַח וּכְמִשְׁפָּטוֹ כֵּן יַעֲשֶׂה חֻקָּה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָכֶם וְלַגֵּר וּלְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ׃

And when a stranger who resides with you would offer a Pesach sacrifice to Hashem, he must offer it in accordance with the rules and rites of the Pesach sacrifice. There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country.

Numbers 9:14

One year after the exodus from Egypt, God tells the people they must celebrate Passover. It is the beginning of their second year in the wilderness. On the fourteenth day of the first month, they perform the Passover sacrifice as commanded, but not everyone is able to participate. Some members of the community had become impure due to contact with the dead, and ask how they might be able to fulfil their own obligations in the Passover sacrifice. Moses brings their question before God, who tells them those who, through no fault of their own, are not able to attend the communal sacrifice on the fourteenth of the first month, may perform it one month later. If, however, he was able to attend and did not, such a person is punishable by excision.


The Israel Bible notes that while the people celebrated Passover, the holiday of freedom, their freedom was not yet complete, as they had not yet arrived in the Promised Land. People are only truly free when they live under their own rule. Thus, each year at the Passover seder, the words “Next year in Jerusalem” are recited.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The date in this story indicates that it took place chronologically prior to the events described in the previous chapters. Why do you think it appears here in the text, where it is “out of order”?

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