During the first year in the desert, some men were tamei and complained that they couldn't bring the Pesach. This resulted in the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni.

Men and women are equally obligated to bring the Pesach. And a significant fraction of the women must have been niddos at the time. Why didn't they complain as well?

(Women are not obligated in Pesach Sheni, but they're allowed to bring it if they want to. In any case, they couldn't have known this then because they didn't even know Pesach Sheni existed!)

DoubleAA points out that anyone who was a niddah for Pesach Rishon is likely to be a niddah again for Pesach Sheni. Even if you argue that they would have complained but these men were quicker and got in first, they should still have complained again, because the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni didn't address their needs.


3 Answers 3


According to the Sifri Bamidbar 6,22 Moshe kept on pushing off the Temeim (ritually impure people) by saying that they simply were not obligated at all to bring the Pesach Offering since they were Tamei minority and were exempt. Only certain men (see Pesachim 6a who exactly these men were) argued to Moshe that Pesach offering could be brought from a Kal Vachomer from Chatos. Just like a Chatos could be brought to atone on behalf of someone Tamei by Kohanim who were Tahor even though it was Kodshei Kodoshim -Higher Sanctity, how much more so could the Pesach have been brought on behalf of Temeim (by Tahor Kohanim) which was Kodshei Kalim Lower Sanctity (albeit not to be eaten rather to just fulfill the Mitzva of the blood on the Mizbeach).

למה נגרע א"ל אין קדשים קרבים בטומאה. אמרו לו [אם קדשים שיש להם אחריות קרבים קדשים שאין להם אחריות לא יקרבו. אמר להם אין קדשים נאכלים בטומאה.] אמרו לו אם כן יזרק הדם על הטומאה והבשר נאכל לטהורים. והדין נותן ומה חטאת שהיא קדשי קדשים דמה נזרק על הטומאה ובשרה נאכל לטהורים, פסח שהוא קדשים קלים דין שיזרק הדם על הטמאים והבשר נאכל לטהורים אמר להם לא שמעתי עמדו ואשמעה כאדם האומר אשמע דבר מפי רבי...אמר ר' חדקא [שמעון] השקמוני היה לי חבר מתלמידי ר”ע ואמר יודע היה משה שאין טמא אוכל את הפסח, על מה נחלקו, אם יזרק הדם עליהם אם לאו. ראויה היתה פרשת טמאים שתאמר על [ידי משה] אלא שמגלגלים זכות ע”י זכאי וחובה ע”י חיב.

These men had to have been massive Talmidei Chachamim to argue with Moshe and require a response from Hashem Himself. Since women in general did not study Torah and even most men were not learned enough to argue with Moshe (see Pesachim 6a where there were numerous men who were Tamei and the Tanaim argue which specific men came forward to argue with Moshe), when Moshe at first told those Temeiim they were simply exempt they accepted without argument (it didn't occur to anyone that there would be a Pesach Sheini). But these stubborn Talmidei Chachamim who persisted and invoked a response from Hashem to do Pesach Sheini, of them it is said in the Sifri "merit is incurred through the meritous," may our portion be like theirs.

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    Tzelafchad's daughters argued with Moshe too. And all of these halachos of Pesach and Chatas apply equally to men and women, so all men and women have to know them (though women don't have to be trained in the logic if they don't want to).
    – Heshy
    Feb 12, 2019 at 17:38
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    @heshy I don't think anyone denies that Tzelofchod daughters were extremely wise and also managed to get Moshe to ask Hashem, but in this particular case when Moshe told everyone that tamei people are excluded, everyone else whether men or women apart from Mishael and Eltzafon accepted Moshe's word and did not suspect that there was going to be Pesach Sheini. So yes Bnos Tzelofchod with regards to their inheritance and money which they wanted to keep and had loads to lose tried speaking to Moshe and were successful. Mitzvos we say generally however Oneis Rachmana patrei which most assumed here
    – yosefkorn
    Feb 12, 2019 at 20:31
  • Tzelafchad's daughters came with YADIN YADIN issues (dinai mamonot) and Tamei met arrived with YORE YORE issue (issur and heyter), so those cases are ABSOLUTELY different! Jun 4, 2023 at 19:52

I just thought of this answer:

The commandment to bring the Pesach the second year starts with:

וְיַעֲשׂ֧וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־הַפָּ֖סַח בְּמוֹעֲדֽוֹ׃

The Jewish people should bring the Pesach at its proper time.

Rashi says (from Sifri, which elaborates a lot more)

"במועדו" אף בשבת, "במועדו" אף בטומאה ‏

"at its proper time" meaning even on Shabbos or in a state of tumah [if the whole nation is tamei from corpses]

These men also used the same word במועדו:

וַ֠יֹּאמְרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֤ים הָהֵ֙מָּה֙ אֵלָ֔יו אֲנַ֥חְנוּ טְמֵאִ֖ים לְנֶ֣פֶשׁ אָדָ֑ם לָ֣מָּה נִגָּרַ֗ע לְבִלְתִּ֨י הַקְרִ֜ב אֶת־קָרְבַּ֤ן יְהוָה֙ בְּמֹ֣עֲד֔וֹ בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ‏

And those men said to him "We are tamei from a corpse. Why should we be left out and not be able to bring the offering to Hashem at its appointed time among the Jewish people"

It seems from their usage of this word that they were basing themselves on the permission to bring the Pesach when the entire nation is tamei, and wanted to bring it even when only their little group was tamei. Daas Zekeinim's explanation goes in this direction. (Something is messed up on Sefaria, I can't get it to display in Hebrew.)

To take it a step further: wfb mentioned in the comments that there's another drasha brought in the Gemara in Pesachim:

ופסח גופיה מנא לן אמר רבי יוחנן דאמר קרא איש איש כי יהיה טמא לנפש איש נדחה לפסח שני ואין ציבור נידחין לפסח שני אלא עבדי בטומאה ‏

How do we know that the Pesach can be brought even in a state of tumah? Rabbi Yochanan says, because the pasuk says "If someone is tamei from a corpse..." - one person can be pushed off to Pesach Sheni, but the whole nation can't be pushed off to Pesach Sheni. Rather, they bring it even though they're tamei.

At the time when these people complained, the pasuk Rabbi Yochanan is quoting hadn't been said yet, so they may not have seen any reason to distinguish between a few people and the entire community. Without איש איש, it's perfectly reasonable to believe במועדו is a blanket permission to bring the Pesach in a state of tumah.

Since the normal allowance of tumah doesn't work for other kinds of tumah, their argument wouldn't have worked for women who were niddos.

Furthermore, it seems from the whole commandment of Pesach Sheini that it's primarily designed for corpse tumah specifically, איש איש כי יהיה טמא לנפש. Practically you can bring it for other kinds of tumah as well, but that's a secondary derivation; the main association seems to be to tumah from corpses. This may be have something to do with why women didn't complain after the fact, but could use further development.

  • to add to this point: the gemara derives that pesach can be brought when the whole tzibbur is tamei from איש איש - איש נדחה ואין ציבור נדחים, but this applies only to טומאת מת
    – wfb
    Feb 13, 2019 at 16:26
  • Isn't that what I said? Except I used the drasha of במועדו instead of איש איש, but my point is stronger using במועדו because the people who were tamei echoed it.
    – Heshy
    Feb 13, 2019 at 17:36
  • so not what you said
    – wfb
    Feb 13, 2019 at 19:09
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    This sounds like adas Korach, Moshe says only if most people are Tamei can they bring the korban Pesach in a state of Tuma, and these people just point blank deny and say that even though most people are tahor they have a right to go against the Torah by entering the mishkan tamei to bring their korban. So too adas korach wanted to bring the ketores even though they weren't allowed because they weren't kohanim. This answer has no source from Chazal and clearly doesn't sound right considering these people were praised in the Sifri brought in another answer.
    – yosefkorn
    Feb 15, 2019 at 9:00
  • @yosef how is it like adas korach to ask a question? If Moshe had said no the answer would have been no and that would have been the end of it. And according to everyone they were asking about something else that as far as they knew wasn't allowed. If you have a source from chazal please share it, but in the absence of one we have a chiyuv to come up with the best explanation we can. To me, my answer is much more convincing than the other two. You're free to disagree.
    – Heshy
    Feb 15, 2019 at 14:53

I'd suggest as follows:

The mitzvah of Korban Pesach has two components that can be done by non-kohanim - shechting it, and eating it.

The first of these most likely wouldn't be done by women. First of all, וכי אשה בעזרה מנין (Kiddushin 52b); second, it's not so simple whether women are allowed to shecht, or if yes, whether when it comes to kodshim they can do so lechatchila or not. (See Tosafos, Chullin 2a and Kiddushin 76b, and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 1:1.) So whether they're tamei or not would be immaterial to that part of the mitzvah. Whereas the men could, and likely would,** do their own shechting. (They may also have been aware of the rule that טומאה הותרה\דחויה בצבור, and thus argued that they ought to be able to enter the chatzer of the Mishkan for this purpose even if they're a minority, in order to be able to join with the tzibbur.)

The eating part is indeed binding on both men and women. But it's specifically about the Korban Pesach that Chazal tell us (Nazir 23a and Horios 10b) that eating it לשום אכילה גסה is wrong (and R. Yochanan goes so far as to call a person who does so a פושע). One definition of אכילה גסה is "just because he's hungry and desires it" (Mefaresh to Nazir ibid.), or "not for the sake of the mitzvah, just eating it as dessert" (Rashi to Horios ibid.). If, then, women came forward to ask what accommodation could be made for them to eat the Korban Pesach when they're tahor, they might well be accused (by Moshe, or even by Hashem if their motives weren't 100% pure) of wanting to do so לשום אכילה גסה. (Note that the men neatly sidestepped that issue; their complaint is למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב קרבן ה' במועדו, not לבלתי אכול, and Rashi there notes that they would have been satisfied if יאכל הבשר לטהורים so long as they could participate in the bringing of the korban.)

** It may be true, as DoubleAA noted in the comments, that many men wouldn't be doing the shechting anyway (i.e., that multiple households, each with their own male head, would share in one Korban Pesach). I'm not convinced of that point. But even if we grant it: each man could still be the one to shecht his group's korban (if they're able to do so even when tamei), while the women would not.

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    Only one man per household/group would be shechting anyway. Why wouldn't the women want to be part of the group to fulfill the main Mitzva even if later they wouldn't eat it?
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2019 at 13:40
  • The shechting part is the primary mitzvah, as @doubleaa said. It applies to men and women equally.
    – Heshy
    Feb 12, 2019 at 14:29
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    @Meir You think typically each family of one adult male could handle ~30 pounds of meat in one night??
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2019 at 14:37
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    Shechting (and the other avodos with the blood, which only kohanim can do) is the part where if you don't do it you're chayav kareis. You don't get much more primary than that.
    – Heshy
    Feb 12, 2019 at 14:49
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    If you're asking"why assume" it is you who has to make very specific assumptions about family size, gender and age composition, and appetites, as well as how many people wanted to do their own shechita. Indeed why assume. What you've suggested isn't impossible it just seems unlikely given the very specific setup needed.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2019 at 16:51

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